Atlanta 24 Tampa Bay 21
Captains for tonight’s game are Devonta Freeman, Matt Bryant, and Ricardo Allen.
The Buccaneers won the toss and deferred.
Andre Roberts gives the Falcons good field position with a 31-yard return to the 36-yard line. The first play is a run into the line by Devonta Freeman. Then a toss back to Freeman, who goes to the left and gains 4 yards. With a third and five, Matt Ryan drops back and throws to Julio Jones who is tightly covered by, you know it, Brent Grimes. Matt Bosher punts a high 42-yard punt to the 17 for a fair catch.
The Buccaneers start off with a run as well, gaining a quick 5 yards. Robert Alford in great coverage on Mike Evans causes a missed catch and a 3rd and 5. Another Jameis Winston pass is caught, but stopped short by Deion Jones with Keanu Neal closing. And instantly, the Falcons have the ball right back near the same spot they just were.
A quick pass to Austin Hooper for a 4-yard gain, then a running angry Free quickly gets the first down and are up near the 50. Then a wide open Justin Hardy gets a 27-yard birthday catch. After a fake to Freeman, Ryan throws to Freeman who makes allot of moves for a 7-yard gain, but is called back by a Ben Garland block in the back. Freeman is replaced by Terron Ward. Stacked with receivers, the Bucs decide to take a time out. Back at the 34, Ryan drops back and finds Jones for 8 yards. Next, Ryan finds Ward for another 6 yards. Freeman is back in and makes a big 13-yard reception and is suddenly down at the 7-yard line. A play fake and an off pass to Derrick Coleman. Freeman tries, unsuccessfully to run up the middle as he is quickly met with 3 Buc defenders. It’s 3rd and goal, Ryan is in the shotgun and easily throws a birthday touchdown pass to Hardy.
As I said pre-game on Periscope, birthday boys have had good games all season. Now, let’s see Rico get a nice pick 6 for his celebration.
Bosher kicks for a touchback, so the Bucs start at the 25. Winston quickly hands off to avoid the swarming Grady Jarrett and the rusher is stopped by De’Vondre Campbell, who makes the next tackle as well. Winston lobs a big pass up the field to Cameron Brate who is quickly met with a flying Alford, who apparently hits too hard and is called for a penalty. He went in for the shoulder, but the receiver was leaning to catch the questionable pass. Charles Sims makes a catch, just short of the first just across midfield. Peyton Barber looks stopped, but keeps his feet moving and rolling off defenders for a big gain and first down. Derrick Shelby ensures the next run is not as successful, hitting Barber behind the line. Takk McKinley jumps, but Winston doesn’t snap the ball in time to get the call, resets and throws to DeSean Jackson for a 1 yard short of the first down again. Again, on 3rd and 1, there is a big play. The Falcons blow their coverage and OJ Howard makes the receiving touchdown. With just under 2 minutes to go in the first quarter, it is all tied up at 7.
On the next kickoff, Roberts brings it out of the end zone and up to the 25 the hard way. A Ryan toss back to Ward who gains 9 yards, who, on the next run gains the first down. Back in, Freeman goes 15 yards virtually untouched. A pass to Freeman who goes for another 29 yards after a light stiff arm to a defender, then turns up the speed.
As the second quarter begins, Ryan overthrows Mohamed Sanu in the end zone, covered by, shakes head, Robert McLain. Still just outside the 20, the handoff to Taylor Gabriel goes for 3 yards. Again, this does not work, but we stick with a play if nothing else. Third and 7 as Ryan drops back and tosses a short pass to Jones, who then goes untouched for a number of yards and is hugging the sideline as he is pushed out at the 2. Dontari Poe is in at fullback and Freeman follows him in to inches from the goal line. Still in at fullback, Freeman flies into the end zone, drops the ball, then Levine Toilolo comes off his block and recovers the ball. It doesn’t really have to be this dramatic.
Next kickoff, another familiar name, Jaquizz Rodgers with the return, but is called back on a block in the back penalty. Starting with their backs against the end zone, Winston finds Mike Evans for a quick first down. After a short run, Evans makes a big catch downfield, but is called back for an offensive pass interference for jamming up Desmond Trufant. At 2nd and 17 from their own 12, Winston drops back, finds Sims who is knocked out of bounds after numerous missed tackles. As he is just stepping out of bounds, Rico hits him and is called for the penalty. Then DC Raheem Morris notices that Jones likely had Sims down at the 11 and challenges the call. The call is reversed, but the penalty (that would not have happened if they called the game correctly to start) is still enforced and the Bucs are at their own 26. Jackson runs around the back and left side for 7 yards where Jones forces him out. Kemal Ishmael makes a huge leap, but the pass is still too high for him and another pass is completed. Third and 4 seeing midfield, (shoot me) Joe Hawley is in at center and assists with the 36-yard reception by Cross. However, before the Bucs can snap the ball, Dan Quinn challenges the catch on the sideline as one foot was in bounds but the body fell out of bounds. This challenge, the Falcons lose.
The Bucs continue their drive with Winston in trouble, but gets a big pass off for a 14-yard gain. Brooks Reed was nearly touching Winston as he released the ball. Inside the 20, the Bucs rush up the middle quickly to the 9-yard line where he is tackled by Rico. Then, Barber rushes to the 5, where Neal knocks the ball out with the back of his elbow.
The Falcons offense comes out, immediately gets a defensive penalty to move up the field to the 39 for a first down. Then Free gets loose and runs 22 easy yards behind the blocking Garland and runs over defenders. Freeman runs again for 3 yards, then takes a break on the sideline. Ward is stopped way behind the line. Ju and Sanu are lined up next to each other on the right side as Ryan lays the ball up to Jones tight double covered in the end zone by the time Ryan released the ball. Matt Bryant successfully kicks the 57-yard field goal like a boss.
The Bucs have just over 3 minutes to go in the half and start at their own 25. Winston airs it up and Rico gets his birthday interception, but the refs called Rocky for holding and give the ball back and the automatic first down. While Vic Beasley is being blocked and tackled in the back and Jarrett is being held around the throat, Winston is able to run up the field for a few yards. On 3rd down, Winston throws too low for the sliding Cross to catch. They kick to Roberts who is hit late out of bounds by Cross, but the refs pick the flag back up.
Ryan has the team moving with passes to Sanu and Gabriel, then a wide open Freeman on the run cannot make the reception. Ryan under major pressure and running around, gets the pass off to Sanu on the sideline for 21 yards. With under a minute to go, Ryan tosses up to Freeman, who quickly gets out of bounds after an 8-yard gain. A slightly high pass to Sanu falls incomplete. On 3rd and 2, Ryan has a sprint out to his left and throws it down the sideline to Jones who is tightly covered by Chris Conti. Bosher kicks out of bounds at the 17-yard line.
With 25 seconds to go, the Bucs throw for a quick first down. Next, Winston is scrambling and meets the young buck TAKK who sacks him, causes a fumble, but the Falcons are unable to recover it. The half ends and everyone heads to their locker rooms with the Falcons leading 17 to 7.
Bosher kicks off to Quizz, who easily returns it up to the 45 and is finally stopped by rookie Damontae Kazee. Winston lays it up for Evans who SHOVED Rocky down to make the reception. Evans goes off the field whining on the most unquestionable PI ever. Backed up, Barber gets the call for 8 rushing yards. The Bucs are called for offsides and backed up again. A short pass to Adam Humphries is immediately stopped by Brian Poole. On 3rd and 9, the Bucs are in the shotgun and Winston steps up where he is met by CLEMSON. Beasley on one side, Jarrett being held but on the other side, with a push by Takk. The Bucs are forced to punt which goes into the end zone and they have a flag for holding on the offense.
A quick 3-yard gain, a penalty on Wes Schweitzer and it is 2nd and 13 at the 27 leads to a pressured Ryan errant pass that falls incomplete. Out of the shotgun, Ryan scrambles, continues to look for a receiver, finally kicks it and goes for the first down. Unfortunately, Garland is called for a (Gruden called) not existent hold. Gabriel leaps for a high pass, but cannot escape the defender and only gains a few yards. Bosher is on to punt and the Bucs start at their own 47.
Barber rushes up the line and is immediately across midfield into Falcons territory. Winston passes to Barber for the first down at the 42-yard line, as Jarrett hits Winston. After being hit in the back, Neal whiffs by Winston and he lobs the ball down for an Evans touchdown. Just like that, it is a 3-point game.
Roberts runs out the kick again, just short of the 25-yard line. Ryan is under center, rolls out and dives head first for a little short of the first down, while Toilolo is wide open at the 50 on the far side of the field. On 2nd and 1, Ryan airs it out for Jones, who missed the perfect catch under tight coverage by Conti. With Ryan wide right, the ball is snapped to Sanu, who gets the first down on a run to the left. Great pressure, Ryan escapes and runs for a first down, with the defenders chasing Ryan down as they collided. Ryan tosses back to Freeman who runs up and over Conti – laying the hit on the defender for a 9-yard gain. Ryan audibles, then gives to Freeman who runs on the right side for no gain. 3rd and 1, the Falcons have Ryan in the shotgun, hands to Freeman who gains 2 yards. Ryan running, throws off target off the hands of a wide open Sanu. Ward gets the rock and runs behind Coleman’s great block and gains 9 yards. Freeman is back in and goes around the left corner for the first down.
At the 26-yard line, Freeman pushes through the middle for a 3-yard gain. From the shotgun, Ryan glances at the field and again runs, for the first down. Ryan fakes the run, then throws the ball over Hardy in the end zone. 2nd and 10 from the 16 and overthrows Jones in the left corner of the end zone. A low pass that Hardy cannot bring in falls incomplete and the red zone woes continue. Bryant’s 33-yard field goal is blocked by a lineman.
The Bucs start at their own 23 and Winston scrambles 13 yards for a first down. A quick run is stopped by a fleet of Falcons causing a 2nd and 5 to begin the 4th quarter.
On play action, Winston connects with Brate for another big first down. Humphries makes a 1-yard catch and is immediately met by Poole. Winston drops back for an on target throw, but is met hard by Ish and drops the ball back out. Under pressure, Winston runs, but appears to fall down in the middle of the field. Holding is called on the offense, but declined forcing a fourth down punt. The balls drops into Roberts’ arms at the 11.
Freeman runs as hard as ever, loses the football from a Conti hit, but is recovered and still counts the 7-yard gain. Right back to Freeman, but he is stopped behind the line after easily slipping by Jake Matthews. Now a pass to Freeman for a first down and a few more. A play fake to Ward and 7-yard pass to Hooper. Ward goes through the left side for another first down. An incomplete pass is followed by a cutback run for the elusive Ward for another first down. Freeman runs for 3 yards. Another quick run and it is 3rd and 2 at the 32-yard line. Then…..FREE……MAN. Who hands the ball to a lineman, hugs Ryan and Sanu, and calmly walks off the field. Off a Sanu block, Freeman gets free, jukes a couple of defenders and hits the speed and goes in for the 32-yard touchdown.
With 8 minutes to go in the game, Bosher kicks into the end zone and the Bucs offense comes back to the field. Winston, from the shotgun, throws behind Chris Godwin, who is covered by Tru, but makes the catch. Already at the 43, Winston passes again to Godwin, but Rocky knocks the ball loose. Winston has an easy 14-yard pass to wide open Humphries. Again, to a wide open Evans for another 9 yards. Winston is being taken down by Poe as he throws an incomplete pass. On 3rd and 1, Barber comes in and runs up the middle for 7 yards. Back in the shotgun, Winston throws to Humphries at the line of scrimmage where he is met quickly by Rocky. Falcons show blitz and cause a false start, backing the Bucs up to 2nd and 11. An easy target to Brate, stopped by Neal for a first down at the 17. Winston airs one out for the end zone, but over throws his receiver. Winston, throws on the run to Humphries in the back of the end zone who has escaped Trufant who has fallen down.
With 4 minutes left to go in the game, it is a 3-point game again.
Roberts sets the Falcons up at the 28. Freeman has a single yard run. Another short run by Freeman. 3rd and 5, Ryan throws to Freeman right at the first down marker. The Bucs burn their second time out, Ward has a short run, then the Bucs use their final time out of the game. A toss sweep to Ward in the backfield gains no yards. At the 2-minute warning, the Falcons face a 3rd and 9. Ryan is sacked after running over Schweitzer.
The Falcons let the clock run down to 1:14, take a time out, then Bosher punts the ball to the 9-yard line, then returns to the 29-yard line. With a minute to go, Winston (just before getting slammed by Jarrett) completes a 13-yard pass to Brate. Another first down stopped by Rocky at the 47. Winston spikes the ball, then tosses another pass that is caught and the receiver is stopped and flipped by Campbell. Now, 5 seconds to go, Tampa attempts a 54-yard field goal that is wide right as time expires.
One more win and we are definitely in.
Iron Falcon: Clearly goes to Devonta Freeman with 22 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown, and 68 receiving yards, almost 200 all purpose yards. Basically serving as a single running back this week (no shade to Ward) Freeman took the offense on his back and performed like the Pro Bowl running back we all know and love.
Pictures courtesy of Atlanta Falcons