An unexpected start for both teams as the Buccaneers abandoned the run game for an all-pass touchdown drive. Quarterback Tom Brady threw 13 passes including a 6-yarder to running back Leonard Fournette on 4th and 4 to keep the drive alive. It was the short 3-yard pass to Fournette in the end zone that gave the Bucs their first touchdown of the game.
“We did not plan that at all, it just happened. That’s the great thing about football . . . everything adjusts on the fly. The no huddle was working, so we just kept going with it,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski. He added, “I don’t think I’ve ever done 13 pass plays in a row either and I was feeling it.”
Meanwhile, it was clear the Falcons intended to challenge Tampa Bay’s number one rush defense head on. Atlanta’s running back Cordarrelle Patterson succeeded with a 39-yard play, as he slipped through several tackles down to the Tampa Bay 17-yard line. The Falcons drove the point home on the next play with a 17-yard rushing touchdown by running back Mike Davis.
Brady and the Buccaneers
Brady and the Buccaneers offense answered with a six play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just over two minutes. Fournette’s two rushes combined with Brady’s two deep passes to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans brought the Buccaneers down to the 7-yard line. Atlanta was penalized on a defensive hold giving up the first down and yardage.
Under double coverage, tight end Cameron Brate made a 3-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone. However, the extra point was no good after the ball hit the upright and bounced out. The Buccaneers settled for just 6 points, and Atlanta answered with a 21-yard field goal bringing the score to 13-10.
On their next drive, Tampa Bay was on the Atlanta 27-yard line facing 3rd and 4 after an incomplete pass to receiver Breshad Perriman. Brady threw a short middle pass to Gronkowski, who turned it into a 27-yard touchdown play. “We’ve been working on that since 2010 together and it definitely, you know, paid off there,” Gronkowski said.
One Huge Mistake
With less than a minute in the second quarter, the Buccaneers got the ball back on their 7-yard line. Brady lined up in shotgun formation and completed a 1-yard pass to Godwin. On second down, he threw a short pass intended for Fournette. The ball was intercepted on a one-handed grab by lineman Marlon Davidson at the 3-yard line. Davidson walked it in for the Atlanta touchdown and narrowed Tampa Bay’s 20-17 at the half.
The small victory for Atlanta was short lived. In the third quarter, Tampa Bay scored on an 11-yard leaping catch by Gronkowski in the end zone. “[Brady] gave me an audible and I wasn’t supposed to have a fade, but he saw it,” Gronkowski said, “and it just reminds me of the heydays with us.”
The final scoring play of the game came late in the fourth quarter with a 31-yard field goal by Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop to lock in their lead 30-17.
One Last Shot
Atlanta made one final attempt to reach the end zone with Matt Ryan launching a 30-yard pass to receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. He was tackled at the 7-yard line by safety Andrew Adams. With only seconds left on the clock, Ryan threw two incomplete passes in the end zone. The first to Zaccheaus who was defended by Carlton Davis and almost picked off at the goal line. The second in the back of the end zone to Russell Gage Jr. who could not hold onto the ball.
It wasn’t just incomplete passes that haunted the Falcons in their divisional loss to the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s defense landed five sacks on Ryan for a total loss of 38 yards, including three on critical third downs by defensive linemen Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh.
“We call it situational football. We’ve got to find ways to get off the football field on third down,” Suh said, “and it’s important for us inside to be a part of that.”
Tampa Bay faces the Buffalo Bills at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, December 12. Brady explained, “Our biggest football games are ahead of us but we’re in a decent position at 9 and 3, and going home now for the biggest game of our year against the Bills.” He added, “All these games get bigger because there are few of them left.”
The video used in this story was provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers YouTube Channel.