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Falcons vs. Bucs: Hat tips & head-scratchers

Atlanta’s 2020 season ends with more head-scratching moments.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve reached the conclusion of the 2020 NFL season for the Atlanta Falcons, and it’s one that was jam-packed with head-scratching moments. We had to mine for positives in most of these games, and hopefully that trend comes to a close with a new regime set to be in place in 2021.

Read on for Hat tips & head-scratchers from the Falcons 44-27 loss against the Buccaneers.

Hat tips

Mixing up the RBs on the opening drive

Dirk Koetter made establishing the run the opening act to what could be his final act in Atlanta. It was strange to see running backs actually receiving passes, but it happened with the Falcons’ first possession with success. Who knew?

Ito Smith, Todd Gurley, and Brian Hill were all involved on Atlanta’s first drive, with Gurley converting a key third-down, Smith displaying some of the nifty footwork he’s capable of, and Hill snagging a quick pass from Matt Ryan and darting 26 yards down the sideline to put the Falcons on the edge of the end zone.

Unfortunately Todd Gurley would burn a down with a fumble and Younghoe Koo was again tabbed to salvage points from what was an encouraging drive. Story of the season.

Hayden Hurst’s extra effort

Kudos to Hayden Hurst for putting the team on his back — literally, as he dragged Bucs linebacker Lavonte David seemingly across the goal line plane for a second quarter score. Further review would show that Hurst’s elbow hit the ground before the football crossed the plane, but it was a solid effort from the tight end.

The Falcons would score a couple of plays later to move the game to 20-10.

Russell Gage

Ol’ Reliable Russ. He’s been a chain-mover all season, and there seems to be a drive a game where he just takes over and keeps it rolling. Sunday was no different, with Gage leading all receivers with nine grabs for 91 yards and a touchdown.


Head-scratchers

An unenviable task

So why exactly was Foye Oluokun staked with the task of covering Chris Godwin? As one of the fastest wide receivers on Tampa’s roster, this assignment was failure by design.

And boy, did it fail.

To Oluokun’s immense credit he actually didn’t get burned on the play, keeping with Godwin for most of the route but was unable to deny the reception for the Bucs first touchdown of the game.

Ref stuff

With Brian Hill as a gunner on special teams, he’s shoved in the back and into returner Jaydon Mickens — a prodigious tackle, might I add. But somehow this was ruled a personal foul and granted 15 yards to the Bucs, a penalty that wasn’t even announced by the referee.

It went down as just a nebulous “personal foul” with no further explanation from the officiating crew. Bizarre and seemingly typical in a game featuring the Atlanta Falcons.

Handoff troubles

The butterfingers were at work in this contest, with both Todd Gurley and Brian Hill having issues on the transfer.

Gurley’s handoff thankfully didn’t lead to a change of possession, but it did waste a down that inevitably forced the Falcons to settle for three points after their promising opening drive.

Hill’s was far more consequential, as he was unable to secure the handoff from Matt Ryan and lost the handle on the ball, which would be recovered by Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield and returned for a touchdown.

Mercifully a review ruled that Winfield was down, but the Falcons failed at some fundamentals in Tampa.