Well, you didn't think it would be easy did you Bucs fans? Of course not. It's the Bucs. They have to give their fan base a heart attack every week or they're just not being themselves.
With that said, it was a pretty important victory for Tampa Bay in Georgia. No, the Bucs aren't making the playoffs, that ship has sailed, but for a second straight week they had a big lead and this time it was against a team that likely is headed for post season play (although to be honest, Atlanta's play on Sunday casts doubt for me).
This week, the Bucs found a way to win. This week they played with the wrath of Kwon.
- Thoughts and prayers go out to Kwon Alexander and his family, suffering through the loss of Kwon's brother Broderick. I can't imagine the emotions he was going through on Sunday but he played the game of his life, forcing two turnovers and helping the Bucs build a large advantage on the homestanding Falcons. The effort wasn't lost on the Bucs, who got the game ball and the love of coach and his teammates after the game:
Great job, young man. Lil' Brod would be proud of you today.
- I know what you were thinking. "Oh no, not again." Only, let's face facts, Bucs fans. This was not the same thing as last week. The Bucs thoroughly dominated the Washington franchise in every facet of the game the week before and then suffered through a comedy of errors that led to them blowing a 24 point lead in the final seconds.
No, what happened this week is the Bucs were hanging on by their fingernails. The Bucs defense had nothing for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. There wasn't a matchup they could win in that scenario. So the Bucs did what they could do, contain Devonte Freeman, eliminating him as a threat and forcing Ryan to beat them.
Tampa Bay was highly fortunate that Ryan had the yips in the red zone, suffering two inexcusable turnovers to go along with another interception in plus territory. They also made the Falcons settle for field goals twice in the red zone. Think of this folks, the Falcons didn't punt. Not once. Talk about bend but don't break.
Also, comebacks have basically been the Falcons M.O. all season. They putter around for three quarters, rally and win it in the fourth. Its what they've been all season. Considering how terrible of a fourth quarter team the Bucs have been this season, it should've shocked no one that the Falcons clawed their way back in.
Truth be told, Tampa Bay was highly fortunate to be in the lead considering how the Falcons marched up and down the field.
- Jameis Winston did not have a great day this week, in fact, it was probably one of the poorer performances we've seen from the rookie. He was constantly high and off target, inaccurate on most of his passes on Sunday. He threw two passes that should've been easy interceptions for the Falcons secondary but benefited from them having stone hands.
With that said, Jameis still led the Bucs offense to 23 points against a pretty good defense in Atlanta and he did it with the running game bottled up and throwing to the likes of Dontae Dye, Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate. The Falcons decided they'd rather foul Mike Evans than let him beat them and Evans himself dropped a few catchable balls and fought through some obvious injuries. Yet young Jameis found a way to sustain drives. It wasn't pretty, it was downright ugly at times but if it wasn't for Jameis' ability to improvise and keep his team alive I can't imagine the Bucs winning this football game.
The 21 yard run deep into Falcon territory showed you how smart of a football player Jameis Winston is. He saw the gaping hole and made the decision immediately. Then, a couple plays later, he recognized that the play call of a shovel pass to Dontae Dye wasn't going to work, improvised and found his way into the end zone for the second time this season. Man, the Bucs really needed that touchdown, didn't they? It was a superb play by a young QB who is quietly becoming a real player in this league.
- Much has been made about the 4th down and 1 call at your own 40. I agreed with the call and here's why: Not only does your defense lack confidence in these situations, after losing two more defensive linemen and seeing the Falcons sustain five drives of 7 or more plays, they were physically spent. If you get the first down, the game is over and the defense doesn't have to go back out there. I even liked the play call (although it was odd they ran the same play twice after the first was whistled down with a time out). Jameis had a run/pass option. He normally can get that yard but credit to Atlanta, they played the play perfectly and Jameis couldn't get to the line to gain.
In the end, with the game on the line, you put the ball in the hands of your best player and that is Jameis Winston.
- Buc fans are once again whining about body language. Last week, Gerald McCoy was ridiculed for looking to happy after the Bucs blew a 24 point lead to Washington and lost. This week, they're saying he looked to downtrodden during the coin toss. Are you people serious? The guy was exhausted. He wasn't happy he had to play again in overtime. Did you truely expect him to come up skipping to the coin toss? Did you expect him to pull a Matt Hasselback and proclaim "We're going to take the ball and we're going to score dammit!"?
McCoy was at Matt Ryan's feet clawing at him and disrupting his throwing motion on that final 4th and 7 play that sealed the Falcons fate. He left everything on the field for his teammates, coaches and you, the Bucs fan.
- With that said, I'm officially worried about Lavonte David. He was a ghost this week and many times the Falcons picked on him, targeting TE Jacob Tamme 12 times, completing 10 for 103 yards and a touchdown. Now, David didn't always have responsibility on Tamme, but too many times did I see Lavonte bite on the play fake and be seen trailing behind his responsibility. David finished with 3 tackles, two assists and one TFL. In the turnover bonanza that the Bucs had in the first half, he was nowhere near making a play on the ball.
I don't know what's up with 54 but if the Bucs expect to get where they want to go they need more from him.
- Obviously, we all would have liked for Jameis to complete that pass to Adam Humphries in the end zone in overtime and end the game, but I truly think the Bucs defense needed to make the final stop. They had to know that despite being down men, despite exhaustion, despite repeatedly failing in these situations previously, despite all of that they could get it done.
It was vitally important that the offense began the game with a long drive and gave the defense a little time to recover. Jameis marched the Bucs on a 15 play, 57 yard drive that took 7:52 off the clock in overtime. It gave McCoy and his teammates a chance to catch their breath. After Connor Barth continued to be money in the kicking game, that defense gave everything they had left in the tank to stop the Falcons. Alterraun Verner diving to defend the ball (he had a very solid game, btw), Howard Jones flashing and knocking the ball out of Ryan's hands, Gerald clawing at Ryan's feet trying to get Matty Ice down on the ground.
The Bucs defense needed this stop. They needed to understand what it took to close the door. They may have failed in regulation but they rose up and did the job in overtime.
That's a very important result for this team going forward, folks. It gives the defense something to check back to. "If we can do it against Matt Ryan in his own house, we can do it anywhere."
Many will say the Bucs were fortunate to win on Sunday and they'd be right. But you know what? How many times have we said the Bucs beat themselves? That they deserved a better fate than what they got? Well, this week, the football gods gave Tampa Bay a little restitution.