In very Atlanta Falcons fashion, this was nowhere near as easy as it should have been. Yet it was still quite delicious, in the end.
The Falcons got their ninth win of the season and held on despite a late, furious charge from the Buccaneers, who did more or less whatever they wanted to on offense late in the game. Atlanta’s going to get annihilated if they play like this against the Saints on the road or the Panthers at home, but at least that’s a next week concern, and we can enjoy the W for the moment. No matter how ugly it seems on a weekly basis, the Falcons are getting the job done, and I will sure as hell take that over losses.
Here’s the drive-by-drive breakdown, in case you wanted it.
After Andre Roberts started things off with a nice return to put the Falcons past their own 30, the Falcons set about wasting the return in record time. They got two Devonta Freeman runs for five yards, followed by a missed Matt Ryan to Julio Jones pass. Punt.
The Falcons got a non-call on Robert Alford on the next drive, when they saw a five yard pickup by Peyton Barber, a missed Jameis Winston pass, and then a short Winston pass that Deion Jones snuffed out. Punt, again.
The Falcons got a quick completion to Austin Hooper, and Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith was injured on the play. Then the Falcons moved methodically down the field, with Justin Hardy snagging two nice receptions for over 30 total yards and a touchdown to cap things off. That gave Atlanta its first lead of the day.
Falcons 7 - Buccaneers 0
The subsequent drive featured a deeply unfair penalty on Ricardo Allen, who got popped for a clean hit. That extended a drive that otherwise would have stalled out, and unfortunately that led to a Buccaneers score. The Falcons just couldn’t get on O.J. Howard, who was able to pick up a 30 yard reception for the score.
Falcons 7 - Buccaneers 7
if the Falcons were mad about that drive, you could hardly blame them. They got to the Tampa Bay 20 in record time. They were aided by a nice Terron Ward run for nine yards, a 15 yard Devonta Freeman rumble, and a 29 yard Freeman reception.
A 17 yard Julio Jones reception on third down later, they were knocking on the door, and after Freeman fumbled heading into the end zone, Levine Toilolo picked it up for the score.
Falcons 14 - Buccaneers 7
The Bucs got nailed with a penalty that wiped out a huge gain, only to get a huge gain and then some when Ricardo Allen got called for a 15 yard penalty on top of a 32 yard Charles Sims reception. Or it might have been, had Dan Quinn not noticed that Sims was down on contact, thrown the flag, and gotten the play reversed. The Buccaneers had a ton of success moving against the Falcons through the air on the drive, grinding their way to the red zone as Winston got to 10/11 for over 100 yards. Then, thankfully, Keanu Neal forced a Peyton Barber fumble that Dontari Poe recovered, and Atlanta got the ball back.
They largely took advantage of it, with Matt Ryan connecting with Julio Jones and entrusting the ball to Devonta Freeman to great effect. Unfortunately, the drive stalled out and Matt Ryan threw a late pass to Julio Jones on third down which featured what sure as hell looked like a pass interference on #11. Thankfully, Matt Bryant hit a 57 yard field goal and the Falcons expanded their lead.
Falcons 17 - Buccaneers 7
The Bucs had a Jameis Winston interception wiped out by a call on Robert Alford, which has happened way too many times this year. But then they stalled out on their own 37 regardless, so...no big deal? Punt.
Atlanta got the ball back with under two minutes to go and itching to put up another score, but they couldn’t quite get there. Matt Ryan hit Taylor Gabriel for 10 yards, Mohamed Sanu for 21, and Devonta Freeman for eight, but the Falcons took a deep shot on 3rd and 2nd and were forced to punt it away one last time before the half.
Jameis Winston connected on an 11 yard pass, but then Takk McKinley sacked him on the next play and forced a fumble Tampa Bay picked up. That took us to halftime.
Jacquizz Rodgers returned the opening kickoff 45 yards, and then Jameis Winston hit Mike Evans for a 55 yard touchdown...that was thankfully nullified because Evans interfered to ensure he got the catch. From there, another penalty on Tampa Bay helped back them up, and a third down sack split by Grady Jarrett and Adrian Clayborn ended the drive. Punt.
The Falcons stalled out on the next drive. I was honestly pretty bored. Punt.
The Buccaneers did no such thing, with Jameis Winston evading Keanu Neal and finding Mike Evans with a perfect throw for a touchdown on the subsequent drive. That narrowed the gap, and made us all wonder what exactly Atlanta was doing out there.
Falcons 17 - Buccaneers 14
The next drive featured a killer drop by Julio Jones, who continues to be plagued by those this season. It also featured two Matt Ryan scrambles for 21 yards, because the universe is kind of hilarious sometimes. The Falcons also got good runs out of Devonta Freeman and Terron Ward, and then another eight yard scramble from Matt Ryan, complete with a juke at the end. They got very close before Matt Ryan had three straight incompletions—not all of them on him—and Matt Bryant had his 33 yard field goal attempt blocked.
The Buccaneers picked up 18 quick yards. End of quarter.
Miraculously, the Falcons forced a punt on the drive, with the defense hardening late game as they have so often this year.
Atlanta wisely ran the ball on their next drive, and while Devonta Freeman scared the hell out of all of us by fumbling the ball (Ryan Schraeder recovered it), he and Ward put up a ton of yardage and got the Falcons marching. They capped things off with a beautiful, soul-stealing 32 yard Devonta Freeman touchdown rumble.
Falcons 24 - Buccaneers 14
Down ten points with time running short, Jameis Winston immediately set to passing his way down the field, and he continued to have success against Atlanta’s pillowy soft defense. The Bucs got down to the 21 yard line in about two minutes of gametime thanks to sharp throws and extra effort from Winston’s receivers, before a five yard penalty backed them up slightly. It didn’t matter, as Winston hit Adam Humphries for an easy touchdown. It was a dispiriting drive.
Falcons 24 - Buccaneers 21
The Falcons turned things over to (who else?) Devonta Freeman on the next drive. He picked up four yards on the ground and snagged a pretty seven yard pass on third down to keep things moving, forcing Tampa Bay to take their second timeout. They took their third timeout shortly thereafter, and the Falcons had 3rd and 9 to go with two minutes left after that. Unfortunately, Matt Ryan was sacked on the subsequent play, but it ran the clock out. Matt Bosher had a beautiful punt to follow.
Jameis Winston pretty much immediately connected on a 13 yard pass, and then another, and then another. The Bucs got in field goal range with six seconds to go, but Patrick Murray whiffed on the 54 yarder, and the Falcons held on for a three point win. Of course.