Pitiful is the only way to describe Tampa Bay’s start this Sunday afternoon. For the 5th time in the last 6 games Brady and Bucs put up a goose egg in the first quarter. The defense faired little better and Tampa found themselves down double digits. However, unlike the Kansas city game weeks earlier, the Buccaneers found a way to pull off the comeback. 31 points, including 21 in the 3rd quarter propelled Tampa to a 9-5 record and nearly a lock for a playoff spot, for the first time in 13 years! Bucs edge out Atlanta, 31-27.
There is no way other than pitiful to describe the Bucs’ effort in the first half of today’s game. Plain and simple, the Buccaneers were awful. Whatever one’s expectations were for this particular Bucs team, getting run out of the building by a sub-.500 team was not a part of them. Tampa Bay, who has yet to clinch a playoff spot, and whose coach called it a playoff game, played like anything but. The Falcons were missing their most talented wide-receiver in Julio Jones, and their best rusher in Todd Gurley finished with -1 yards. Despite it all, Atlanta lead 17-0 after the first half. Matt Ryan went 23-for-31, 235 yards, and 2 TDs. He also ran for 16 yards. Yes, the most immobile QB in the league ran for 16 yards on the Bucs. The defensive line put little pressure on Ryan and the secondary played yards off the ball.
The offense was not any better. Tom Brady went 10-for-16 and 70 yards, and missed a couple of open receivers. The run game was non-existent and one of the most talented offensive in the league gained only 60 total yards in the first half and punted four times against the 30th ranked pass defense. The offense line allowed Brady to come under pressure and did not create any holes in the run game. All said and done, this was one of the worst first half efforts the Bucs had put forth this season and was truly pitiful.
Whatever was said in the locker room between halves, it worked. A different Buccaneers team came out ready to play, and boy did they. Despite trading touchdowns to start the half, Tampa Bay would outscore Atlanta 21-7 in the 3rd quarter and scored 31 in the second half. Brady threw for 320 yards and two TDs, tying Jameis Winston’s single season record with 32 TD passes. Leonard Fournette picked up two rushing touchdowns and numerous blocks to alleviate the pressure on Brady. The defense also improved. Devon White had three sacks and Antoine Winfield Jr. made a game saving, diving play to deny a for sure Calvin Ridley touchdown.
Tampa Bay took the lead for the first time at 8:22 of the 4th quarter. Brady threw a 46-yard bomb to Antonio Brown for his first touchdown as a Buccaneer. The defense forced Atlanta to punt and the offense would seal the game on a questionable first down run by Fournette. The Bucs now 9-5 are surely a lock for a playoff spot, with a 90-plus percent chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Buccaneers have a chance to finish the last quarter of the season 4-for-4. Their last two games are in Detroit against a 5-9 Lions, and a home finale against the Falcons. Despite this however, the Bucs are nothing more than a playoff team. They have struggled against other playoff teams and wet the bed in primetime games. To expect any more from a QB and team still getting used to each other and to winning would be unfair. This team is likely one-and-done in the playoffs, which at the moment would be a game in Seattle against the Seahawks. However, how far they get doesn’t matter. The Buccaneers are going to be in the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Although the a deep run looks bleak this season, the ride should definitely be enjoyed.
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