What grade did Tampa Bay's secondary get for holding Atlanta QB Matt Ryan under 250 yards passing in the Bucs' 22-17 win in Week 17? What grade did the defensive line deserve for harassing Ryan all day and sacking him once? Find out in this Pewter Report article.
Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds offers up his analysis on how Tampa Bay's defense played at Atlanta against QB Matt Ryan in the Bucs' inspiring 22-17 victory over the Falcons, and dishes out the game grades for each defensive unit and the Bucs special teams.DEFENSIVE LINE
Tampa Bay’s defensive line only recorded one sack against quarterback Matt Ryan, but pressured him all day. Defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim recorded his fourth sack of the season and fellow defensive end Da’Quan Bowers had his second half sack wiped out due to defensive holding penalty by defensive back Ronde Barber. Te’o-Nesheim finished with three tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss, while Bowers also finished with three stops.
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy didn’t record a tackle, but had one hit on Ryan and was effective in helping the defense stuff the Falcons running game. The Bucs entered the game as the NFL’s top-ranked run defense, allowing just 80 yards per game, and held Atlanta to only 65 yards on 16 carries (4.1 avg.). Michael Turner picked up 17 of his 18 yards on one of his six carries.
Fellow defensive tackles Roy Miller and Gary Gibson notched two tackles, while defensive end Michael Bennett also recorded two tackles, a quarterback hit and a batted pass on third down to force a punt.
Ryan completed just 28-of-44 passes for 238 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, and the pressure by the defensive line contributed to holding Ryan well under his season averages.GRADE = BLINEBACKERS
Middle linebacker Mason Foster led the Buccaneers with 12 tackles, including 11 solo stops. Foster was instrumental in helping to limit Atlanta’s ground game and he might have played his best game of the season since Week 2 at New York.
While he wasn’t Tampa Bay’s leading tackler, rookie weakside linebacker Lavonte David had six tackles (five solo), one tackle for loss, one pass breakup, two quarterbacks hits and one sack, which was his second of the season. David shook off an early first quarter injury to turn in a dominant performance, especially in the first half.
Strongside linebacker Adam Hayward had one tackle and helped hold Atlanta to its lowest point total of the season (17) and just 278 yards. Tampa Bay’s linebackers played well as a unit against Atlanta’s tight ends and running backs.GRADE = BDEFENSIVE BACKS
Rookie strong safety Mark Barron did a great job of covering tight end Tony Gonzalez, holding the Pro Bowler to five catches for 41 yards and had two tackles and a key pass breakup on fourth down late in the fourth quarter to help Tampa Bay win the game. Barron played much better against the pass than he had earlier in the season and ends the season on a high note.
Barber had a costly defensive holding penalty in the second half that negated a sack by Bowers and gave Atlanta a key first down on their second touchdown drive. But he did have four tackles and played well otherwise.
Reserve safety Ahmad Black missed part of the game with a leg injury, but had a tackle and a pass breakup and played well when in the game.
Cornerbacks Leonard Johnson and E.J. Biggers each started and finished with three and five tackles, respectively. Both corners each had a big pass breakup on third down and Biggers nearly came away with two interceptions. The Bucs defense was stout on third down, allowing the Falcons to only convert 3-of-14 third downs (21 percent), and the secondary was a big reason why.
Reserve cornerbacks Danny Gorrer and Anthony Gaitor each had one tackle, but Gaitor surrendered a 7-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter as he absent-mindedly left Harry Douglas uncovered. Douglas had for catches for 21 yards, while Roddy White and Julio Jones were held in check. White had five catches for 42 yards with a long of 14 yards, while Jones had just three catches for 56 yards, including a game-long 28 yards.
The Bucs helped out their reeling secondary by playing a lot of Cover 2 zone defense against the Falcons and it worked. Tampa Bay’s defensive backfield also dodged the dubious distinction of becoming the NFL’s worst-ranked pass defense. The Bucs defense had to surrender 251 yards passing for that to happen and held Ryan to just 238 yards, swatting away six of his passes in the process.GRADE = BSPECIAL TEAMS
Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth was a perfect 3-of-3 on field goals on Sunday, nailing kicks from 22, 42 and 48 yards.
Punter Michael Koenen averaged 50.2 yards on his five punts with a net of 41.8 yards. He dropped two punts inside the 20-yard line and didn’t have any touchbacks.
Tampa Bay’s coverage unit was solid, holding Douglas to just a 10.5-yard average on four punt returns and Jacquizz Rodgers to a 19.7-yard average on three kick returns.
The Bucs return game was just average with Roscoe Parrish having a 23-yard kick return and averaging 11.7 yards on three punt returns.
The big play on special teams came from linebacker Dekoda Watson, who drove Falcons tight end Michael Palmer into the punter to register his second blocked punt of the season. That gave Tampa Bay great field position in the second quarter and led to a field goal as the Bucs built a 13-3 halftime lead. GRADE = B+
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