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Buccaneers vs. Falcons Final Score: Four takeaways give Tampa Bay clutch win

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome 23 to 20 in overtime, after giving up a third-quarter 20-3 lead. The Falcons gave away the ball four times, including two unforced fumbles, and added 11 penalties for 123 yards to give the Bucs the win. Jameis Winston found his few healthy targets often enough to score two touchdowns, one on a scramble, and the Bucs' defense came up with a few key plays throughout the game to make up for their giving up first down after first down.

Everything finally came down to overtime, where the Bucs got the ball first and Jameis Winston and Doug martin proceeded to lead them right down the field. The Bucs stalled in the red zone and were forced to kick a field goal, but the defense finally managed a stop, giving the Bucs a clutch win.

The story of the game was Kwon Alexander, though. The rookie middle linebacker had an early interception called back because Jacquies Smith jumped offside, but then ripped the ball out of Julio Jones' hands for one takeaway, and jumped a poor ball over the middle of the field in Tampa 2 for a second. And Alexander did that just days after having lost his little brother.

That's not to say that the Bucs' concerns are over. the Falcons handed them this game on a silver platter, with two unforced fumbles and a number of sloppy penalties. The Bucs really struggled to cover the Falcons' wideouts, as they've struggled to cover everyone else this season, and Jameis Winston took a small step back from last week's near-perfect outing -- though he still made a number of tough, clutch throws.

But a win is a win, and those don't come around that often for the Bucs these days -- especially in the Georgia Dome.

First quarter

On the opening drive, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers found out what everyone already knew: Mike Jenkins cannot cover Julio Jones. He got the Falcons down to the goal-line with three catches for 47 yards, and the Bucs obliging with a silly personal foul and Jacquies Smith jumping offside to negate a Kwon Alexander interception. They did at least stop the Falcons from scoring a touchdown from the three-yard line, though.

But then this happened:

Yes, that's Kwon Alexander ripping the ball out of Julio Jones' hands. The Bucs didn't manage to score off that, as Jameis Winston looked inaccurate early on, but they did tie the game 3-3. Still, Julio Jones managed to get a whopping 99 yards in the first half even if that didn't lead to a lot of points -- a definite concern for Tampa.

Second quarter

That concern led to the Bucs allowing the Falcons to roll down the field pretty much unopposed, where they looked set to score a touchdown -- and yet, a bumbled snap gave the Bucs the ball and preserved the tie. Better to be lucky than good.

This time, though, the Bucs allowed Winston to pull it loose as they stopped running Doug Martin on every play. He found Mike Evans on a beautiful deep out, and a screen to Charles Sims and then a nicely designed throwback to Cameron Brate got the Bucs into the red zone. But they once again stalled there, and Lovie Smith refused to go for it on fourth-and-three, instead settling for a 6-3 lead.

The Falcons were once again rolling down the field, when Kwon Alexander came up with another takeaway, finally dropping back deep in Tampa 2 and jumping a tight end's route to give the Bucs another chance to get  a score just before the half. And Jameis Winston did exactly that, with Evans making a terrific adjustment to one inaccurate throw, and then Wnston making a perfect touch pass to Cameron Brate downt the seam to put the Bucs up 13-3.

Third quarter

The Atlanta Falcons got a solid stop on the Bucs' first drive, but they then just continued doing what they do best: give the ball away. This time, a flubbed handoff gave the Bucs the ball. Jameis Winston then drove the Bucs down the field -- mostly because of two accurate pass interference calls on Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant -- and a beautiful 21-yard scramble to get the Bucs to the goal-line. A broken third-down play then saw Winston run it into the endzone for a 20-3 lead.

The Falcons finally managed to get into the endzone on their subsequent drive, despite trying repeatedly to shoot themselves in both feet with penalties. The Bucs' secondary simply could not stop anyone -- and really hadn't been able to stop Matt Ryan all game, who'd completed 23 of 27 passes for a whopping 260 yards at that point in the game. That cut the Bucs' lead to 20-10.

Fourth quarter

The Bucs' offense continued to be inconsistent, which should be no surprise with the Falcons killing the run and Winston having only Mike Evans to throw to. Winston made one outstanding throw to Brate for a first down, but the Bucs were forced to punt soon after. The Bucs defense then continued its patented disappearing act, despite a few penalties on Atlanta. The Falcons declined to go for it on fourth-and-four from the six-yard-line, giving the Bucs a break but cutting it to a one-score game.

The Bucs then went about the job of running out the clock and stopping the Falcons from getting the ball back. Doug Martin's play was huge there, as was a key throw by Jameis Winston to --- Doug Martin. They couldn't quite close out the game as the Dougernaut was stopped on third-and-short. Lovie Smith finally decided to go for it on fourth down -- and the Bucs failed. A few plays later, Julio Jones was in the endzone and the Bucs and Falcons were headed to overtime.


The Bucs won the toss and got the ball first to start the game, and marched right down the field -- and then stalled in the red zone, kicking a field goal to take a 23-20 lead. The Bucs desperately needed a defensive stop -- and they finally got one, as Howard Jones, Alterraun Verner and Gerald McCoy made three consecutive plays to hold Matt Ryan down and give the Bucs the win.


Jacquies Smith limped off the field in the third quarter and did not return. That leaves the Bucs very thing at defensive end, with a few practice squad promotions, Geroge Johnson and William Gholston as the only healthy edge rushers on the roster.

Mike Evans went out with what looked like a groin injury in the fourth quarter and played through it for the rest of the game, clearly hurt.

What's next?

The Buccaneers host the New York Giants, and they'll have to find a way stop Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. from destroying their secondary in their own stadium.