The Atlanta Falcons snapped their five-game losing streak with a 27-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. It marked the team’s first road win of the 2014 and their first since December 1, 2013. The Falcons continue their dominance within their division, sweeping the Bucs in the season series and extending their divisional record to 3-0.
Matt Ryan led the way, completing 20 of 31 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Steven Jackson had his best rushing performance of the season, running for 81 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. In the air, Julio Jones led receivers with eight catches for 119 yards. Roddy White added six grabs for 72 yards and a touchdown. Harry Douglas was held catch less on the day, but did reel in a two-point conversion which are not including in official stats. Matt Bryant had a big day against his former team, connecting on all four field-goal tries of 37, 43, 44 and 33 yards. Matt Bosher had a trio of punts for an average of 48 yards with one placed inside the 20-yard line. Devin Hester had no punt returns, but four kickoff returns for 106 yards (26.5 avg). The Falcons found themselves improving on third downs, converting six of 12 attempts on the day. They also scored touchdowns on two of four red-zone trips and accumulated 322 yards of total offense. The Bucs were heavily penalized, drawing 10 flags for a total of 79 yards.
Defensively, the Falcons allowed 373 total yards and 12 of 17 conversions on third downs from Tampa Bay. The Falcons accumulated a pair of interceptions along with a fumble to once again win the turnover battle against the Buccaneers. The also were able to get effective pressure on Bucs quarterback Josh McCown, tallying four sacks and 11 total hits. Paul Worrilow finished with a team-leading 10 tackles, while also adding one of those hits. Robert Alford (nine tackles, one pass deflection); Jonathan Babineaux (three tackles, one sack, two quarterback hits); Kroy Biermann (five tackles, 1.5 sacks, three hits, one pass deflection); Malliciah Goodman (three tackles, one forced fumble); Kemal Ishmael (three tackles, one interception); Dwight Lowery (three tackles, one interception); Stansly Maponga (one fumble recovery); Dezmen Southward (three tackles, one hit); Desmond Trufant (seven tackles, one pass deflection); Osi Umenyiora (three tackles, 1.5 sacks, three hits, one pass deflection); and Josh Wilson (two tackles, two pass deflections) all had noteworthy games.
The Bucs won the toss and received the opening kickoff. On the second play from scrimage, Biermann was able to leap up and deflect McCown’s pass, nearly able to get the interception on the play. But on the ensuing 3rd-and-6, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was able to convert on a seven-yard play, beating Lowery. On the Bucs’ next third-down try, McCown hit wide receiver Vincent Jackson along the sideline, who made a leaping grab. His backside appeared to have landed out of bounds, prompting Falcons head coach Mike Smith to challenge the ruling of a completed catch. But the ruling was confirmed, resulting in another Bucs first down on an eight-yard play. A few plays later in Falcons territory, Babineaux was able to create pressure on McCown, who scrambled for a five-yard gain. But it led to another Buccaneers first down after Alford was flagged for a defensive holding call. But Babineaux created pressure on the ensuing play, forcing a throwaway from McCown. But on 3rd-and-10, Southward missed an open-field tackle on running back Bobby Rainey, leading to an 11-yard gain the Bucs’ fourth third-down conversion of the series. A tackle for loss by Biermann, followed by a holding call on guard Patrick Omameh backed up the Bucs to 2nd-and-25. Umenyiora was then able to beat left tackle Oniel Cousins to deliver a big hit on McCown that resulted in a deflected pass out of bounds. McCown scrambled on the ensuing third down for a seven-yard gain, well shy of the sticks. But his run was able to put the Bucs back into field-goal range, where kicker Patrick Murray hit from 51 yards out to give the Bucs an early 3-0 lead after a 17-play, 47-yard opening drive.
The Falcons took over at their 22-yard line with 6:17 left in the first quarter following the kickoff. Steven Jackson started the drive well with a pair of runs for a combined 17 yards. But he was bottled up for no gain on his third run, but White was able to gain nine yards on Ryan’s pass over the middle to set up a 3rd-and-1. Jackson ran hard up the middle to convert on a four-yard gain. The Falcons then took a shot to Jones in the end zone, but it was under thrown by Ryan and broken up by Bucs cornerback Johnathan Banks. But Ryan dialed up White for two more catches for a combined 32 yards to get the ball into the red zone. On the ensuing third down, Douglas was unable to reel in catch in the end zone on a fade pattern, but cornerback Leonard Johnson was flagged for pass interference, giving the Falcons a first down at the one-yard line. After an incomplete pass to Levine Toilolo on a scramble by Ryan, Jackson found pay dirt with a one-yard run off the left side to give the Falcons a 7-3 lead with less than a minute left in the first quarter. The Falcons had completed an 11-play, 78-yard drive to cap off the first quarter.
The Falcons defense forced a four-and-out thanks to a flag being picked up on an incomplete pass to Vincent Jackson over the middle on third down. Devin Hester fair caught Michael Koenen’s 37-yard punt, setting up the Falcons at their 39-yard line with 14:02 left in the second quarter.
The Falcons looked ready to give it right back to the Bucs after a holding call on Jake Matthews pushed the team back 10 yards to start the drive. Ryan overthrew White on a pass down the sideline, but an illegal contact penalty against cornerback Crezdon Butler gave the Falcons a first down at their 39-yard line. White converted three plays later on an eight-yard pass on 3rd-and-4. That was followed by a dropped pass from Jones on a screen pass two plays later. But Jones redeemed himself on the next play, splitting a pair of Bucs defenders for a 39-yard gain to put the ball at the Bucs’ 10-yard line. Ryan was sacked by defensive tackle Clinton McDonald on the ensuing play, pushing the Falcons back to a 2nd-and-22 situation. On 3rd-and-19, Hester dropped a wide open pass and the Falcons were forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal from Matt Bryant, pushing their lead to 10-3 with seven minutes left in the first half.
The Bucs were able to convert their first third-down try on the ensuing series with a six-yard pass to Vincent Jackson. But their next try to Jackson was broken up by Trufant along the sideline, resulting in a short, 23-yard punt from Koenen. The Falcons took over at their 35-yard line.
But the Falcons failed to take advantage with a three-and-out. A reverse to Hester went for no gain on first down, and Ryan’s pass to Hester on third down was overthrown two plays later. Bosher booted a 49-yard punt to set up the Bucs at their 14-yard line with 2:31 left in the first half.
The Bucs decided to pick on Alford in the ensuing two-minute drill, as he gave up a number of receptions. Seferian-Jenkins made a 13-yard grab along the sideline in front of Alford as the two-minute hit. But the rookie tight end dropped his next target on the next play. But Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans both beat Alford on back-to-back plays for a combined 35 yards to put the ball at the Falcons 27-yard line. Three plays later, McCown dialed up Evans once more as he was matched up against Alford. Evans made a leaping grab over the second-year Falcons cornerback for a 22-yard score to tie the game 10-10 with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
Hester gave the Falcons a big 48-yard return to kick off their drive, giving the team favorable field position at their 42-yard line. On 3rd-and-7 with 25 seconds left on the clock, Jones made a nice grab in traffic over the middle for 22 yards to put the ball in Bucs territory. Ryan found Rodgers for an eight-yard check down on the next play, but the Falcons were able to get to the line of scrimmage in time to spike the ball with one second left on the clock. That set up a 43-yard field goal from Bryant, who missed the initial kick as it hit off the goalpost. But the Bucs called a timeout in an attempt to ice Bryant before the missed kick. Bryant had no problem nailing the next kick right down the middle to give the Falcons a 13-10 lead at halftime.
The Falcons received the ball to start the second half, once again getting things going on the back of Steven Jackson with a six-yard carry to start things off. Jones converted a 3rd-and-3 two plays later on a 13-yard grab. That was followed three plays later by an 18-yard grab by White over the middle, putting the ball in Bucs territory. Jones exited the game briefly with a leg injury afterwards and the Falcons offense stalled. They tried to dial up Hester on a screen on third down, but it was stopped after a five-yard gain on 3rd-and-8. Bryant trotted out on the field for another field goal, nailing a 44-yard kick to push Atlanta’s lead to 16-10 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Bucs were effective with their running game to start the next series, with a trio of runs for a combined 18 yards to kick things off. Two plays later, McCown was able to scramble for a 15-yard gain to put the ball near midfield. Delayed pressure on a blitz by Worrilow two plays later resulted in a missed throw by McCown to Seferian-Jenkins. That set up a 3rd-and-4, but the Bucs converted when a pass to Vincent Jackson snuck through Trufant’s fingers for a completion. But the Falcons defense forced a stop two plays later when Goodman stripped running back Charles Sims, and Maponga fell on the loose ball. The Falcons took over at their 35-yard line with 5:12 left on the third-quarter clock.
However on the ensuing series, the Falcons failed to take advantage. Ryan overthrew Hester on his third-down pass, resulting in a 52-yard punt by Bosher. But with the booming punt, he out-kicked his coverage, resulting in a 53-yard return from Marcus Thigpen, who was old prevented from scoring by a touchdown-saving tackle from Falcons linebacker Nate Stupar. The Bucs now had the ball at the Falcons’ 34-yard line.
A 17-yard pass to Evans converted the Bucs first third down of the series. Running back Mike James congerted another on a five-yard run to close out the third quarter, putting the ball at the one-yard line. After James was stuffed for no gain on the opening play of the fourth quarter, a play-action fake saw Seferian-Jenkins sneak behind the Falcons defense for a wide-0pen one-yard score. That gave the Bucs a 17-16 lead with 14:18 left in the game.
But the Falcons proved resilient, with Ryan leading the team on a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive. The Falcons started the drive with a 20-yard pass to Jones. Ryan then scrambled for eight yards, which was followed by a six-yard run from Devonta Freeman. Ryan connected once more with Jones on an 11-yard gain to put the ball in the red zone. Ryan attempted another pass to Jones on the ensuing third down, but it was incomplete. However a questionable illegal contact penalty on cornerback Johnathan Banks gave the Falcons a new set of downs at the 11-yard line. Two plays later, Ryan found White on a throwback over the middle for a five-yard score. The Falcons took a 22-17 and opted to go for the two-point conversion. Douglas made a contested grab in the end zone, resulting in the conversion and lifting the Falcons lead to 24-17 with nine minutes left in the game.
The Falcons defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing series thanks to a sack by Umenyiora, delivering a big hit along the sideline. Koenen had another bad punt, this time for 31 yards which gave the Falcons favorable field position to start at their 49-yard line.
Steven Jackson rumbled up the middle for a big 27-yard gain to start things off. However, two plays later he was bottled up for a three-yard loss, which set up a 3rd-and-10. Freeman gained much of it back with a nine-yard carry, but the Falcons opted to settle for the field goal rather than go for it on 4th-and-1. It certainly proved to be the right call as Bryant hit from 33 yards out to push the Falcons’ lead to 27-17 with 4:10 left in the game.
An unnecessary roughness penalty on Oniel Cousins for pushing Ishmael after the whistle backed up the Bucs to start their series. That was followed by a sack of McCown by Babineaux, putting the Bucs back to a 3rd-and-20. But Evans got behind several defenders for a 34-yard gain. But the officials flagged McCown for an illegal forward pass, but upon a challenge by the Bucs, it was revealed that McCown was still behind the line of scrimmage, causing the initial call to be reversed and the 34-yard play to stand. That big play gave the Bucs the ball near midfield with 3:30 left in the game. A check down to Rainey went for 17 yards, putting the ball into Falcons territory. McCown was sacked two plays later by the combined efforts of Umenyiora and Biermann when he tried to step up and scramble, forcing a 3rd-and-1 from the Falcons’ 30-yard line. But Seferian_Jenkins converted on a three-yard catch. That was followed by a deep pass to Evans, who made the catch near the goal line but the officials ruled him out of bounds. But upon a challenge from the Bucs, Evans was seen to have tapped his second foot in bounds, resulting in the call being reversed. It resulted in a 23-yard catch which beat Alford, putting the ball at the Falcons four-yard line. But Alford redeemed himself on the ensuing play, tipping a pass to Vincent Jackson in the end zone into the diving hands of Lowery. The play was initially ruled incomplete, but the booth challenged the ruling and it was seen that Lowery did indeed get both hands under the ball before it hit the ground, resulting in a reversal and an interception. The Falcons took over at their 20 with 1:49 left in the game, ostensibly sealing their win.
The Falcons proceeded to try and milk time off the clock with a trio of runs, but the Bucs burned all three of their timeouts, resulting in only 20 seconds being bled off the clock before the Falcons punted it back to the Bucs.
A pair of passes to wide receiver Louis Murphy and running back Sims were able to move the ball into Falcons territory. But Biermann slowed the Bucs drive with another sack. Josh Wilson nearly picked off McCown’s errant throw over the middle to Murphy. That was actually followed up by another interception, as Ishmael picked off McCown’s jump ball to Jackson along the sideline at the Falcons nine-yard line. The Falcons took over with 21 seconds, and after a kneel, time ran out and the Falcons had their third win of the season.
Next week, the Falcons can hope to continue their momentum on the road as they travel to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers for the first time in 2014. The Falcons have lost three straight to the Panthers, including two on the road. Their last road victory over the Panthers came in December 2011 with a 31-23 victory. The Panthers are on a two-game losing streak at home, where they are 2-3 for the entire season.