In a must-win game, the Falcons once again couldn’t win. While it was close and frustrating throughout, Atlanta fell to the Buccaneers 29-25 in the end, with Tampa Bay regaining control of the NFC South and the Falcons once again left to lament the raft of mistakes that led to a loss.
The first half was abysmal for the Atlanta Falcons, who set up a chip shot field goal for Younghoe Koo, saw Desmond Ridder throw a pretty ball to an open Kyle Pitts for an easy touchdown, and largely shut down the Buccaneers offense en route to 10 first half points. A Desmond Ridder interception on a play Carlton Davis read the entire way, an awful safety where Ridder held on to the ball far too long, and a pair of missed long Younghoe Koo field goal tries ensured the Buccaneers got out of the first half up 12 despite the heroic defensive effort.
The second half needed to be better, but it didn’t start any better. It was only later when the offense finally got going enough to give Atlanta a chance to win the game, culminating in a Bijan Robinson touchdown run that put the Falcons up 25-22. Unfortunately, the next Tampa Bay drive saw some coverage lapses from Atlanta’s non-Jessie Bates safeties, leading to a touchdown for the Bucs that put them up 29-25. The last gasp drive got close, but ended with a Drake London catch just inside the five yard line as time expired.
Here’s a full drive-by-drive breakdown of the game you just watched.
The Buccaneers started the game with the ball. Rachaad White went up the middle for six yards before Albert Huggins got him, and then Chris Godwin caught one over the middle for five yards and a first down. White went two yards on first down, and then Baker Mayfield hit Cade Otton for five yards before Kaden Elliss took him down. On third down, Mayfield got David Moore for a seven yard gain and a first down. Elliss then took down White after a gain of about a yard. Trey Palmer caught it for five yards as the pressure closed in on Mayfield, and then Mayfield was contacted in the backfield, escaped an Arnold Ebiketie sack, and scrambled for a couple of yards before he was tackled. The 55 yard attempt from kicker Chase McLaughlin was good, and it was 3-0 Buccaneers.
On the first play of the next drive, the Falcons tried a short pass to Bijan Robinson that picked up about four yards as the blocking for it faltered. On second down, Robinson caught a second straight ball for 11 yards. The next play was a very short pass to Jonnu Smith, who cut inside on his block instead of going outside and only got two yards. Ridder then scrambled but didn’t get anywhere with pressure closing in, setting up a 3rd and 8, and got Drake London on the sideline to pick up 25. Tyler Allgeier picked up three yards on first down, and then got another two yards on second down. Ridder then scrambled for a first down on a nice carry. Cordarrelle Patterson then got two yards on first down, and then Ridder got six yards on second down running again with no open man. London then caught it right around the first down marker, and the Falcons elected to go for it on fourth down. and then Ridder found Kyle Pitts for a first down. Robinson then took it about five yards on 1st and goal, and then got a sweep carry that nearly was a touchdown if not for a very nice tackle a couple yards short of a touchdown. The third down pass to Robinson was incomplete, and the team settled for a short Younghoe Koo try that was inevitably good. 3-3 tie.
A.J. Terrell made a nice play to break up a first down pass intended for Mike Evans. White then picked up maybe two yards on his second down carry. On third down, Mayfield just missed the throw. The punt return was muffed and rolled out of bounds, setting up the Falcons with the ball from their own 14.
Ridder threw a pick on the very next play on a ball to Robinson, with Carlton Davis charging in on the play with zero hesitation and snagging it out of the air.
That was originally called a pick six, but he was called down at the eight yard line. Mayfield then ran it in for a touchdown. 10-3 Buccaneers.
Robinson took it for six yards, and then MyCole Pruitt caught it for a short gain, but fumbled it out of bounds, with Atlanta maintaining possession. Robinson then took it eight yards for the easy first down. London then caught a zippy pass from London to the sidelines to pick up 22 yards. Robinson got nowhere on first down, but then Ridder threw a pretty ball to a wide open Kyle Pitts, who was able to run through a defender over the final ten yards for a touchdown. 10-10 tie.
On first down, the Bucs got just a yard. A strike to Evans went for a first down on the next play, however. A really nice tackle from Clark Phillips, who was in in relief of Jeff Okudah, resulted in just a three yard gain on an end around. On second down, Chase Edmonds was taken down for a minimal gain, and then Mayfield found Edmonds for a first down catch. White took it about four yards, and then Godwin was tackled quickly after a screen. On third down, a quick pass was stopped short of a first down by a great Mike Hughes tackle. On fourth down, the Bucs were dropped for a loss on the carry, with Jessie Bates and Kaden Elliss ganging up to get the job done.
Ridder had some time and found KhaDarel Hodge down the sideline for 18 yards. Robinson pushedh is way forward for about a yard on first down, and then Mack Hollins caught a risky ball from Ridder for about sevne yards. Ridder was able to escape the pocket, but he stumbled and didn’t get any yardage, and it appeared he missed an open Scotty Miller on the play. Younghoe Koo missed the field goal try, a rare occurrence, and it remained a tie game.
A two yard run on first down, and then Mayfield took a deep shot and badly missed Godwin, and then Mayfield was taken down for a sack by Kentavius Street. Punt.
The Falcons were backed up deep, and Ridder hung in there a long time looking for a throw he didn’t get, as he was taken down by Antoine WInfield Jr. for a safety. Ridder also fumbled, and was lucky the Falcons were able to fall on it. 12-10 Buccaneers.
A quick pass and a White run added up to seven yards, setting up a 3rd and 3. A false start made that 3rd and 8. Mayfield escaped pressure and managed only an incompletion. Punt, and Dee Alford had a nice return to pick up about 20 yards.
On the next play, Ridder fumbled the snap and fell on it, and then on the next play he hit for Drake London for a first down. Atlanta called their first timeout. Then Ridder hit London again for an eight yard gain, and then a ball to Jonnu Smith fell incomplete. A quick handoff to Robinson got a yard, setting up a long field goal attempt. Koo missed it again, and it was 12-10 Buccaneers at the half.
Bijan Robinson went for eight yards on first down. Ridder then hit London for a first down. On the next play, he threw a pass that was tipped into the air, and Antoine Winfield intercepted it. Fortunately an illegal hands to the face call erased the play, and gave Atlanta a first down. Jonnu Smith then didn’t come up with the pass, and Tyler Allgeier made it maybe a yard on second down. Ridder escaped pressure to hit Smith for about eight yards to set up a 4th and 2. The Falcons elected to punt, and Bradley Pinion pinned the Bucs at about the five yard line.
Mayfield was under pressure from Bud Dupree on first down and sidearmed it into the dirt near a receiver. His next pass was tipped into the air by Calais Campbell, and then the third down run went for eight yards and the Bucs punted. Alford had another nice return to set the Falcons up near midfield.
The first down ball from Ridder to London was excellent, but it was knocked out of his hands by a defender. The next ball to Hodge was broken up by Carlton Davis. Ridder then went downfield to Scotty Miller, who didn’t have a chance at the ball, but there was no call on the call on the play. Punt, and again the Bucs were inside the 10 yard line.
A high snap to Mayfield was recovered by White for a one yard gain. On second down, White couple a couple of yards, setting up a 3rd and 6. Kentavius Street went down, but Clark Phillips was all over Mike Evans on third down, and the pass fell incomplete. Punt, and the Falcons got it back around the 30 yard line.
A false start on the Falcons backed them up five yards, and then Ridder tried to hit Pitts, but saw it broken up. He then hit London for about five yards, and then the third down ball was deflected into the air. Punt, and the Bucs had decent field position at the 34.
Edmonds took it about four yards on first down, and then took it for close to a first down on the next carry. White then picked up about ten yards and a first down. Edmonds picked up about five yards on first down, but then no gain on second down with Elliss making the nice stop. Mayfield then hit Evans for a first down. On first down, White went nowhere, and then under pressure Mayfield just missed Otton. On the next play, Mayfield hit White for a very short pass, and then missed tackles and good blocking saw the Buccaneers score a touchdown. 19-10 Buccaneers.
Robinson took it maybe a yard on first down, and then caught it on a quick swing from Ridder for about four yards. Ridder then was able to zip one in to Jonnu Smith for a first down, with a roughing the passer flag picked up. Ridder then handed it off to Tyler Allgeier for a five yard gain. Allgeier powered through contact and picked up a first down. Allgeier picked up three yards on first down, and then Ridder went deep to Miller again but it was broken up after it was underthrown. The third down pass to Smith was broken up by a defender. Punt.
White went nowhere on first down.
White got about three yards on the next play and fumbled, but he was ruled down before the ball came loose. Mayfield then threw it high to Godwin and the Bucs had to punt again.
The Falcons had strong field position, but Ridder’s first down throw to Miller on the sideline was incomplete, as it wasn’t positioned for Miller to get it down in bounds. Robinson then took it three yards, but it was short, and a pass interference call for Zyon McCollum working against Drake London got the bailout first down for Atlanta. A first down catch for MyCole Pruitt followed that. Patterson’s first down run went six yards, and then his next run maybe went for a yard. Robinson took it close to 40 yards on the next carry, setting the Falcons up inside the 10 yard line, and then Robinson powered it in on the next play for a touchdown. Incredibly simple for the Falcons, and well overdue. 19-17 Buccaneers.
Edmonds took it eight yards on first down for a big gain, and then Edmonds took it close to 15 yards on second down for an easy first down. White then took it about six yards, and then took it for a first down on the next play. Godwin caught it for about six yards, and then White got the first down again against a depleted, tired Falcons defense. Mayfield overthrew it on first down to Otton in the end zone, and then White got about five yards on second down. Mayfield then tossed it to the end zone after he rolled away from pressure, but it was called out of bounds despite a stellar effort from Mike Evans. Tampa Bay challenged, but failed the challenge. McLaughlin hit the field goal try, and it’s 22-17 Buccaneers.
Ridder threw it up on first down and Drake London made a brilliant, leaping catch with a pair of defenders in the neighborhood for a massive completion. Then Allgeier ran and ran and ran and was pushed for a nine yard gain. Allgeier then powered through contact and picked up an easy first down and then some. Allgeier then picked up close to five yards to the left, and then Ridder kept it, got away from a defender, and ran for a touchdown. He then hit Drake London for the two point conversion to put the Falcons up by three. 25-22 Falcons.
Mayfield hit Godwin for about seven yards on first down, and then White picked up four yards and a first down. Then White took it nine yards on the next play as the Bucs continued to run it effectively, and then Phillips broke up a Mayfield shot downfield on an absolutely huge play. On third down, White was stopped shy of the line of scrimmage by Calais Campbell, but he was able to get it on fourth down. It appeared that White had fumbled, but the call on the field was not a fumble. The first down pass play was broken up by Jessie Bates, and then Albert Huggins came in to hit Mayfield, but a call on Clark Phillips for holding gave the Bucs five yards and a first down. Mayfield missed Evans on the first down throw, and then a miscommunication and sideline throw led to Mayfield missing Godwin. On third down, Mayfield found Godwin downfield to get Tampa Bay inside the 20. White then ran it about three yards, and then Mayfield got Otton for a touchdown working against Richie Grant. 29-25 Tampa Bay.
Ridder hit Jonnu Smith over the middle for eight yards, and then got to midfield on a ball to Drake London. The next Ridder ball was low to Pitts and incomplete, but he did hit Pitts for the first down and then some around the 30 yard line, following that up with a spike. He threw it to Drake London and it was caught around the four yard line, but that wasn’t enough, with the Falcons losing.