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3 Falcons up, 3 Falcons down in Week 15 win over Buccaneers

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One step closer to the postseason.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons vastly improved their playoff chances with a 24-21 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night.

Who’s up and who’s down in the win?

Up

Devonta Freeman

Despite two fumbles that were recovered by two different Falcons (one being a touchdown that Levine Toilolo fell on in the end zone), Freeman seemed to be the only offensive player interested in the game. He consistently juked and ran over defenders, racking up 194 total yards (126 rushing, 68 receiving) — a season-high and the second-highest total of his career. His 32-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter seemingly put the game away, but Tampa Bay clawed back and missed a long field goal on a chance to send the game into overtime.

Matt Bryant

Although his second attempt was blocked, Bryant drilled a 57-yarder in the second quarter, setting a record for the longest field goal ever by a kicker his age (42). That’s enough to merit getting on this list.

Takk McKinley

Atlanta’s first-round pick added another sack last night, putting him at six on the season and one in four straight games. He’s been exactly what the Falcons wanted, but what gets him here is his “eat a W” celebration that mocked Jameis Winston’s bizarre Week 9 pregame speech.

Down

Matt Ryan

Ryan could’ve been a whole lot worse last night, but he also could’ve been a whole lot better. He missed some easy throws, including a late deep pass to Julio Jones that was a guaranteed touchdown (and also should’ve been defensive pass interference). On another play, Toilolo was streaking down the field on what looked like a coverage bust but Ryan didn’t see him. The quarterback easily made these plays a season ago. It wasn’t an awful game by any means — and he peppered in some effective rushes with a fantastic juke — but we’ve come to expect better from Ryan.

Julio Jones

As is the case with Ryan, we’ve come to expect more from arguably the best receiver in the league. Jones finished with just three catches for 54 yards — all in the first half. Jones had a couple of drops, including one of a deep pass that went right through his hands. We’ve seen those type of drops from the stud receiver several times this season, including a particularly backbreaking one against the Carolina Panthers back in Week 9.

Steve Sarkisian

The offense’s struggles will always point back to Sarkisian. The rookie offensive coordinator has had a few decent games sprinkled in, but at times it just seems as though he doesn’t have a solid grasp of his weapons. There were also a few questionable play calls given the situation, namely having Ryan, a right-handed quarterback, roll out to his left on a 3rd and 2 on a drive before the half. The pass fell incomplete, and the Falcons punted. Why would you do that?