The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense Comes Up Flat With A Chance to Pull To Within A Half Game Of First Place In The NFC South
The Buccaneers woes on Thursday night and at Raymond James both continued in the 43-28 blowout loss against the Atlanta Falcons. With a chance to make a statement in the NFC South and be only a half game out of first place, the Buccaneers couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity presented to them.
For the second straight game, the Buccaneers defense was torched. Matt Ryan, an early candidate for MVP, was sharp and threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns. Julio Jones was a nightmare for the Buccaneers secondary, especially in the second half, as he finished with eight catches for 111 yards and a score. The rushing defense was no better, giving up 136 yards on the ground.
The Buccaneers passing offense played fairly well, but were plagued by the lack of a running game, penalties, and turnovers. The Buccaneers lost two fumbles in the first half that led to six Falcons points, the difference in the score at halftime. The Buccaneers combined for 73 yards on the ground, but the running game was a non-factor in sustaining drives. The Buccaneers were penalized 11 times for 85 yards, an issue that was a problem last season, and although it has gotten better this year, seems to be a thorn in their sides in games they lose.
Jameis Winston besides his fumble, had a good game throwing for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Mike Evans not only had an outstanding day catching 11 balls for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Mike Glennon came in for relief of Jameis Winston late in the game and looked sharp, completing 10 of 11 passes for 75 yards and a score. A good audition tape for the Bucs to trade him in the offseason to acquire an offensive weapon.
How It Went Down
Early in the first half, one thing became apparent, the running game was not going to be able to control the pace of the game, and the success of the offense was going to lie on the shoulders of Jameis Winston. That wasn’t an issue to start as Winston finished off a 13 play drive with a three yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans. The lead would be short lived, however, as the Falcons scored a touchdown of their own five plays later when Matt Ryan found Levine Toilolo with a 32 yard touchdown pass.
The Buccaneers would find themselves playing from behind after two straight Bucs drives ended when Antone Smith and Jameis Winston fumbled in back to back drives. Both turnovers resulted in field goals by the Falcons and put the birds on top by six. After a quick drive by Tampa Bay that resulted in a punt thanks in large to a penalty, the Buccaneers got a break when Daryl Smith recovered a Matt Ryan fumble on a Gerald McCoy sack.
The Bucs would take advantage of the turnover when Jameis Winston would find Mike Evans for the second time of the half in the endzone, this one a 24 yarder in just two plays. The Buccaneers would take the 14-13 lead, and with 8:35 left in the second quarter, the Falcons would begin to torture the Bucs secondary.
Just like after the first time that Jameis found Evans for a touchdown, the Falcons responded. A balanced 11 play drive was capped off when Taylor Gabriel took the end around handoff into the endzone from nine yards out to give the Falcons a 20-14 lead. The Falcons would take their six point lead into the half, set to receive the second half kickoff.
The second half is where things got ugly. The Falcons could not be stopped in the second half, scoring on every drive in the half . After doing a decent job of holding Julio Jones in check, the pass defense would fall apart in the second half. Receiving the second half kickoff, the Falcons orchestrated another 11 yard touchdown drive when Matt Ryan found Patrick DiMarco with a one yard pass in the endzone. Matt Ryan would follow that drive up with two more touchdown passes, one to julio Jones and one to Austin Hooper.
Jameis and the offense would get rolling again, albeit with the game out of hand. Jameis and Mike Evans continued their great connection, moving the ball down the field, before Jameis Winston found Adam Humphries in the endzone. The Bucs would attempt the two point conversion, and Jameis Winston took a shot trying to run the ball in himself, knocking him out of the rest of the game. The two point conversion try was no good, and the Falcons led by 20.
After a failed onside kick, the Falcons would run the ball to take time off the clock, and Matt Bryant would nail a 50 yard field goal to increase the Falcons lead to 43-20. Mike Glennon would relive Winston on the following drive. Once again the injury bug would bite, as Antone Smith sustained a knee injury and Mike Evans was entered into the concussion protocol.
Mike Glennon would cap off the drive by throwing a touchdown pass to Cameron Brate, and a successful two point conversion would make the score 43-28. Another failed onside kick by the Bucs would allow the Falcons to line up in victory formation.
Up next for the 3-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the Chicago Bears.
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