This was a pivotal divisional matchup for two teams that had to be champing at the bit to get the win. You just wouldn’t have known it by the caliber of football being played much of the day.
Tampa Bay was flagged numerous times; so was Atlanta. Tampa Bay had drops, off-target throws, a really terrible interception, and zero ground game to go with some coverage lapses and poor run defense; the Falcons had three Desmond Ridder red zone fumbles, coverage issues, and missed chances to put points on the board over and over again. The end result was that for much of the day, this was a low-scoring, too-close-to-call affair marred by the kind of mistakes that have become synonymous with NFC South football. In the fourth quarter, Atlanta was holding on to a field goal lead that evaporated thanks to a Tampa Bay field goal drive, but both defenses were having incredible days on balance given how much work they had to do.
On the decisive drive, though, the Falcons were what they needed to be. Desmond Ridder missed low on one pass to Kyle Pitts, but then dropped it in to his hands and Pitts rumbled for much more. A pair of short runs set up the try, which Younghoe Koo drilled from 51 yards out to win the game for Atlanta. This team is now first in the NFC South and 2-0 against the division; you may not like how they got there but they got there.
The Falcons can be so much better than this, given that they left multiple scores on the field thanks to those turnovers, but they still are above .500. Winning games while you’re figuring things out is plenty sweet, and while we have to have a long conversation about this team cleaning up their continued mistakes, I will absolutely take 4-3 at this point in the season with this squad’s best football ahead of them. We can celebrate today before we put the Falcons under the microscope.
On to the full drive-by-drive recap, which you can find below.
The Falcons kicked it off, with the Buccaneers starting from the 25. The first pass was a screen to Chris Godwin and went for just a couple of yards. On second down, Mike Evans caught a quick pass over the middle for a first down and more. Rachaad White’s first carry lost about a yard, and the second down pass was tipped and fell to the turf thanks to Grady Jarrett. On third down, a desperation pass to White under pressure went for a first down thanks to good blocking and a missed tackle by Bud Dupree. White then picked up a couple of yards on first down, and Lorenzo Carter chased Mayfield down and forced him to throw it away, but unfortunately a defensive holding call on A.J. Terrell gave the Bucs five yards and a first down. White then caught a pass everyone knew was coming and turned it into about five yards, and a high pass to Chris Godwin on the sidelines was incomplete because Godwin couldn’t get his feet down. On third down, the pressure from Grady Jarrett and DeMarcco Hellams got home to force Mayfield to throw as he was going down, and Terrell deflected the pass. On fourth down and 6 yards to go, the Bucs went for it for some weird reason, and the pressure forced Mayfield out of the pocket and forced a throwaway. Turnover on downs.
A quick strike to KhaDarel Hodge on first down went almost 15 yards, with Tyler Allgeier following that up for a few yards on first down. Another sharp pass from Desmond Ridder to Jonnu Smith picked up another first down. Cordarrelle Patterson got the next carry and took it for four yards, and another strike to Smith got the Falcons to 1st and goal. Allgeier was able to take it about four yards on first down, and then Smith caught the ball around the two yard line. Ridder then kept it and ran it in for the touchdown as Atlanta’s opening drive ended on a productive note once again. Falcons 7-0.
A nice return from Tampa Bay got them to about the 35 yard line. Mayfield threw it in the dirt on first down, but a defensive holding call on Terrell once again helped Tampa Bay. Mayfield launched one that wasn’t near Godwin, and a flag on Okudah was picked up. Cade Otton then grabbed a first down, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn took it nine yards. A false start backed Tampa Bay up five yards, and Otton’s grab got about five yards but fell just short of the first down. Mayfield was able to plow ahead and got a first down. Vaughn was then dumped for no gain on first down, but Mayfield then took a deep sideline shot to Mike Evans and got it for an easy touchdown. 7-7 tie.
Allgeier picked up three yards on first down, and then Kyle Pitts made a ridiculous catch for about three yards. On third down, Ridder’s throw was low and off and didn’t connect. Punt, and the return went nowhere.
Mayfield found White for about six yards over the middle on first down. Another false start backed the Bucs up five yards, and then White ran for a couple of yards before a holding call on Tampa Bay backed them up ten more yards. Mayfield then got Trey Palmer for four yards, and then another false start backed them up again. Mike Evans caught the third down ball for about eight yards and the Bucs had to punt. Mike Hughes returned it about eight yards on the subsequent play.
Ridder took a deep shot to Scotty Miller, who caught just outside the 20 to move the Falcons 46 yards on first down. Allgeier then bulldozedh is way forward for three yards. A quick strike to Drake London picked up five on second down, setting up a 3rd and 1 for the Falcons. Allgeier then plowed his way for about five yards and the first down to set up a first and goal. Ridder launched it out of the back of the end zone on first down with everyone covered, and then Patterson took the carry, stumbled, and managed to pick up a couple of yards before he was brought down. Ridder tried for London in the end zone, but it was broken up. Younghoe Koo hit the short field goal try, of course, and it was 10-7 Falcons.
The kick return was stopped before the 20 yard line. On first down, an illegal formation backed Tampa Bay up, and a pass to Chris Godwin got the Bucs to 3rd and 4. Godwin then got a first down on the next play. Mayfield’s deep shot was nowhere near the receiver, and on second down his pass was off the hands of a rookie tight end. On third down, pressure got home and Mayfield’s ball was nowhere near the receiver, but a holding call on Okudah gave Tampa Bay a first down. Ke’Shawn Vaughn couldn’t bring in Mayfield’s first down pass, but Mike Evans had no problem reeling in a first down on the next play. Vaughn went nowhere on the next play, and then a quick hitter to Deven Thompkins picked up a first down. Pressure got there but didn’t take down Mayfield, and he responded with a first down throw to move the Bucs into the red zone. Mayfield then was sacked by Calais Campbell and LaCale London, with Dee Alford breaking up the next pass. The third down pass to White went nowhere, setting up the short field goal try. 10-10 tie.
First down saw Ridder with a quick pass to Kyle Pitts for five yards. On second down, the play was quickly blown dead because of a substitution, and then Ridder kept it and rolled for a first down. Ridder then found a wide open London on the sideline for a first down and a little more. On first down, Patterson got the carry for about four yards, and then Ridder threw one low to Pitts and a flag came in for defensive pass interference. Patterson took it for about four yards on the next play, and then Allgeier took it for another four to set up a 3rd and 2 for Atlanta. They let the clock wind down to the two minute warning. Allgeier was hauling ass on a huge third down run, but a holding call on Mack Hollins brought it back. Ridder then hit London over the middle for a first down, and then Patterson took it for 11 yards on the ground thanks to some excellent blocking by Keith Smith and the line. He went nowhere on first down, and a quick pass to Keith Smith went absolutely nowhere. Now out of timeouts, Atlanta decided to run one more play, and Ridder was hit and fumbled, with Tampa Bay recovering.
The Buccaneers kneeled it out.
Cordarrelle Patterson took it out to about the 30 yard line, and then Allgeier went nowhere before London caught it for a quick two yard gain. Ridder’s third down pass was deflected and Atlanta had to punt.
A.J. Terrell had a nice play, breaking up a ball intended for Mike Evans, and then Rachaad White got five on second down. Baker Mayfield then hit Godwin for a first down, and on the next play A.J. Terrell got called for hands to the face. White then went for about 15 yards, but it was brought back owing to a hold. The next play was a cute little flip to Thompkins that was doomed as soon as it was called, and then he fumbled and LaCale London picked it up. Turnover!
On first down, Allgeier got about a yard with no blocking to help him out, and then Ridder hit Allgeier over the middle for a pickup of about seven yards. Allgeier then picked up a first down. Another two yards on first down, and then Allgeier caught an errant pass from Ridder to pick up basically nothing. London grabbed one from Ridder on the sideline for a first down. Tampa Bay challenged the play because they apparently thought London fumbled it and they should get it back with a touchback, but they did not win the challenge and Atlanta had a 1st and goal from the half yard line. A low snap was then fumbled by Ridder and Tampa Bay recovered. Turnover.
A false start was followed by a one yard gain with White. Mayfield then hit Evans over the middle to take the Bucs out of the danger zone and get them to 3rd and 1. The third down run was smothered by Kaden Elliss and the Bucs had to punt.
On first down, Ridder was under pressure and had to throw it away. Then he scrambled for 19 yards on first down after reeling in a low snap, picking up a first down and much more thanks to some nice blocking. On first down, Allgeier had no room to run, but on second down he picked up about 11 yards after getting one nice block. Allgeier then turned seemingly nothing into four yards, Ridder then hit Van Jefferson over the middle just shy of the first down marker for five or so yards, setting up third and short. Allgeier couldn’t quite get it, and the Falcons elected to kick the field goal. Koo hit it and it was 13-10 Falcons.
Rachaad White didn’t go for on first down, but he caught a quick pass on the sideline and turned it into about 15 yards on second down. Vaughn then was crushed on the first down by Calais Campbell and others.
Mayfield’s sideline shot to Godwin was out of bounds but an illegal contact call on Kaden Elliss moved the Buccaneers forward. The next carry went about three yards before a holding call backed Tampa Bay up. A quick pass to Mike Evans picked up a handful of yards to set up 2nd and 17, and then Godwin got about seven yards thanks to a really nice tackle by Nate Landman. On third down, excellent coverage gave Lorenzo Carter time to get home, and he took down Mayfield for a sack. Punt.
London got the very quick pass but wasn’t able to do much with it, getting two yards. On the next play, Ridder threatened to run but found Allgeier down the sideline and he turned a big gain into a bigger one that totaled 46 yards. On the very next play, Patterson rolled for a first down, and then took it seven yards on the very next run. Allgeier got two yards on the next play after hitting the hole hard but getting tackled by the ever-reliable Lavonte David. On third down, Allgeier got the first down by a few inches, and then turned the first down carry into nine yards. On the next carry, he was bottled up and picked up just about a yard. A Ridder keep on third down got the first down, but a delay of game backed the Falcons up. It didn’t matter, though, because Ridder ran it in again. The ball was knocked out, however, and the play was reviewed, with an end result of a fumble into the end zone for a touchback. Turnovers on downs.
The first pass was broken up for Tampa Bay, but then Mayfield hit Otton for a first down. On first down, the back was brought down in the backfield, and then Mayfield hit Otton for about seven yards. Then Mayfield found Godwin on the next play down the sideline, and a slip from Terrell allowed him to go a long way. White went nowhere on first down, and then Mayfield threw it right to Richie Grant for an unbelievably welcome interception. Turnover.
Allgeier took it two or three yards on first down, and then picked up another three on second down. Patterson then took it to get close to five yards, but came up just short of the first down. The Falcons punted, and the Bucs were left with zero timeouts.
Mayfield couldn’t find Godwin on the sideline on first down, and then a quick pass went for maybe two yards thanks to a nice tackle from Alfford. Then Mayfield took a third down scramble for over 25 yards, a backbreaking play for a defense that was doing such a good job throughout the day. White got a couple of yards on first down and set the clock running, and then Otton reeled it in for a first down and got out of bounds. A first down run once again went nowhere, and then Mayfield’s second down shot over the middle over the middle missed badly and a pass interference on Atlanta gave Tampa Bay plenty of yards with 1:05 left. A tipped first down pass was nearly intercepted by the Falcons, and then Mayfield’s end zone pass was in the dirt on second down. A huge third down sack for the Falcons by David Onyemata backed the Bucs up and forced the field goal try. 13-13 tie.
Ridder’s first down throw to Pitts was low and the tight end appeared to have reeled it in, but a review found he didn’t have control and it was ruled incomplete. Then Ridder found Pitts down the sideline for a huge gain after Pitts kept going. A quick handoff picked up three yards and the Falcons called a timeout, and then Allgeier went nowhere on second down. The Falcons let the clock down to four seconds and set up the 51 yard field goal try for Koo, who drilled it. 16-13 win for the Falcons.