For as much as we’ve talked about gloom and doom and “no way back” for the Buccaneers after how the first half of their season played out, their game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was truly the swing game of the season. A win on the road against a divisional opponent meant that they not only would have part of the tiebreaker in hand over a team they would likely be close to at the end of the regular season, but a third win in a row would set up an easy next few games to possibly get their record above .500 and beyond.

However, all of that hope and potential came crashing down, as the swing game swung in the wrong direction and the Falcons took care of business at home by a score of 34-20 in their favor.

The Falcons won the toss and elected to defer to the second half. The Bucs started the game with the ball on offense and right off the bat got things going when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a first down on the very first play. That start was the catalyst for a 10-play, 57-yard drive which included a balanced running and passing attack, ending in three points off the foot of Patrick Murray.

The Falcons offense hasn’t been what we saw from them last year during their Super Bowl run, but it is still talented. That talent showed up early as quarterback Matt Ryan led a 13-play, 43-yard drive in response to Tampa Bay opening up the scoring. That Atlanta drive got them close enough for a 49-yard Matt Bryant field goal to tie up the game 3-3.

The next three possessions went punt, punt, punt; two by the Buccaneers with one by the Falcons in between. Both defenses were holding strong the trenches and were getting pressure on the quarterback. This caused some rushed throws and confusion in the passing game, and that made it easier to stop some of the running game, too.

However, after the Buccaneers second punt in that series, the Falcons got into the end zone for the first time in the contest thanks to a wild cat pass by Atlanta wide receiver Mohamed Sanu who hit wide receiver Julio Jones for 51 yards for six points.

After that things really started to unwind for the Buccaneers in the first half.

Following another three-and-out for the Buccaneers, the Falcons took over with the ball at their own 28-yard line and began what would be a 6-play, 72-yard drive. In a drive that heavily featured Falcons receiver Jones, Jones racked up a total of 60 yards on the ground and in the air. To top it off he was the man who caught the touchdown to extend Atlanta’s lead to 17-3.

Following going down two scores, the Bucs answered with a 14-play, 73-yard drive that got them all the way to the goal line, but not good enough for six points as the team had to settle for three points. The good part about that drive was that it controlled the clock and took up a good amount of time winding down to the end of the first half. But, even though the Falcons had just 1:36 seconds to take the ball 77-yards, they got close enough for a field goal to keep the lead what it was. The game went into the half 20-6.

The Falcons opened up the second half much like they ended the first; by featuring Julio Jones early and often. Jones started the second half off with a 23-yard catch, and that began a 9-play, 74-yard drive that ended in a 3-yard Tevin Coleman run into the end zone for the Falcons.

The Bucs did respond, however, with a touchdown of their own, as the first pass to a tight end all game by O.J. Howard in the red zone set up an easy Peyton Barber score on the next play – starting running back Doug Martin had been taken out of the game due to a concussion.

After getting the game to a respectable score, the Bucs defense clamped down on the Falcons offense and forced a punt after seven plays. The Bucs offense continued their momentum and orchestrated a 9-play, 80-yard drive that ended in six points yet again. the game then became just 27-20 for the Falcons entering the fourth quarter.

As the Falcons were drive the ball to try to extend their lead, which included a big 44-yard catch by Julio Jones, who broke the record for most receiver yards ever against a Buccaneers defense, a forced fumble Bucs by rookie Kendell Beckwith was picked up and returned all the way to the Falcons side of the field by Tampa Bay cornerback Brent Grimes.

The Bucs took the momentum 40 yards in eight plays which got them just on the edge of field goal range. However, down seven and the clock getting lower and lower, the Bucs tried to go for it on 4th-and-1 and a pass to Cameron Brate was broken up. They left the series off the turnover with no points.

On the Falcons following drive, it looked like the Bucs were going to force a punt with plenty of time left even before the two minute warning, but a big catch by Julio Jones on third down continued the drive for Atlanta, one that would end with a Tevin Coleman rushing touchdown.

That put the game at 34-20 in favor of Atlanta, and that’s how it would end.

Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the game 26-for-43 with 273 passing yards. Running back Doug Martin finished his day with 33 yards on seven carries before leaving with a concussion. In his relief, Jacquizz Rodgers had 31 yards on eight carries and Peyton Barber had seven yards on five carries with two touchdowns. Mike Evans led the Buccaneers in receiving with 78 yards on six catches. DeSean Jackson was next with 60 yards on eight catches. Tight end O.J. Howard had 52 yards on three catches, and Cameron Bate had just six yards on one catch.

For Atlanta, quarterback Matt Ryan finished his day 26-for-35 with 317 yards and a touchdown. Wide Receiver Julio Jones had 253 yards on 12 catches with two touchdowns, and running back Tevin Coleman had 97 yards on 19 carries with two scores.

 

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

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 protected]
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Dman
Dman
4 years ago

Down 27-20 in the fourth, on fourth down, why we don’t take the 3 and then give up the ball on downs is ridiculous. We had the momentum. There’s 7+ minutes left. Take the three, close the gap to 4 points and let the D feed off the momentum to get the ball back. Stupid, bad decision by Koetter.

Bucnut2
Bucnut2
Reply to  Dman
4 years ago

I agree but with our Defense it likely would not have mattered

Jordan Schlansky
Jordan Schlansky
Reply to  Dman
4 years ago

I get why he went for it. If they had just put up three points (and trailed by four,), then he’s just prolonging the need to get a touchdown. I think it’s better to go for it there, than kick it and still need a touchdown. If you go for it and covert it, then you could get the touchdown and then you don’t need to necessarily get all the way down the field again to take the lead, you can hopefully take the lead with a field goal, provided the defense holds it’s end of the bargain. If you… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  Dman
4 years ago

I had no problem with Koetter going for it. I can see his reasoning as our defense wasn’t going to stop them. We needed 7 there. My problem was the bone headed play call. You have one yard to get and two downs to get it and you throw it twice. Koetters short yardage play calling is absolutely terrible.

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  Dman
4 years ago

Dman you took the words right out of my mouth.

kingbucc239
kingbucc239
4 years ago

😂😂😂

surferdudes
4 years ago

Peyton Barber was running hard. If you knew you were going to go for it on 4th down, why not run Barber on 3rd, and two? The way he was running, hard to believe he couldn’t have picked up 2 yards on 2 carries. That was a head scratcher. He wasn’t even in the game, even more so. Think Dirk out smarted himself there.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  surferdudes
4 years ago

Agreed 100% Once again, Coach is trying to be the smartest guy in the room instead of just handing it to Barber.

Dman
Dman
Reply to  surferdudes
4 years ago

Completely agree. Barber runs north/south, puts his head down and gets yards.

Garv
Garv
4 years ago

Anyone surprised? I don’t think so. This team is always behind, whether it be the season’s record or in individual games. Too damn far behind to win. It’s disappointing, predictable and has become flat out irritating to watch. The 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are far and away the worst team in the NFC South the rest rest of the season will be used to evaluate the players who may or may not want to play here. Kind of like paying for more damn preseason games if you’ve already got season tickets. It’s a drag but it’s also A Bucs Life,… Read more »

macabee
macabee
4 years ago

Well, it was me and Julio down at the schoolyard and what a schoolyard that Mercedes-Benz stadium is! What can I say? Julio got the best of us today. The Bucs did better than I imagined and frankly made it into a winnable game. Dirk Koetter is going to get hammered today. Not because he chose to go for it on 4th down, but because of the play calling in the red zone. When it’s 2nd and 2 at the Atlanta 19 yard line and you come away with no points – that is not good! I’m not mad at… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
4 years ago

well we kept it closer than I thought we would. Fitz managed the game well after his horrible start. Doug ran hard, when the holes were there, but once again, too ;little too late. This team is just a bad team. Offensive line continues to suck, bone headed play calling, and a horrible defense. I mean whatever the glazers paid Mike smith, it’s time for a rebate. How are you not at least going to roll Grimes over to Julios side? Or maybe blitz on third and long? We all took the bait for that mirage of a 5 game… Read more »

Amo
Amo
4 years ago

The latest in a long line of sickening loses. Mike Evans’ hands are questionable. Are you sitting? The offensive line and defensive lines suck (Gholston played well). I too had no problem with us going for it but the…are you sitting….the call was awful. Humphries had three receptions that were one yard short of a 1st down. The season can’t end soon enough.

Horse
Horse
4 years ago

We were done at 27 to 6. The rest was the usual garbage; Atlanta defense played soft and we started to have some hope, then they slammed the door in our faces! Once again the usual Buc history. Time for Koetter and Smith to call for the moving vans. I’m definitely off their bus now!

SaskBucs
SaskBucs
4 years ago

Yep, coaches botched it again. Dirk not using the TEs in the first half and then throwing 3 passes from 2nd and 2, while using a timeout, just to turn it over on downs… inexcusable. I don’t hate going for it, because as others have said, we needed a TD and we were already down there. Dline was useless but that isn’t a surprise. What is a surprise is Mike Smith not making adjustments for Julio or for manufacturing more pressure on 3rd and 6+. Press him with help for Christ’s sake and send a LB or 2. Anything to… Read more »

Garv
Garv
Reply to  SaskBucs
4 years ago

If you are really honest with yourself, really looked at this team with an open mind, I think you’d have seen that this team was not a playoff team by halftime in Arizona. That game was this season in a nutshell. Show up totally unprepared to play a big game, get immediately behind by more than two scores and not have enough to come back and win. Been that was for individual games and the season as well. The playoffs are for playoff teams and anyone can see this is far from a playoff team for multiple reason. We bought… Read more »