Atlanta Falcons swept by defending champs despite impressive feat
Let’s get formalities out of the way here: raise your hands if you reasonably thought the Atlanta Falcons were going to win at home against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hard to find those hands, mainly because they’re all down. Only people who legitimately had Atlanta and the points probably picked them because they didn’t like the spread (most books closed at Tampa -10.5).
Not to mention, but does anyone remember the first game against Tampa this year? Remember, the one where we lost 48-25 and fell to 0-2? Oh wait, that’s not right; only Matt Ryan lost that game because of two pick-sixes to Mike Edwards (who was out for falsifying a COVID card along with Antonio Brown).
Yet, despite the Falcons once again falling to a team they weren’t supposed to beat, one positional group made a splash here: running backs.
Coming into this game, nobody knew who the team’s No. 1 back was. On the depth chart, it always listed Mike Davis. In the media’s and fan’s eyes, it was Cordarrelle Patterson. There’s no sense in mentioning Wayne Gallman or Qadree Ollison because they’ve seen very limited on-field access.
Yet, despite the anonymity of this, one thing was certain: NOBODY thought this Falcons running attack could play well against this Tampa front. Coming into the game, Tampa’s run defense was the best in the league, only giving up 81.0 yards per game.
And within one drive (which also became the team’s first opening-drive TD of the season), Tampa’s stout run defense was being tested by an inferior positional group.
All this came after Brady carved up our defense like it was still Thanksgiving, completing 11 of his first 13 passes for 75 yards and a score over Deion Jones’ head.
On the said opening drive, after a modest beginning, Patterson managed to find a nice hole for a 39-yard gain, which broke the longest play from scrimmage the team had from last week’s win over Jacksonville. Fair point here: this run was aided by Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. slipping on the Mercedes-Benz turf.
In the very next play, Mike Davis breaks the malignity and ineptitude of our offense in the early going by rumbling for a 17-yard touchdown.
Again, for reference, Tampa’s run defense is no joke. In fact, their head coach Bruce Arians boasted it by saying “Nobody runs the ball on us. I don’t care who the hell you are“. So for this Falcons team to essentially make him look foolish for one week, safe to say he’s not happy.
Passing-game-wise, the Falcons had a couple of nice plays, but their one turnover proved to be the most influential. Right before the first half ended, it felt like Tampa was poised to truly run away with the game. That was before Marlon Davidson picked off a terrible throw by Brady for a three-yard pick-six. Show of hands once more: who had Davidson with a pick-six? Hands are still down.
Sadly, Atlanta couldn’t muster any of that momentum swing, because, on their opening drive of the second half, a nice third-down conversion pass from Ryan to Russell Gage was negated by the classic “Peanut Punch” courtesy of Pierre Desir.
In short, the Falcons managed to put 121 yards on the ground against the most talented run defense in the NFL. This is coming with a jack-of-all-trades, a bruiser with not a lot of bruising, a regular practice-squad rotational player, and a running back signed in free agency who was made inactive prior to kickoff.
Furthermore, this is the first time since Weeks Two and Three in 2020, the Falcons had back-to-back games of 100+ yards rushing.
Yes, let’s also end it here: these stats mean nothing if the team doesn’t win. That is an incredibly valid argument to be made.
That said, as stated in the opening soliloquy, did anyone think Atlanta had a chance entering this game?
Take the moral victory for now and prepare for Carolina next week.