The Tampa Bay Buccaneers whipped up on the rebuilding Atlanta Falcons 48-25 but it wasn’t as cosy as the score may indicate.
What I Liked
When the Bucs defense needed to step up, safety Mike Edwards delivered. Edwards returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, becoming the first player since Robert Massey (October 4, 1992) with two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a single game. He is the first player since Zac Brown (December 30, 2012) with two interceptions returned for a touchdown in a single game.
What I Didn’t
The Bucs completely falling asleep in the third quarter after taking a 28-10 lead, allowing the Falcons to claw back into the game with 15 straight points.
Pieces of Eight
- Welcome to the 2021 season, Buccaneers defense! It took about seven quarters of football to see you, but there you are. I’ll admit it. Like many of you, I was wondering why the Bucs defense seemed to be a shell of its former self in the 3rd quarter. It had been playing fairly well (that sequence at the end of the half that gave Atlanta 3 points was not great), but we still were not seeing the pressure we needed to see.
Tampa Bay tried to rush with four and while savvy Falcons QB Matt Ryan was hurried, he kept getting the football off. Even when the Bucs blitzed, Ryan would step out of the grasp of Devin White and elude the rush like he was Dak Prescott. Tampa Bay’s defenders kept losing contain on the edge, perhaps not expecting the usually immobile Ryan to be able to elude them.
During an ugly sequence in the third quarter, Ryan led the Falcons on a 13-play, 75-yard drive to shave an 18 point lead to 11, then followed that with a 6 play, 46 yd drive, and a tremendous effort on a 2-pt conversion to pull Atlanta within 3. Keep in mind, this is the same team that scored just 6 points in their home opener.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, the Bucs defense rose, first, stopping Atlanta deep in their own territory and setting up great field position for the offense, which finally woke up to give the Bucs a 10-point advantage at 35-25.
Then, on the two ensuing drives, they got tremendous pressure on Ryan and Mike Edwards picked-sixed him twice, sealing the game.
That friends, is the Bucs defense we expected to see.
- The Bucs became the first team in NFL history to win 9 straight games (including the post-season) and score 30 or more points in each game. It broke the record of Tom’s former team. So you can’t really complain about an offensive performance that put 35 points on the board (not including the defensive scores), can you? Well…I think the encouraging thing about this offense is that while efficient and being a scoring machine, they still don’t seem to be firing on all cylinders yet. Penalties, fumbles (one lost), sacks, dropped passes (looking at you Chris Godwin), missed throws – it all seems to still be in their game.
With that said, Tom Brady still threw 5 touchdown passes and no interceptions, they seemed to be able to score when they absolutely needed to. Just imagine what this offense will be when they figure out how to not stop themselves.
- I think those worried about Mike Evans can rest easy now. Mike was dominant against Atlanta, leading the Bucs with 5 receptions for 75 yds and 2 touchdowns. It could have been a monster day for Evans had Brady hit him on a deep ball when he got behind the Falcons’ secondary, but unfortunately, that throw was a little out of reach.
- Speaking of Brady, 9 touchdown passes in his first two games – the most after two games in his storied NFL career. Only four other quarterbacks have thrown as many or more in the Super Bowl era: Patrick Mahomes (10 in 2018), and three others at 9 – Russell Wilson (2020), Peyton Manning (2013), and Drew Brees (2009). It is mind-boggling to think Brady still has things he hasn’t done – but he’s setting new career highs in Tampa Bay. Florida Man Tommy is still my favorite Tom Brady.
- The Bucs defense was fourth in the NFL last season in sacks with 48, but in 2021 has managed just a single sack in each game. While some of that is due to scheming (short passing attack, quick release) of their opponents, the Bucs have seen many of their blitzes get blocked or not get home, Tampa Bay has lost contain a few times or simply hasn’t gotten the QB to the ground. There are periods where there has been little to no pass rush at all. With an ailing defensive backfield, the Bucs’ pass rush has never been more important. It must get better if the Bucs are going to have a complimentary defense and not be in a shoot-out every week.
- Punter Bradley Pinion perhaps made the play of the game early in the fourth quarter. The Bucs, clinging to a 28-25 lead, saw their drive stall at their own 39-yard line. Atlanta was going to get the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead. Pinion uncorked a bomb, 57 yards down to the Falcons 4 yard line. Atlanta would go 3-and-out and after Atlanta’s punter Cameron Nizialek shanked his punt of 33 yds, it set Brady and the Bucs up at Atlanta’s 43-yard line.
The G.O.A.T. would not let that opportunity escape, cashing in with a 3 play, 43-yard drive that culminated in a Chris Godwin 12 yard TD reception, restoring a 2 score lead that Tampa Bay would never relinquish. Pinion’s clutch kick may have saved Tampa Bay from an embarrassing defeat.
- The Bucs have a new challenger in the NFC South and it isn’t the New Orleans Saints. The Carolina Panthers moved to 2-0 by thrashing the Saints and forcing Jameis Winston to do Jameis type things. The Panthers boast the number defense in the NFL after two weeks with an eye-popping 10 sacks in their first two games. QB Sam Darnold has been solid and with a winnable game Thursday night against the Houston Texans, the Panthers could very well be 3-0 before the Bucs take the field next week. The Saints have to lick their wounds and head to New England to face Tom’s old team. The Falcons (0-2) will try to get their first win on the road in New York against the equally winless Giants.
- After two tune-up games against non-playoff teams, the Bucs head to Los Angeles for a titanic matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams offense is smoking under new QB Matt Stafford and their defense, while starting slowly, still has Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. The Rams are 2-0 as well but had to rally from behind in the fourth quarter to get their second W. Perhaps caught looking ahead a little bit? Either way, the Bucs cannot make the same boneheaded errors they’ve made the first two weeks of the season and expect to come out of Hollywood 3-0. Tampa Bay must bring their “A” game because the Rams most certainly will. This game could go a long way in determining home field advantage in the NFC between these two powers.
Tweet of the Game
— 👽 🏴☠️ Lord JC De La Torre 🏴☠️ ✌️ (@jcdelatorre) September 19, 2021