It was looking as though Tampa Bay was well on their way to a miserable afternoon as they made their way into the locker room trailing 17-0 at halftime against a surging divisional opponent in the Atlanta Falcons. But the Bucs battled back throughout the second half, mounting a massive comeback en route to a 31-27 victory in Week 15.
Atlanta took an early 7-0 lead on the game’s first drive, ending an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Russell Gage. The Falcons would then build on that lead with a touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley in the second quarter and a field goal from Younghoe Koo with seconds left in the half. For Tampa Bay, their offense seemingly couldn’t string anything together as they totaled just five first downs and 60 total yards of offense through two quarters. But once the third quarter began, the Bucs found their stride as they would come roaring back with four touchdowns and a field goal on their first five drives of the second half. Tampa Bay eventually tied the game at 24-24 on a field goal from Ryan Succop with 11:15 remaining in the fourth quarter before Atlanta answered back with three points of their own, re-taking the lead. And facing first-and-10 from the Atlanta 46-yard line on the Bucs’ ensuing drive, Tom Brady found a streaking Antonio Brown down the left sideline for a deep touchdown pass. The score was Brown’s first trip to the end zone as a Buc and it ultimately gave the Tampa Bay a 31-27 lead with 6:15 remaining, their first lead of the game and one that they wouldn’t surrender. With one final attempt to salvage a victory, Matt Ryan was sacked for the third time of the day on second-and-10 at the Atlanta 12-yard line , forcing Atlanta into a long third down deep within their own territory and would ultimately turn the ball over on downs two plays later, allowing Tampa Bay to take over, run the clock out and secure their ninth win of the season.
At 9-5 the Bucs extend their lead over the 7-6 Arizona Cardinals in the NFC playoff picture and creep that much closer to a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, something that could only come in Week 15 with a win and a tie between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears.