Buccaneers Hold off Falcons 21-15

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Via Sports Talk Florida’s Michelle Sabin
Special to Bucs Report

On the opening drive, the Buccaneers utilized running back Leonard Fournette combined 16 rushing yards. However, Tom Brady’s back-to-back incomplete passes (one low to Kyle Rudolph and one high to Russell Gage) brought up 4th and 8, forcing Tampa Bay to punt.

The offense settled in on the second possession with Brady completing 51 yards passing to four different receivers, 11 yards rushing by Fournette, and two 3rd-down conversions. The Buccaneers advanced down to the Falcons 15-yard line where they faced 4th and 1. Fournette received the ball, missed an opening, and ran right into a wall. Despite an attempt by Mike Evans to shove Fournette over the line, Atlanta linebacker Ade Ogundeji and safety Jaylinn Hawkins made the stop. The ball turned over on downs.

Offense Gets On Track

Both teams remained scoreless in the first quarter. The momentum picked up in the second with a more balanced drive incorporating rookies, tight end Cade Otton and running back Rachaad White, into the mix. Brady completed 19 passing yards to Otton, while White received a 9-yard pass and completed two rushes for 11 yards.

The Buccaneers continued to move the ball with several short passes to Fournette before hitting Evans on a deep 25-yard pass in the red zone. Head coach Todd Bowles said, “Two weeks in a row Mike [Evan’s] come up with the plays. He’s a warrior. Like I said he’s the heart and soul of our offense right now.”

An offensive holding penalty cost the Buccaneers yardage moving them back to the 22-yard line and 1st and 20.  Brady found receiver Scotty Miller in the middle on a 12-yard pass followed by Chris Godwin with a 9-yard reception to bring them down to the goal line.

Regular Season Lenny

Tampa Bay scored on Fournette’s 1-yard rush. It was a no-huddle play that gave the Buccaneers the first touchdown of the game. They added six more points with a 21-yard and 44-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop, for a 13-0 lead at the half.

Fournette led the offense in passing and rushing yards, 83 and 56, respectively, and scored two touchdowns. “[He] did a great job,” Brady said of Fournette, “he was super focused and into it. He’s a powerful, strong guy – obviously when he gets a head of steam, he’s tough to take down.”

Fournette’s second touchdown came in the middle of the third quarter.  On that drive, Tampa Bay utilized the same combination of receivers (Otton, Fournette, and Miller) and a run game from White to move into Atlanta territory.  From the Atlanta 41-yard line, Brady threw a deep 40-yard pass to Evans along the left sideline. Evans attempted to beat safety Dean Marlowe to the goal line, but was pushed out of bounds just as he dove towards the pylon. The play was called down at the 1-yard line. Brady completed a short pass to Fournette for the 1-yard touchdown, and a 2-point conversion to Gage to expand the lead to 21-0.

Defense Digs In

The Buccaneers defense, meanwhile, faced a top rushing offense in Atlanta. They had their work cut out for them after giving up 189 yards rushing and 41 points last week against the Chiefs. “Seeing that 41 points, that’s pretty much all that had to be seen,” said linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, “knowing the defense that we have and the talent we have on this side of the ball, that can’t ever happen again.”

Tampa Bay held the Falcons run game in the first half to 53 yards, with contributions from Antoine Winfield Jr. and Logan Hall stopping backs Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley behind the line for loss of yardage.  Their coverage scheme also allowed for Tryon and Winfield to sack quarterback Marcus Mariota.  In the second half, rookie Hall, Deadrin Senat, and Vita Vea brought down Mariota, for a total of five sacks on Sunday afternoon.

Winfield said, “our goal was to go out there and try to keep as many points off as we could, and I feel like we executed our goal well, we just got to make sure we finish the games. That’s the biggest take away tonight.” Linebacker Devin White echoed that same sentiment, “I just think we need to have a come-together moment to make sure we finish the game.”

Containing Marcus

The Buccaneers defense gave up a total of 151 yards rushing, the majority of which came in the second half.  Mariota was the primary ball carrier for the Falcons gaining 61 yards rushing as he scrambled down the field. Linebacker Devin White explained, “It wasn’t design runs, it was more so just scrambling, and we were in coverages…we just need to do a great job up front containing him.”  He believes they will be better prepared the next time the teams face off.

While the Buccaneers did not finish as strong as they wanted to, Tampa Bay gets to enjoy both a win at home and becoming the divisional leader. “It’s us and them right now, so we took that leap to take first place in the division, so it’s a good w[in],” Winfield said.

We’re On To Pittsburgh 

After three home games, Tampa Bay heads back out on the road for a matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 16.

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Big Game Sports Buzz with former Buccaneers' great James Cannida
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