That was a fitting end to the season wasn’t it? The Bucs closed out the 2018 campaign with a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons as Falcons kicker Matt Bryant’s kick sailed right through the uprights with no time left to drop Tampa Bay to 5-11 for the second straight year. This game was the tale of two halves, as many of the Buccaneers games this year were. The final score was 34-32 and the Bucs came up short again.
How They Started
The offense got the ball and it was not too pretty. After three plays the Bucs were forced to punt. Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense went to work and were putting together a decent drive but it would stall around midfield and the Falcons were forced to punt. Tampa Bay got the ball back and got the offense rolling. The drive started from their own seven yard line and they would take 12 plays, 6 minutes and 28 seconds and go 93 yards in a drive that ended with a Jameis Winston touchdown pass to Mike Evans. After the made extra point the Bucs were up 7-0. The teams would then trade punts and the Bucs defense would force the Falcons to punt once more. The Bucs finished the drive with a Cairo Santos 36 yard field goal and the Bucs would extend their lead to ten. The next 3 drives were essentially the same story as the ones before it. Two punts by the Falcons, one by the Bucs. The Bucs would get the ball back with just under two minutes left and they easily drove down the field and capped off the terrific drive with a 30 yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin, who had a terrific day today. The score was now 17-0 in favor of Tampa Bay that would change quickly when the Bucs started to play a prevent defense and that would allow the Falcons to drive all the way down in no time and score a touchdown when Matt Ryan found Julio Jones in the endzone. The Falcons gained some momentum before the half. The score was 17-7, Bucs.
At The Half
The first half surprised me. The Buccaneers have not been able to move the ball very well the past few weeks so it was nice to see them drive up and down and a Atlanta defense that is not very good. Jameis Winston looked spectacular in the first half. He really did not even throw any passes that could have been picked but weren’t. Terrific stuff from the young man. The defense was also shutting the Atlanta offense down which was a big surprise. This Bucs defense in the past has had a lot of trouble defending this Falcons team but they were up to the task in the first half. Could the Bucs keep up with their early success? 30 more minutes of the season and we will find out.
How They Finished
The Falcons got the ball to start the second half and drove down to the Bucs five yard line and ran the “Philly special” to get into the endzone to cut the Bucs lead to three. The Bucs responded with a field goal of their own and the score was 20-14. The Falcons would have a ten play drive that ended in a field goal as well. The score was 20-17 now. Too close for comfort for many and mistakes can’t happen in games like this. Well a mistake happened when Winston’s pass went off of Mike Evans’ hands and into the hands of a waiting Falcons defender. Three plays and 35 seconds later they found the endzone again when Tevin Coleman ran 23 yards for the touchdown. The extra point was good and the Falcons took their first lead of the afternoon. Things would not get any better for the Bucs when they went three and out and only took 54 seconds off the clock on the next drive. Atlanta would drive down the field and score again with ease. Things felt like they were starting to get out of hand. The Buccaneers needed a response and got one when Jameis Winston found Mike Evans in the endzone. The lead was now 31-26 for the Falcons after the Bucs two point conversion attempt was unsuccessful. The Bucs would need a defensive stop to get back into the game and they got one better when safety Andrew Adams picked off Matt Ryan. That was the spark the Bucs needed as Jameis Winston would toss another touchdown pass to Chris Godwin to give the Buccaneers the lead. After another unsuccessful two point conversion the Bucs led by only one. The Falcons got the ball and took 13 plays and five minutes and ten seconds off the clock. The Falcons got themselves well within field goal range and they took three knees before calling on the ageless wonder Matt Bryant to attempt the game winner. With four seconds left, there was nothing the Bucs could do but just watch the season end as the kick went right through. The final score was 34-32 and that was all she wrote.
The Bucs season was a roller coaster ride. It had it’s ups and it’s downs. There was Fitzmagic, the 2-0 start but then along with that came a QB controversy, more kicking woes and bad coaching. Change is coming to this Buccaneers team. For better or worse, change is coming. I believe that head coach Dirk Koetter will be fired, I also believe that general manager Jason Licht will get to stay for one more year and see how things pan out. Time will tell but for now, a change is needed in that locker room and it starts with a new voice, new leadership. I would like to thank all of you, the Bucs fans for reading all of my stuff this season. I have had a blast writing these recaps after every game, even if the results weren’t what Bucs fans wanted. I am thankful for the opportunity that Derek and Jason have given me here on the WTB site and I hope to be back next season! But for now, thanks so much and have a happy new year- Evan Wanish