The Bucs defeated the Atlanta Falcons 41-28 for the second win in a row. While the score gives an impression that the game was close, Tampa Bay dominated Atlanta in all aspects of the game.
Before every game each week beat writer Gil Arcia comes out with his Five Keys To Victory. Then after the game takes a look at how the team fared in meeting the objectives. The following is an analysis on how Tampa Bay did against the keys to victory as well as grades.
1. Contain Matt Ryan
Original Key: The Bucs were unable to come close to flustering Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan in their Week 7 matchup. As a result, Ryan completed nearly 77 percent of his passes and threw three touchdown passes to beat the Bucs 31-23.
Since then, Ryan has struggled, throwing seven interceptions, sacked seven times and has thrown just three touchdowns in the past three weeks. If Ryan is forced into having his fourth bad game in a row, the Bucs’ chances for a victory are pretty good.
Key Analysis: The tone was set early by the Bucs courtesy of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. His back-to-back sacks on the Falcons’ first drive of the game forced Atlanta to punt after driving down to the Bucs’ 35-yard line. As a unit, the defense was able to get a lot of pressure on Ryan throughout the game when they were not running stunts, hitting him a total of eight times.
McCoy would take down Ryan one more time in the second quarter to bring his season total to six sacks – also a career high. The pressure on the Falcons’ quarterback also altered the flow of their offense and forced him into throwing two interceptions. Ryan finished 19-for-36 for 254 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Original Key: Tampa Bay’s secondary turned Atlanta’s wide receiver Harry Douglas into a household name in their last meeting in just the first half of football. Douglas finished with seven catches for 149 yards and a touchdown – a touchdown that came on a bad defensive read by safety Dashon Goldson.
Bad angles and miscommunication has plagued the Bucs’ secondary this season. The Falcons will have All-Pro wide receiver Roddy White returning to action this week. The Buccaneers need to play to their strengths and jam the receivers at the line or this can be a repeat of Week 7.
Key Analysis: Cornerback Johnthan Banks was beated inside by wide receiver Harry Douglas in the third quarter for an 80-yard catch and run touchdown. Outside of that, the secondary did a good job limiting the Falcons’ receivers holding them to 24 receptions on 43 targets. Safety Dashon Goldson timed a Matt Ryan pass from the defensive backfield to pick up his first interception of the season.
But again, the team was beat in the middle of the field countless times when they played in zone coverage. When not in zone, the Bucs seemed to limit Atlanta’s receivers at the line. A lot of too is credit to the defensive front for finally getting to Matt Ryan often.
3. Run The Committee
Original Key: Tampa Bay has lost running backs Doug Martin, Mike James, Jeff Demps and Michael Smith. Now down to Brian Leonard, Bobby Rainey, and recently acquired Michael Hill, he Bucs will use a running back by committee approach moving forward and that starts on Sunday.
Atlanta has given up at least 130 yards in each of their last three games and have the 27th ranked rushing defense. The Bucs have posted team rushing numbers of 140 yards and 205 yards in their last two contests. Look for the Bucs to continue their success on the ground and keep Atlanta’s offense on the sideline.
Key Analysis: Tampa Bay’s success on the ground continued Sunday against Atlanta. After two carries for six yards by Brian Leonard on the opening drive, the Bucs gave the Falcons a heavy dose of Bobby Rainey the rest of the game.
Rainey would score rushing touchdowns of 43 yards and three yards and add a receiving touchdown from four yards out. As a team, the Buccaneers rushed for 186 yards – Rainey accounted for 163 of them. They have now rushed for 140 yards or more each of their last three games.
4. Get That Seven Going Again
Original Key: Everyone saw what the Buccaneers front seven can really do when they are put in position to excel. Against the Dolphins Monday night, the biggest defensive stops come on plays where the line did not stunt and the linebackers hit the gaps that were not stunted into.
The end result was a safety by Lavonte David, two sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Miami’s final drive, and stopping the run for only two yards. Tampa Bay will see running back Steven Jackson for the first time this season. Jackson’s strengths are size, power, and decent speed but if the Bucs repeat their success from Monday, they can stop Atlanta’s attack through the air and on the ground.
Key Analysis: From McCoy’s three sacks to Mason Foster’s interception return for a touchdown, Tampa Bay’s front seven were making plays. Their starting unit held Atlanta’s Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers to 63 yards rushing on 17 carries. Ryan’s interception thrown to Foster was a result of pressure applied by linebacker Dekoda Watson, who also blocked a punt.
Unfortunately, the game got away from them a bit as the game went on. Once the reserves came in in the fourth quarter, the Bucs allowed 88 yards on two carries to Falcons’ backup running back Antone Smith. That forced head coach Greg Schiano to place the starters back in the game to only be called for two personal foul calls and give up a touchdown.
5. Don’t Leave Points Out On The Field
Original Key: Teams would much rather score touchdowns than field goals but for the Buccaneers, that’s been easier said than done. Countless trips inside the opponent’s red zones have resulted in field goals rather than touchdowns. From bad playcalling to penalties, the Bucs get themselves out of the red zone about as often as they get in, resulting in three points and not seven.
The Bucs need to put more points on the board against the Falcons on Sunday. They have a good shot of putting lots of points on the board against a team that has given up at least 23 points in every game this season. But if they throw their fundamentals out the window and settle for field goals, it’ll be Week 7 all over again.
Key Analysis: The Buccaneers took advantage of every scoring opportunity this time around and even tried to create some opportunities of their own with some trick plays. Although they were unsuccessful in that department, the team was fundamentally sound inside the red zone.
Guard Jamon Meredith would get called for a holding penalty in the fourth quarter that would put the Bucs back outside of the red zone but that would be the only mistake seen from the offense. They finished the game scoring three touchdowns out of four trips inside the 20-yard line which included a touchdown run and reception by Rainey and a touchdown pass from Mike Glennon to wide receiver Vincent Jackson.