Quick: how many Atlanta Falcons fans had the team down by only three points to the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers after three quarters?
Stop right there, because let’s be honest: nobody saw that coming after last week’s debacle against Philadelphia.
Still, that didn’t change the outcome, as the Falcons fell in Tampa, 48-25, offsetting what appeared to be a small form of progress with this team.
The Atlanta Falcons progress was slight but it was there nonetheless
Again, the team was anything far from perfect, but against this vaunted Bucs front seven, the team only surrendered one sack, a third-down stop by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The line even held up (for the most part) against Todd Bowles’ blitzes, with the most impressive being Cordarrelle Patterson’s check and release touchdown on Devin White:
As for the rest of the team, it was, as stated prior, a work in progress for the Falcons. Matt Ryan had a pretty modest game entering the fourth quarter but succumbed to two costly pick-sixes to Bucs corner Mike Edwards, the first on a questionable throw to Russell Gage and the second a deflection into the stratosphere by Carlton Davis.
Aside from that, Ryan’s stat line (35/46, 300 yards, 2TDs, 3INTs) is alright for a 36-year-old quarterback with hardly any time to throw the football. He found the rookie tight end, Kyle Pitts, on a couple of passes, one where he was wide open and fell down and another where Ryan threaded the needle between the Bucs linebackers:
However, he did have one nice play for his highlight reel:
The only real problem Falcons fans might have with the offense against Tampa, aside from not getting more touchdowns, is the play calling. Early in the game, facing a fourth-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 49, head coach Arthur Smith opted to let punter Cameron Nizialek take the snap, and the ball went out of the end zone. Then, on the very next possession, facing a fourth-and-2, Smith called for a quarterback draw that went nowhere, and Atlanta turned it over on downs. A frustrating two drives, for sure, because while both were short-yardage, why punt on one and go for it on the other? It made no sense, but at least the third fourth-down play was a touchdown to Calvin Ridley.
As for the other side of the football, the defense is showing major signs of improvement. Falcons fans are quick to note: while our offense is high-powered, the defense rarely does them any favors.
Yes, they were playing the Bucs. Yes, they were playing Tom Brady, who now improves to 9-0 against the Falcons in his career and knows how to beat pretty much any defensive layout. That said, under new defensive coordinator (and Brady teammate) Dean Pees, Atlanta’s defense was all over the place. While the team did surrender two touchdowns to Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski (shocker with that connection), in the second half, the Bucs had six possessions: two were touchdowns, two were punts, one was a turnover on downs, and one ended the game.
Plus, here’s another tack for the bingo card: who had Dante Fowler Jr. STRIP SACKING TOM BRADY IN THE RED ZONE? Or Marlon Davidson getting around Tristan Wirfs on a delayed blitz to sack Brady? Or AJ Terrell swatting down two would-be touchdown passes to Antonio Brown? In the latter case, Terrell went full extension to swat it away and was ruled out with a concussion, so here’s to getting back healthy, AJ.
Overall, the Falcons were competitive in this game. However, much like a certain game, we don’t want to remember, it was only for three quarters. And Tom Brady was on the other side with 15 minutes left. Perhaps they can keep whatever positive momentum they had to New Jersey when they play the Giants next week.
Until then, who knows?