The Atlanta Falcons just can’t make it easy, even against perhaps their easiest opponent over the last several weeks of the season. At the end of the day, though, they got the win they needed to, scored over 30 points, and
Atlanta jumped out to a massive lead in this one thanks to an epic offensive performance keyed by Julio Jones, but slowly surrendered that lead as the offense had a couple of drives that resulted in a punt and a Terron Ward fumble, and the defense took some shaky tendencies and turned them into a full-blown meltdown with Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole out of the game. The Bucs got within one score before Atlanta managed a determined, impressive offensive drive to make it 34-20 and put this one away.
The Falcons are now 7-4, and while the injuries at cornerback and their tendency to make things way too interesting are a huge problem, they’re still in a prime position to compete for a Wild Card spot the rest of the way. May they do so, and while you chew on that, may you read our drive-by-drive breakdown below.
The Buccaneers started the game with the ball, and they absolutely laid waste to the Falcons defense initially. Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled, the team ran all over Atlanta, and they got alarmingly close before Desmond Trufant broke up a shot at the end zone intended for Mike Evans. That left the Bucs to kick a field goal, and they hit the 36 yarder.
Falcons 0 - Buccaneers 3
Atlanta followed that up with a productive drive of their own, albeit one derailed by penalty. Tevin Coleman had two nice runs (one negated by penalty), the Falcons found Taylor Gabriel and Julio Jones for long gains, and Matt Bryant ultimately hit the 49 yard field goal. Tie game.
Falcons 3 - Buccaneers 3
The Falcons got gouged immediately by a nice Ryan Fitzpatrick pass to Mike Evans, but that was all the Bucs could cook up. A false start on 3rd and 9 put them back and they were forced to punt after an incomplete pass.
The Falcons, in turn, squandered a 20 yard Tevin Coleman pickup and were forced to punt when Matt Ryan couldn’t connect with Derrick Coleman and Austin Hooper in turn.
The Falcons did great work on the ensuing Buccaneers drive, allowing only a two yard Doug Martin run and two incomplete passes. Punt, again, with the Falcons starting from their own 40 thanks to a nice Andre Roberts punt return.
The next drive was bananas. The Falcons got two decent gains to end up on third and short, a play in which they elected to get Mohamed Sanu in the game at quarterback (clever) and throw to Julio Jones (smart) for a 51 yard touchdown. I can’t really do the play justice, so here it is.
Falcons 10 - Buccaneers 3
The Bucs couldn’t get much going on their next drive and gave it back to Atlanta again via punt.
The Falcons, meanwhile, marched. Julio Jones got a run, Julio Jones got a catch, and then Matt Ryan hooked up with Julio for his second touchdown of the game, a 25 yard grab that put the Falcons up by two touchdowns.
Falcons 17 - Buccaneers 3
Unfortunately, the next Tampa Bay drive was actually productive. The team found some success both through the air and on the ground, and were aided by a costly 17 yard pass interference call on C.J. Goodwin, who was in the game instead of an injured Brian Poole. Then Keanu Neal may have given Desmond Trufant a concussion, which left the Falcons perilously thin at cornerback. Thankfully, they held in the face of three straight passes, forcing the Bucs to settle for a field goal.
Falcons 17 - Buccaneers 6
The Falcons made quick work of the Buccaneers defense, driving down for a short field goal to extend their lead before the half.
Falcons 20 - Buccaneers 6
It seemed almost unfair that the Falcons would get the ball back to start the second half, but they did. Atlanta made it look easy yet again, moving downfield in just over four minutes and scoring after Tevin Coleman picked up 12 yards on two carries to get himself into the end zone. The rout was now on.
Falcons 27 - Buccaneers 6
Unfortunately for Atlanta, the next drive saw the Bucs get moving, and it saw Robert Alford hurt. He was the third Falcons cornerback injured in the game, which meant the Falcons were throwing safeties in there to cover the wound with Blidi Wreh-Wilson cooling his heels as an inactive. The Bucs were able to capitalize and score their first touchdown of the game, making it a two score event once again.
Falcons 27 - Buccaneers 13
The Falcons started off promisingly on their next drive but ultimately stalled out around midfield, forcing a Matt Bosher punt. At this point, down three cornerbacks, you had to wonder what was coming next.
It was a Buccaneers offensive renaissance, of course! The Bucs drove into the red zone with alarming quickness, setting themselves up for a score as the third quarter ended.
Spoiler: The Bucs scored. That left the Falcons with a one touchdown lead in the fourth quarter.
Falcons 27 - Buccaneers 20
The Falcons needed to answer, and they got a 44 yard Julio Jones reception to start things off, which is an excellent start. They proceeded to keep moving right up until the point that Terron Ward fumbled it away after picking up ten yards, which resulted in a Brent Grimes recovery and 37 yard return.
The Buccaneers looked like they would manage to tie things up, as they kept moving, but a funny thing happened inside the red zone. With the Bucs facing third and then fourth and short, they got manhandled by Ricardo Allen and then could only muster an incomplete pass, giving Atlanta the ball back.
They were able to both churn the clock and move the football, thanks to a series of clutch Mohamed Sanu receptions and then a brilliant, 24 yard Julio Jones grab that put him over 250 yards on the day. The Falcons managed to make the Bucs use their final two timeouts before Terron Ward rumbled for 14 yards on 3rd and 1, setting the Falcons up to close it out. They got a 14 yard Tevin Coleman touchdown, his second of the day, and were up by two touchdowns again with less than two minutes to go.
Falcons 34 - Buccaneers 20
Running out of time, the Bucs still made a valiant effort, picking up chunks of yardage on their way down the field. They made it to the 35 with 37 seconds left