By Special Contributor: Louis Taggart
When the Buccaneers arrived in Atlanta it was to play the Falcons for the 56th time in franchise history. The series was a perfect 28-28 tie, but it seemed like the tides have turned with the Bucs winning the last three matchups. Tom Brady is a perfect 10-0 vs the Falcons, but as anyone in the NFL would say these stats don’t matter because “any given Sunday”.
This game was well played by both sides of the ball and it shows in the final boxscore. Starting with the offense, Chris Godwin broke the franchise’s receptions in a game with 15 for 143 yards and Rob Gronkowski added two more touchdowns from Brady. The offensive line also had one of the unit’s best games with Ali Marpet returning, only allowing three pressures and one QB hit all game. Leonard Fornette also had solid game. He not only scored a touchdown, but had solid pass protection. With his receivers playing at high levels and his offensive lineman dominating the defensive front, Tom Brady put together an MVP caliber game with 368 yards and 4 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of things, this Buccaneers defensive line dominated the Atlanta offensive line with a staggering 25 pressure and five sacks. These numbers came from everyone in the rotation. Vita Vea had seven pressures, William Gholston had three, Ndamukong Suh had four, Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul had two and Devin White had three. The ability to create pressure with anyone lined up in the box is something that can make an average defense great and will create turnovers. The coverage downfield was also good as the Buccaneers got their lockdown man-press cornerback, Carlton Davis, back in the lineup. The Buccaneers were able to hold Matt Ryan and company to less than 300 yards through the air and only allowed 10 defensive points.
This game is one of the few this year where not much went wrong, but head coach Bruce Arians isn’t one to ignore the small mistakes. The defense struggled with missed tackles all game long. That extended Falcons drives and made the defense gassed and tired. As a defense the Buccaneers average just under 10 missed tackles a game and yesterday they hit 15 as a team, a 50% increase is a big difference.
Another area for concern is Devin White’s ability in coverage, Sunday he was targeted six times allowing catches on each of those targets. White has been a liability in coverage, being the most targeted Bucs’ player all season and allowing over 80% of those targets go for completions.
The biggest challenge to the Buccaneers this year has been themselves, and again it happened. With 30 seconds left in the first half Marlon Davidson read a screen and picked it off for a touchdown. This made the game a lot closer going into halftime and gave the Falcons momentum coming out of halftime.
The game ball for Sunday’s match goes to the offensive line for keeping Tom Brady safe all game. The trench play made Brady’s job a lot easier. They are the unsung heroes of the season so far.
This time last year the Bucs seemed to catch fire it carried all the way to the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers are nearing the most important stretch of the season and if they play mistake free football and don’t beat themselves they could be in for a deep postseason run.