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Falcons vs. Buccaneers: Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers

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New Year, More Dirk Koetter.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Falcons rode a four-game winning streak into the end of the year, finishing 7-9 and second in the NFC South. It was an ugly win obscured by the veneer of a fantastic final play, and save for Bucs’ kicker Matt Gay missing three field goals the Falcons would have lost this game.

Here’s the final Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers for the 2019 season.

Hat Tips

Touchdown Ty

What strange offensive wizardry was this? For the second straight season the Falcons swapped the regular playbook for the football Necronomicon against Tampa Bay and dialed up some early game trickery.

Last season it was a Philly Special to Matt Ryan. This year? Big Man Touchdown.

It was a comically wonderful culmination to the opening drive, as offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo reported as eligible, skirted through the line and was so open that he could have rented the turf around him as parking spots. Matt Ryan flipped the ball over the middle and hit him right in the numbers and the big man rumble was on.

Sambrailo would take the pass 35 yards to put the Falcons on top 7-0 early.

Kendall Sheffield with a textbook tackle

Rookie corner Kendall Sheffield has certainly impressed in his first season, and the shot that he laid on Bucs receiver Cyril Grayson showed how physical he can be in the open field.

Facing a 3rd-and-6 on their second offensive drive, the Bucs decided to pass on the conversion attempt. Quarterback Jameis Winston tossed it over to Cyril Grayson where he was rudely greeted by Kendall Sheffield and stopped short of the first down.

Isaiah Oliver’s end zone PBU

Second-year corner Isaiah Oliver has had his expected ups and downs in his first year as a starter. He’s also put some plays on tape that should have you excited about his growth in Atlanta’s defensive secondary. His second quarter pass breakup to prevent a touchdown to Bucs tight end Tanner Hudson displayed his coverage ability in tight space and traffic.

Debo’s pick-six seals it

Deion Jones has a penchant for game-winning interceptions in divisional contests. Sunday was no different, as he immediately diagnosed the Bucs’ first play in overtime and promptly picked off Jameis Winston and strolled into the end zone for the win.

He didn’t make as many of the highlight plays in 2019 that we’ve grown accustomed to, but Deion Jones is still unquestionably one of the best linebackers in the NFL.

Head-Scratchers

The Hail Mary

Breshad Perriman roasted the Falcons’ secondary with regularity on Sunday, finishing the contest with five receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown came courtesy of a scramble and Hail Mary from Jameis Winston at the end of the second quarter.

De’Vondre Campbell was tasked with covering Breshad Perriman on the play for ... some reason, and seemed to be in proper position until he overran the receiver and boxed himself out of the play at the back of the end zone. Touchdown Tampa, and they took a 22-16 lead into halftime.

Offensive line

A fixture in this feature all season long, the O-line had looked better with the return of first-round guard Chris Lindstrom. Not against the Bucs. The unit came back to earth in spectacular fashion against the Bucs, surrendering six sacks — four of which came in the first half.

Dirk Koetter ad infinitum

Save for the deep playbook weirdness of the Ty Sambrailo touchdown, Dirk Koetter called an abysmal game. Top-to-bottom bad.

But the marquee low-light for Koetter was his inability to draw something — anything — up for Julio Jones in the second half to get a meager six yards receiving. That would have kept Jones’ streak of 1,400+ receiving seasons alive. A screen, a quick slant — anything. Nope.

Fired up for 2020!