The Atlanta Falcons lost a heartbreaker to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with some good and bad from all three phases in this one. They needed to try and score a touchdown with under 35 seconds left in the game and almost had it, but Drake London was stopped at the 2 yard line. The Falcons had a real shot to win this one multiple times, but dumb mistakes, bad luck and poor execution on a handful of plays really destroyed the chances for the win.
Winner: WR Drake London
The absolute best player on offense in this one was Drake London. London had 10 catches on 11 targets for 172 yards. He also dropped a pass that probably would have taken him over 200 yards and added a touchdown to his line if he held on. The Falcons receiver had the best game of his life and bailed out quarterback Desmond Ridder on a couple of deep passes including the final play of the game. He was just two yards away from the win, and had he gotten those yards, the Falcons second-year receiver would have been the player of the game.
Loser: Pass Rush
The Falcons pass rush wasn't able to create much pressure on Baker Mayfield during this one. They were only able to get one sack and one quarterback hit all game. The lack of pressure really hurt them in the clutch part of the game giving Baker Mayfield a clean pocket to work out of. They need to figure out how to use their best pass rushers more and in a more efficient way without losing contain. Atlanta has to get its pass rush back on track through the end of the season if they want to win the division. The race is too close to not create more sacks.
Winner: RB Bijan Robinson
The Atlanta Falcons running back had one of his best days of the year in the receiving game with five catches for 54 yards and added 34 yards on 10 carries for a touchdown as well. Bijan Robinson's combined 88 yards on offense was crucial for the Falcons to bring the game close, including a 33-yard catch which played out more like a run than a true pass. Robinson has shown some explosion on offense, and should continue to be a focal point moving forward.
Loser: Defensive line depth
The Falcons are dealing with a lot of bad injuries on the defensive line. Add Kentavious Street to the list. He had the only sack of quarterback hit on the day. The lack of great depth hurt the Falcons with Grady Jarrett on injured reserve, David Onyemata out and Street getting hurt in this one. Ta'Quon Graham, Travis Bell and Albert Huggins combined for eight tackles, but the Buccaneers offense had 148 yards on 37 carries for a 4.0 yards per carry average and one rushing touchdown. Atlanta needs to get better play from its defensive line depth and hopefully getting Onyemata back from injury.
Winner... and Loser: TE Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts had a very solid game with three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown showed the true potential that Pitts has when he busted a coverage and was wide open for a touchdown. The Falcons need more of those plays from him. However, he missed a block on the screen that was interception. He also had two drops on crucial plays that would have helped the Falcons extend drives, including the drive right before the Buccaneers second touchdown.
Loser: S Richie Grant
Richie Grant had two piss-poor plays in coverage on the final drive of the game where he was out leveraged by Chris Godwin and Cade Otton on a key third down and a touchdown pass. The Falcons need to get Grant out of the defensive secondary on crucial plays. Having DeMarcco Hellams as the primary strong safety moving forward should be the play. Grant hasn't been able to make the key plays when called upon, and Hellams doesn't seem to get targeted on those same plays meaning he's covering his assignment well.
Winner: Nickel CB/PR Dee Alford
The Atlanta Falcons nickel corner and punt returner had a fantastic day against the Buccaneers. His coverage opposition only had two catches on two targets for 16 yards for the day. He also had four punt returns for 57 yards to try and help with field position. It was the best punt return day of the year for the Falcons all season. Alford has shown that he has exceptional abilities on defense and on punt returns and is a key component to the Falcons moving forward.
Winner... and Loser: QB Desmond Ridder
Desmond Ridder played a solid game for the most part in this one. He completed 65 percent of his passes for a career-high 347 yards and ran for another 15 yards. He also scored two touchdowns and had one interception and one safety that was off of him fumbling the ball in the end zone. He made some great plays including the touchdown pass and had seven passes of over 20 yards that really showed some explosion in the offense.
While the interception wasn't entirely his fault because of a Kyle Pitts block, the safety was likely because he double hitched and should have thrown the ball away on the first pitch. Atlanta needs him to limit the turnovers moving forward. The Falcons are probably looking into a new starting quarterback for the 2024 team if they're not able to get him to limit the turnovers the rest of the way and they miss out on winning the division. The Buccaneers wound up scoring nine points off of his mistakes, and limiting those moving forward will be critical.
Loser: K Younghoe Koo
The Falcons loss can be attributed to multiple players missing opportunities. None were bigger than the two field goals that Younghoe Koo missed. Sure, they were both from 50-plus yards out. But they needed them to be connected to win this one. Unfortunately, the Falcons one extremely reliable piece of their offense was unreliable today, and it's part of what led to the loss. Those six points that they missed out on were the difference between a win and a loss for the team.
Winners: CB Clark Phillips and A.J. Terrell
With Jeff Okudah out, it was on Clark Phillips and a fresh off of a concussion A.J. Terrell to step up and limit the best receivers for the Buccaneers. Phillips and Terrell allowed just six passes to the Chris Godwin and Mike Evans pairing to be completed for a total of 61 yards on the 17 attempts their way. They did their job and then some. The Falcons really needed them to come through and they did. They even added three pass deflections and played really solid run defense.
Ultimate Loser: HC Arthur Smith
Almost every mistake made in this one can be traced back to Arthur Smith. Why call a slow developing play that leaves your quarterback a sitting duck in the end zone? That led to a safety. Why call six straight runs on two drives in the middle of the game when a run call on any of those six plays could have helped lessen the load for the defense? Why call for multiple 50-plus yard field goals, especially when one of those attempts was with just two yards left and he had multiple time outs? The Falcons head coach made a lot of questionable calls in this one, but his lack of ability to get the best execution from his players is the biggest issue with him as a coach and could be why he's not coaching in Atlanta in 2024.
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.