The Atlanta Falcons won a nail biter in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers on a last second field goal by genius kicker Younghoe Koo. The offense had a relatively good day, but turnovers doomed them from scoring more than 16 points. The defense had an extremely good day, and outside of a few big plays here and there, were able to limit the Buccaneers to just 13 points. There was a lot to like from this game, and some stuff that the team needs to clean up, but for the most part, the Falcons outplayed the Buccaneers in all three phases and showed just who they should be on offense.
Winner: Offensive Line as a whole
The Atlanta Falcons had a great game from the offensive line for the most part. Outside of a couple of missed pass protections and some fantastic defensive plays by the Buccaneers to stuff the run on a crucial third down here or there, the Falcons were able to gain over 400 yards on the day, 250 through the air and 153 on the ground. They averaged 4.1 yards per carry and got a touchdown on the day. For the most part, they kept Desmond Ridder with a relatively clean pocket.
Loser: RT Kaleb McGary
Shaq Barrett is a tough person to go against for anyone. But Kaleb McGary had his lunch eaten all day. The Falcons right tackle had trouble containing him in pass protection and was allowing him to get pressure against Desmond Ridder all day. McGary has shown that he isn't a great pass protector throughout his career. He was doing a great job in run blocking, especially in short yardage, but he was a big reason why the first fumble of the game happened. His pass protection technique still leaves a lot to be desired, and on crucial third down plays, he really needs to clean it up.
Winner: Falcons pass rush
The Falcons pass rush was continually moving Baker Mayfield out of the pocket and forcing errant throws. They also had some clutch sacks with three on the game. They added onto those with six quarterback hits. The pass rush has been a work in progress, but the Falcons are really starting to see results. If there was a criticism of the pass rush in this game, it's when they used the Calais Campbell, Zach Harrison, LaCale London, and Ta'Quon Graham package that wasn't getting any pressure at all.
Loser: WR Mack Hollins
Despite being one of the Falcons more targeted wide receivers during the season, he didn't get a single target during this game. Mack Hollins wasn't getting open against Carlton Davis or Jamel Dean. He was rarely featured as anything more than a run blocker, and even then, the Falcons wide receiver drew a holding call on what was an explosive run for Tyler Allgeier. The Falcons tend to get more out of Hollins than what they got in this one, but down games for a No. 2 wide receiver happen.
Winner: Joker Cordarrelle Patterson
Cordarrelle Patterson had a tough time getting going this season, and with Bijan Robinson essentially out due to a sickness, the Falcons were needing to rely on him heavily. His 56 yards on 10 carries don't tell the true story of his impact. He was crucial to keeping the ball moving on some drives with chunk yardage plays. Unfortunately, the Falcons were unable to get him into the end zone in this one, but Patterson was able to fill in for Bijan Robinson to the best of his ability.
Loser: RB Bijan Robinson
According to Kristina Pink of the Fox broadcast team during the game, Bijan Robinson is dealing with some sort of either illness or banged up situation where he was unable to get a ton of snaps. While that likely would have helped the Falcons offense with another underneath option in the passing game, and a potentially game breaking runner in the running game, his illness hurt the offense in some ways. Overall, they were missing his potential game breaking ability.
Winner: TE's Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith
Another week, another performance by the Falcons tight end pairing that was equally impressive and impactful. Kyle Pitts had a clutch 39-yard catch on the final drive of the game to help set up the field goal to win the game. Desmond Ridder was 6-for-7 for 74 yards and no turnover-worthy plays when targeting the tight end pairing. Pitts looked like he was himself again despite being shut out for most of the game due to the coverage concepts the Buccaneers employed. Jonnu Smith started the game out hot and then started getting targeted by the similar targets by the Buccaneers.
Loser: Fumbles in the offense
Despite being able to move the ball in position for multiple touchdowns, the Falcons fumbled it three times in the red zone. The first fumble was on Kaleb McGary for his inability to hold up in pass protection against Shaq Barrett on a timing route. He got beat and Barrett hit Desmond Ridder, as he was throwing the ball. The second fumble was on Drew Dalman and Ridder during a bad snap exchange. Something that has plagued Dalman through his career regarding the quarterback. The third fumble was completely on the young Falcons quarterback for not protecting the ball and celebrating too early as he was crossing the goalline.
Winner: Desmond Ridder
There were three fumbles attributed to Desmond Ridder in this game, but two of them weren't really his fault. However, he had a lot more positives than negatives. His 19-for-25 passing doesn't tell the whole story as three of those passes were throw-aways while he was under pressure. The offense was moving the ball because he was able to create three huge throws in the offense with a 39 yard pass to Kyle Pitts on the final drive to set up the final field goal, an out of structure throw to Tyler Allgeier, and a deep dime to Scotty Miller. He also ran in a score.
Loser: Red Zone offense
The Falcons red zone offense only accounted for 10 points on their five trips down there. They had all three of their fumbles in the red zone and weren't able to convert a touchdown from eight yards out. The one touchdown they were able to get was on a zone read play where Desmond Ridder ran the ball in. One spot the Falcons could use a ton of improvement moving forward is in the red zone offensive structure. Better running calls, more play-action, or even some pick plays would be a great addition to the offense down in the red zone when they need the points.
Game MVPs: The Defense
The Falcons don't have a shot at winning this one without a fantastic defensive performance. They held the Buccaneers to just 13 points. They had three crucial sacks. They harrassed Baker Mayfield in the pocket. They forced two turnovers and potentially could have had a third. They also allowed just 5.1 yards per play throughout the entire game, one of their lowest marks on the year. Ryan Nielsen has shown that not only was he the right call as a defensive coordinator, but the best call for a defensive coordinator. Jerry Gray has done a fantastic job with the secondary as well.
When the Falcons needed crucial stops, someone was always coming up with a big defensive play. Whether it was a drive when the Buccaneers were running the ball effectively only to end up with a fumble or the drive when the Buccaneers were threatening a game-winning touchdown late and Richie Grant came away with an interception, the Falcons defense showed just why they are deserving of a top 10 ranking. Atlanta has really revamped a unit in one year from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.
All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.