Coming off a disappointing week 11 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers headed to Atlanta with a chance to get a victory against another division rival. The Atlanta Falcons were riding high after 2 straight wins over the Saints and the Carolina Panthers. After starting the season 1-7, the suddenly red hot Falcons had not allowed a touchdown in their last 2 games. The Bucs entered Sunday 1-5 in their last 6 games.
Winston settles in after shaky start to game
As has been the story all too often, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston found himself in turnover trouble early on. After Atlanta struck first on a Younghoe Koo field goal, Desmond Trufont intercepted Winston’s first pass of the game. The turnover did not result in points for Atlanta, however. A Falcons punt set Tampa Bay up at their own 5 yard line. After 2 runs and a pass to Ronald Jones set the Bucs’ up at their 29 yard line, Winston threaded the needle to Chris Godwin for a 71 yard touchdown connection. This was the first catch in what would become yet another career day for the young receiver.
Later in the first quarter, the interception bug struck again. This time, Winston threw an odd jump pass behind his check down, Dare Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale was only able to tip the ball and it ended up in the hands of De’Vondre Campbell. The Falcons were set up at the Bucs’ 19 yard line and cashed in 6 plays later on a 1 yard Qadree Ollison touchdown run.
Godwin strikes again and the “big fella” finds the end zone
With Atlanta leading 10-7 in the second quarter, the Chris Godwin show began to elevate to the next level. The Bucs’ started their second scoring drive from their own 49 yard line. After receptions of 22 and 30 yards for Godwin, Tampa Bay faced a 3rd and goal from the 1 yard line. Winston threw behind Godwin who pulled the ball in with 1 hand before withstanding a hard hit from Kendall Sheffield. Godwin held onto the ball for his second touchdown of the game. Godwin finished the game with 7 catches for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. Matt Gay missed the extra point and the Bucs’ lead 13-10.
Tampa Bay got one more chance to score before halftime after a Falcons punt. Winston continued to throw the ball well as he hit Breshad Perriman for a 44 yard gain and Godwin again for 26. On 2nd and goal from the 1 yard line, Vita Vea checked in at fullback. Tight end Tanner Hudson was sent in motion to the left giving the illusion that a run to that side was coming. Instead, Winston faked the handoff and found a wide open Vea in the end zone for a touchdown pass. With that touchdown, Vea became the heaviest player to catch a touchdown pass in NFL history at 346 pounds. Gay missed his second extra point of the game, leaving the score at 19-10 going into halftime.
Bucs march down field to start second half
The Bucs received the second half kickoff and wasted no time extending their lead. A 24 yard scramble by Winston followed by a 25 yard run by Ronald Jones II landed Tampa Bay in the red zone. Scotty Miller caught a 10 yard pass from Winston for his only catch of the game, setting the Bucs up at the 4 yard line. Jones punched it in from there on first down. The nightmare for Matt Gay continued as his extra point was blocked and nearly returned for 2 points by Atlanta.
On Falcons ensuing drive, Matt Ryan looked deep downfield for Calvin Ridley who was 1 on 1 with Bucs’ cornerback Carlton Davis. Having already broken up 5 passes, including a near interception in the first half, Davis battled and wrestled the ball away from Ridley as the 2 players fell to the ground to secure the pick. The interception was a hard earned reward for a much improved Bucs secondary. It was also the first of Davis’ career.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the interception did not result in points. The 2 teams traded field goals and the Bucs lead 28-13 at the end of 3 quarters.
Defense puts a bow on Bucs’ victory
Deep in their own territory and trailing 28-16, Atlanta went for a 4th and 5 from their own 15. Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Ryan and forced a fumble. Ndamukong Suh scooped it up and scored his second such touchdown of the season as a result. This time, Gay converted the extra point to finish 2/5 for the game on PAT’s. The Bucs ended the day with 6 sacks on Matt Ryan.
Matt Schaub entered the game on the ensuing drive and lead the Falcons on a scoring drive capped off by a 21 yard touchdown to Calvin Ridley. The 2 point conversion attempt failed and Tampa Bay ran out the remaining 1:56 of game time to win 35-22.
Evans joins elite company
Not lost in Godwin’s performance what the milestone reached by wide receiver Mike Evans. With 50 yards in today’s game, Evans joins Randy Moss as the only receivers in NFL history to start their careers with 6 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Godwin also reached the 1,000 yard mark for the season against Atlanta, marking the second time in Bucs’ history 2 receivers have gone over 1,000 yards in one season. Evans was a part of the only other occurrence with former receiver Vincent Jackson in 2014.
- Winston: 18/28, 313 yards, 3 touchdowns & 2 interceptions
- Godwin: 7 catches, 184 yards, 2 touchdowns
- Defense: 6 sacks, 1 interception, 1 scoop and score
Next up for the Bucs
The Buccaneers head to north Florida next week to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on 12/1.
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