Atlanta came into this game desperate for a win, if we’re being honest. They needed a win to stay alive and to prove that they were not an absolute mess minus Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, among others.
In fits and starts, the Falcons traveled that path. Mike Smith’s Buccaneers defense wasn’t good enough to stop Atlanta, and yet they did often enough that the Falcons couldn’t run away with this one. The defense came up with a couple of stops and actually got some pressure on Jameis Winston, but couldn’t do enough to prevent this one from being close until the very end.
A lot of that had to do with this team’s particular liabilities. Minus Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell steps into a larger coverage role that he isn’t suited for. Minus Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, Jordan Richards is starting and having a very tough time in most facets of the game. Minus Grady Jarrett, the Falcons are having to work very hard just to keep their defensive line performing at a solid level.
Depending on how you view this team, it was either a quality win against an opponent desperate for a win, or a momentary salve for an unfixable wound. Either way, it was nice not to be on the wrong end of one of these for at least one week. Given how close this one wound up being, it’s hard to argue against a wary feeling.
Here’s the drive-by-drive look at the game.
The Bucs marched with incredible ease, with Jack Crawford’s interior pressure representing the only bright spot. De’Vondre Campbell was draped all over Cameron Brate, but he still scored a touchdown easily. Fortunately, the Bucs did miss the extra point.
Falcons 0 - Buccaneers 6
The Falcons, as is their wont, were able to do more on offense. Matt Ryan and company covered 20 yards in short order with a Tevin Coleman run, Austin Hooper catch and Julio Jones reception before a too many men on the field penalty backed them up slightly. A Calvin Ridley pass got them within 35 yards, and that’s all they needed as Mohamed Sanu reeled in his second long, impressive touchdown in two weeks.
Falcons 7 - Buccaneers 6
The Buccaneers looked like they’d have no trouble moving once more, getting close to midfield before a first down stop by Mike Bennett, second down incomplete pass, and thidr down sack of Jameis Winston by Brooks Reed got the Bucs off the field. Punt.
Your Falcons got an immediate first down and then some thanks to a beautiful route by Calvin Ridley on the sideline. The Falcons nearly stalled out if not for a third down grab by Austin Hooper, but with time running down in the quarter, the drive was alive.
Ryan connected with Julio on a 3rd and 9 to keep things going but couldn’t hit the deep throw to a jogging Justin Hardy on first down from the 30 yard line. The Falcons got a first down to Tevin Coleman with Calvin Ridley on the sideline, but then Ito Smith got nowhere and the Falcons were on 3rd and 11 from around the 20. Fortunately, Gerald McCoy was called for a penalty and the Falcons got a new set of downs. They took advantage, with Ito Smith cutting left and avoiding a couple of tackles en route to an easy touchdown run, his third in three weeks.
Falcons 14 - Buccaneers 6
The Falcons forced a three and out, getting a hand in Jameis Winston’s face on first down, getting a run stop on second down and getting tight coverage on Mike Evans to stop the Bucs cold. Punt.
Atlanta was feeding Ito Smith with confidence to start this drive, giving him the ball twice for a couple of solid pickups. Mohamed Sanu then picked up a first down with a one-handed grab. A Julio Jones sideline catch (how was he open?) and Austin Hooper score where he put a Bucs defender on the ground meant a big lead for Atlanta.
Falcons 21 - Buccaneers 6
The Bucs badly needed a score, and to their credit, they started the drive like they did. DeSean Jackson picked up an easy first down and Peyton Barber got seven yards. The Bucs missed on second down, but Deadrin Senat was shook up on the field. The Bucs got the first, but the joy was short-lived as Winston threw into double coverage and right into Damontae Kazee’s hands for an interception.
The Falcons got nothing going, picking up nine yards and electing to punt despite the real threat of a first down on fourth down. Punt.
The Buccaneers headed into the two minute warning driving, and despite some drama thanks to a big Brian Poole hit on Winston on the sideline, they continued apace. There was some poor tackling and coverage on this drive, to put it mildly, and it ended with a fairly open O.J. Howard scoring a touchdown against De’Vondre Campbell. That was Campbell’s second TD allowed in coverage.
Falcons 21 - Buccaneers 13
Atlanta had just 26 seconds on the clock, but they made the most of it by connecting on three quick passes, setting up a 45 yard field goal attempt for Matt Bryant that was as easy as pie for one of the most clutch kickers in NFL history. The Falcons got the ball back to start the second half and went in with an 11 point lead.
Falcons 24 - Buccaneers 13
Atlanta started with the ball. but didn’t do much with it. After picking up a first down, there was a stumbling pitch that went nowhere, Ryan saw a pass tipped, and the screen on third down got nothing. Punt.
The Bucs had no such issues. A quick run by DeSean Jackson picked up a few, but then Brian Poole was crisped by Adam Humphries, who took the Buccaneers nearly to the goal line on a 51 yard reception. A short run and false start later, Jameis Winston threw a fateful contested pass that was tipped way into the air and picked off by Brian Poole.
The Falcons should’ve made the most of their next drive and tried very hard to, with Ito Smith getting some carries and Julio Jones picking up an easy first down. Unfortunately, back-to-back penalties on Wes Schwetizer and Ryan Schraeder put Atlanta back at 1st and 25, and they wound up at 3rd and 17 in short order, and Ryan was sacked for the first time on that down.
The Bucs had an embarrassingly easy time, finding O.J. Howard against Jordan Richards more than once as they moved downfield. The Falcons’ defense was not adjusting well to what Tampa Bay was trying to do, but a heads up sideline stop by Jordan Richards and third down sack by Jack Crawford got the job done. Field goal, Tampa Bay.
Falcons 24 - Buccaneers 16
The Falcons needed to keep their lead intact, which put some pressure on the offense. Fortunately, Tevin Coleman picked up close to 15 yards on two carries. With Mohamed Sanu on the sideline, though, the Falcons needed to get creative with their snaps. They weren’t able to do much, with Austin Hooper dropping a third down pass to force a Falcons punt.
Tampa Bay started their next drive with a 25 yard pickup by Peyton Barber, which was not ideal.
The Bucs didn’t struggle to keep that going, with easy first down balls to Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson. They didn’t struggle to throw hte ball at all, actually, which culminated in an easy touchdown grab for Chris Godwin. Fortunately, Takk McKinley had bees in his butt on the two point conversion attempt and got in Winston’s face, forcing a throw into the turf.
Falcons 24 - Buccaneers 22
I don’t have to tell you how critical this drive was. The Falcons got to moving but also stalled out, with an end zone miss to Julio Jones and short Tevin Coleman run setting up 3rd and 9. Matt Ryan converted by scrambling for a first down, bless his soul. The Falcons followed that up with a thrilling Russell Gage catch for a near-first down and a short Ito Smith run to pick it up. Austin Hooper made a tough catch to pick up the first down from there, putting the Falcons well within the red zone. They finished things off with a Tevin Coleman touchdown grab where the Buccaneers utterly failed to cover the dynamic fourth-year back.
Falcons 31 - Buccaneers 22
Tampa Bay needed this score. They had a long completion early before getting to 3rd and 7. Unfortunately, the Falcons got called for dueling penalties on Robert Alford and Vic Beasley to give Tampa Bay a first down. A Peyton Barber eight yard gain got them in good position, but then Winston missed against Jackson in the end zone. He still converted, and then converted again on a bobbled ball that wasn’t even caught by the intended receiver. The Falcons then began to shut down, with an O.J. Howard grab in the red zone and wide open Peyton Barber touchdown bringing them within two.
Falcons 31 - Buccaneers 29
Look, we know the score. The Falcons either score here, run three-plus minutes off the clock, or they lose. They started off promisingly with a first down grab by Julio Jones, but Jones went out of bounds. A short loss on a running play later, a short pass to Ito Smith after that, and a third down left later, the Falcons were just trying to stay alive. They completed a pass to Austin Hooper and got the first down call, with Tampa Bay enjoying exactly zero timeouts. An Ito Smith loss and Justin Hardy eight yard gain later, it was third down for the Falcons, and they could not convert. Unbelievably, Dan Quinn was ballsy enough to call for a 58 yard field goal try but Matt Bryant, and Bryant hit it. Unfortunately, he got hurt on the play.
Falcons 34 - Buccaneers 29
Touchdown or nothing for Tampa Bay. They missed on the first pass attempt, but picked up a first down and a Brian Poole penalty next. They picked up a first, picked up a first, and found themselves with 12 seconds and no timeouts around the 20 yard line. They missed and then Jameis Winston scrambled, lateraled, there was another laterla, and then a lateral went out of bounds to preserve the Atlanta win.
Falcons 34 - Buccaneers 29