The Bucs second primetime game of the year held what little magic this 2017 season had left in it. With a divisional opponent in town, revenge on the mind and their Super Bowl winning head coach with his name up in the Ring of Honor, this was suppose to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers moment.
However, this moment, along with many others this season, was squandered as the Bucs fell to the Falcons once again this season, this time by a score of 24-21.
When the Falcons and Buccaneer met for the first time, there was good offense on both sides right out of the gate. That wasn’t the case this time around as each team’s first possession ended with three-and-outs.
However, after each team got that out of their system, both started to get on a roll.
The Falcons were the first to get things going with a 9-play, 62-yard drive that included quite a bit of wide receiver Justin Hardy and running back Devonta Freeman, two player who weren’t factors in the team’s previous meeting. After getting down to the Bucs 6-yard line, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan tossed a touchdown pass to Hardy on third down to open up the scoring 7-0.
Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston got his team on a roll as well in response, orchestrating an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown of their own. The drive started with some nice running by Buccaneers back Peyton Barber, who got the start Monday as regular starter Doug Martin was inactive for violating team rules. The drive was capped off with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Winston to tight end O.J. Howard.
On the Falcons next drive, they continued to put their foot on the gas. On this drive, Ryan connected with his favorite target, Julio Jones, to get the Falcons into Bucs territory. Running back Freeman was once again a major player on this drive, as he caught a big 29-yard pass as well as punched the touchdown in to make the game a 14-7 lead.
As they did their first time out after going down on the scoreboard, Tampa Bay was about to punch the ball in for an equalizing score before Barber fumbled within the Falcons 10-yard line. The Buccaneers were on an 11-play, 85-yard drive before that fumble. In the drive, Winston had big passes to tight ends Antony Auclair and Alan Cross, who were getting a lot of playing time for injured Cameron Brate and Howard.
The Falcons took over with the ball deep in their own territory, but thank to a big 29-yard pass to Jones and a 22-yard run from Freeman, the Falcons got themselves into long field goal range, which Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant ripped right through the pipes 57 yards out. That brought the Falcons lead to 10 with a score of 17-7.
After the Falcons third straight score, there wasn’t much offense before the half. Because of this, the 17-7 score was how these teams ended the first half.
Since they won the toss and elected to defer to the second half, the Buccaneers started with the ball down ten points. Unfortunately, just like they did to open up the game, their first possession of the second half was a three-and-out. Mercifully, however, so was the Falcons’, as they also punted after just three plays on their following drive.
After the dueling punts, the Bucs offense camp alive. After missing on a few big shots down the field to wide receiver Mike Evans earlier in the game, Winston and Evans connected in a big way early in the second half to bring the game to just a three point lead for Atlanta.
On the Falcons following drive, now vulnerable and within striking distance, they put together a 16-play drive that really controlled the clock of the third quarter. As the quarter came to a close, they attempted a short field goal that was blocked by Bucs defensive end William Gholston. Taking over in their own territory, the Buccaneer offense found some life, but not enough and their drive off the blocked field goal ended with a punt.
On the Falcons following drive, they stopped playing around – more specifically Devonta Freeman stopped playing around. The Falcons started with the ball 87 yards away from the end zone, and 10 plays later they cross that plane. Freeman had runs of 9 yards and 11 yards before ultimately having the 32-yard touchdown run that brought the Falcons lead to 24-14.
With time not on their side, the Buccaneer didn’t give up. Down 10 with 75 yards to go, Winston got into his groove with the offense. Winston completed passes to Chris Godwin, Evans, Brate and ultimately Adam Humphries for a 16-yard touchdown on a drive that brought the game to a 24-21 score with just over four minutes left in the contest.
The Falcons took over, and though their lead was dwindled, they had a chance to run out the clock if they got a few first downs. After converting a first down on their first set of downs, a sack on the next third down by Clinton McDonald gave the Buccaneers offense one more shot.
On the Bucs next drive, they started with the ball on their own 30-yard line with one minute left and no timeouts. On the first play, Winston completed the pass to Brate. On the second play, Winston completed the ball to Martino. On the third play, Winston completed the pass to Brate. That brought the Bucs on the edge of field goal range with six seconds left.
And a miss by Patrick Murray ended the comeback just short.
Falcons won 24-21.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston played what was statistically the best game of his young career with 299 yards and three touchdowns on 27-of-35 passes. Running back Peyton Barber finished the game with 53 yards on 13 carries. Wide receiver Mike Evans led the team in receiving with 79 yards on five catches with a touchdown. Tight end Cameron Brate was next in line with 49 yards on four catches.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: email@example.com
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