Another snatch-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory game for the Atlanta Falcons, as yet another second half collapse cemented their loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The first half was packed with positive moments, but the second half was mostly bigtime bad.
An opening drive success
Too many times this year the Falcons have frustrated on promising opening drives, leaving points on the field and looking to the inimitable leg of Younghoe Koo to salvage something from the stall out. The Falcons’ first offensive possession on Sunday was a nice change of pace — albeit far too many games too late to make a difference.
A critical moment came when Todd Gurley snagged an underneath pass on third-down from Matt Ryan and powered through the defense for 10 yards to keep the chains moving. Ryan then completed two 20+ yard passes to Russell Gage and Calvin Ridley to knock on the Bucs’ door at the five-yard-line. Russell Gage completed it by creating separation on the left side of the end zone to reel in Matt Ryan’s pass for the touchdown.
In a season gift-wrapped with frustration, putting six on the board early counts as a hat tip.
Sharrod Neasman gets the sack
This was a fun one. The reserve safety usually turns in an impressive play or two when given snaps, and he didn’t disappoint with his unblocked blitz sack of Tom Brady in the second quarter. Neasman came through with a head of steam, untouched, and put Brady to the turf — something Brady is not a big fan of.
Any time you can get Tom Brady off-balance is a good time, and he was harassed often in the first half.
Ridley’s toe tap. long pass from Matt Ryan 3rd quarter with Falcons up 17-7. Ridley reels it in and somehow keeps both feet in. Leads to Ryan’s third touchdown and moves the score to 24-7.
Dirk Koetter has been rightly criticized for his inability to develop a decent — let alone potent — ground game, so on Sunday he just ... abandoned it entirely. The Falcons tallied 13 rushing attempts, their leading rusher Ito Smith logging six attempts for 24 yards.
Their second leading rusher was Matt Ryan with 16 yards on the ground.
Koetter doesn’t do balance on offense very well, so against the Buccaneers he just decided to sit on the seesaw by himself.
A.J. Terrell’s rough day
Cornerback A.J. Terrell has turned in a very nice rookie campaign, but to say he troubled against Mike Evans on Sunday is an understatement. Evans pretty much had control the entire second half, and he would finish the day with 110 receiving yards on seven targets.
A.J. Terrell’s lowlight of the day came in the third quarter, where he was flagged for both defensive pass interference and a facemask against Mike Evans on the same play. That would prove pivotal as Tampa was down 34-24 and it moved them into the red zone where Leonard Fournette would score a few plays later.
Not even really a head-scratcher anymore, but it doesn’t make it any less infuriating. The Falcons forced four Bucs punts in the first half, and then Tampa Bay emerged from the locker room to pile up four touchdowns and a field goal in the second half.
The defense completely fell apart, as did Matt Ryan’s protection in the pocket. After surrendering zero sacks in the first half, Ryan found himself on the ground courtesy of three Devin White sacks in the second.
This team seems scared of its own shadow. A new regime cannot be in place soon enough.