Close, but no cigar. That is something that many Bucs players, coaches and fans will be hearing throughout the week. The Bucs came close, but ultimately ran out of time as they fell to the Atlanta Falcons, 34-29. This game was a tale of two halves for the Bucs. That has been a theme for the team this season. This game had a lot of ups, and a lot of downs.
How They Started
The Falcons won the toss and elected to defer and get the ball to start the 2nd half. The Bucs offense went to work and so did QB Jameis Winston, making his 1st start of the season. The Bucs came out with a balanced attack and were able to drive down the field pretty well. The drive ended with a 15 yard touchdown pass by Winston to Cameron Brate. Chandler Catanzaro would miss the extra point so the Bucs were up 6-0. That would be the last time they led in this game. Matt Ryan and the Falcons came out to face a Bucs defense that was roughed up by Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears. The first Falcons drive looked like it would be the same story. The Falcons drove down with easy and were able to score a touchdown after a 35 yard pass from Ryan to Muhammad Sanu. The extra point was good and the Bucs were down 7-6. The Bucs got the ball back and actually started to get something going, before Winston was sacked on 3rd down and they were forced to punt. The Falcons got the ball and drove down the field. The Bucs were able to get the Falcons to 3rd down and they were not able to convert. Wait a minute. A hands to the face penalty by Gerald McCoy gave the Falcons a free 1st down and the very next play, the Falcons were in the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was good. Bucs were down 14-6. The Bucs went 3 and out on their next drive and gave the ball right back to the Falcons where they took full advantage. They scored another TD and the score was now 21-6. Things started to get out of hand and they would get worse. The Falcons picked off a Winston pass intended for Desean Jackson and suddenly gave the ball back to the Falcons AGAIN. The Bucs defense would finally show up and force the Falcons to go three and out. Yes, I said three and out. That is actually a thing. The Bucs would get the ball back and score a big TD on a pass to OJ Howard. The extra point was good this time and the score was now 21-13. Alright, so there is 26 seconds left and the score is 21-13. That’s not bad to go into halftime down 8. Hold up, remember Mike Smith is coaching the defense. 3 big plays for the Falcons and all of the sudden, they were in field goal range. Matt “money” Bryant nailed the 45 yard field goal and the score was 24-13 heading into the locker room.
At The Half
The Bucs offense started off hot, but just did not do enough in the 1st half to cut the deficit enough. The Bucs defense was basically the same story. Atlanta drove up and down on the defense and did pretty much whatever they wanted. With 26 seconds left in the 1st half, they defense needed to shut the Falcons down for just one play. One play and the Falcons would have likely packed it in. However, they allowed big play after big play and the Falcons were able to get a valuable 3 points. The Bucs did look better this week than they did 2 weeks ago vs the Bears, but that’s not saying much.
How They Finished
I hope you guys have seat belts, because you are gonna need to buckle up for this 2nd half. The Falcons got the ball to start the 2nd half and had a chance to make this ugly, but the Bucs defense had other ideas. They forced ANOTHER three and out. I know, crazy right? The Bucs had great field position and went down to the red zone where Winston threw a interception in the end zone. The ball deflected off of Duke Riley’s back and into the hands of Brian Poole. So this game is pretty much over, right? The Bucs defense cannot stop the Falcons AGAIN, right? Well, that’s what happened. The Falcons were forced to punt. The Bucs had good field position again and again got into the red zone, this time they were unable to score a touchdown but kicked a field goal instead. The kick was good and the score was 24-16. The Bucs defense would step up again and force Atalanta to punt. The Bucs got the ball back and seemed to have full momentum. The Bucs got the ball back and finally put it in the end zone. Winston threw the ball to Chris Godwin and Godwin got in for the score. The Bucs would go for 2 in an attempt to tie the game at 24. Unfortunately the Bucs were unable to convert. The Falcons would finally score in the 2nd half as Matt Ryan would throw a 9 yard touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman and the Falcons were up 31-22 at this point. The Bucs would answer with a touchdown of their own when Winston found a wide open Peyton Barber for 6. The extra point was good and the Falcons lead was now 31-29. This one is gonna be close, folks. The Falcons got the Ball and got to about midfield and then started to slow down. They gained a few more yards and the Bucs stopped them on a crucial 3rd down. But wait. Matt “money” Bryant was sent out and hit a 57 yard field goal to extend the Falcons lead to 5. That was a gutsy move by Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn and it paid off. The Bucs and Jameis Winston had one more shot and drove down the field, but took a little too much time doing it and had 12 seconds left at the Falcons 20 yard line. The first pass was thrown away by Winston and now there were 7 seconds left. One last chance for the Bucs and well, it was an interesting decision. The Bucs ran a QB draw/pictch and lateral play that nearly worked. Winston took the snap, ran up, threw the ball back to Adam Humphries, who would bobble it and get it to Mike Evans. Evans got the ball and threw a pass to Desean Jackson in the dirt and it went right through Jackson’s legs and out of bounds. Game over. I had actually seen the Bucs run that play in camp multiple times and never really understood why they were doing it. Now I do.
It was just too little, too late for the Buccaneers in this one. Both the offense and the defense took too long to get going and that really hurt them. They had dug themselves a hole and it was too large to get out of. Many people will hate on the final play call, but I actually like it. It was something different and unorthodox. It caught the Falcons by surprise and nearly worked. After watching the play multiple times. It looked as if the design was for Winston to toss the ball to Humphries and then have Humphries toss the ball over to Jackson. It was being executed fine until Humphries bobbled the ball and had to give it to Evans and well, the rest is depressing. It would have been great if it worked and would have gone down as one of the wildest endings to a football game in history but, no dice. Finishing this recap the same way I started it. The saying for the Bucs on Sunday? Close, but no cigar.