All is not lost. Stay the course.
What was lost, was this week’s game. Let’s take a look at why.
THE PLAY: Chandler Catanzaro sets the team back a peg.
It was a giant peg. There’s no gif to show. Catanzaro simply missed the extra point after Tampa Bay drove the field and essentially forced their will onto the Atlanta Falcons defense.
The missing point was only one on the board, but it’s impact multiplied as the game moved forward.
First, came the two-point conversion try the Buccaneers were forced into as they tried to cut the deficit to manageable numbers.
With the missed kick, and an additional kick later, the Buccaneers would have been in much better position to pull out their second divisional road win of the year.
THE PLAY: Winston refuses what the defense gave him.
The Atlanta Falcons responded to the Bucs’ opening drive touchdown with an opening drive touchdown of their own. Matt Bryant made their extra point, and the Falcons held a one-point lead.
On the ensuing drive, Jameis Winston had his offense moving again and was near mid-field in a 2nd-and-12 situation.
The fourth-year quarterback looked to his right side and had two options. DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin.
Winston threw for Godwin who was beyond the first-down marker and double-covered. The ball fell incomplete. On the next play, facing 3rd-and-12 now, Winston was sacked as he was forced to try and find a play to get all the yards at once. Of course, the Bucs then punted, and momentum was lost.
However, on the second-down play Jackson was wide open with room to operate. While he was short of the first-down marker, it’s very possible with the speed Jackson possesses he could have picked up the first down. At the very least, he would have made third-down much more manageable and given his team a chance at continuing their march down field.
THE PLAY: Falcons get back on schedule.
Tampa Bay’s defense is going to get an ear-full from their coaches about closing out drives when they get their opponent off schedule.
3rd-and-10 is not what offenses hope to face when trying to snap a losing streak, and early in the game this is exactly what the Falcons found themselves in.
Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for most of you reading this, the Bucs defense came out soft and surrendered fourteen yards.
Atlanta converted, and went on to score one of many touchdowns scored in this game.
This became the theme of the first quarter. Time after time the Buccaneers defense would force the Falcons into third down with more yards than any offense is comfortable with needed to convert, and allow conversions.
Early struggles cannot be excused by later successes.
THE PLAY: Falcons win the tip-drill.
Coming into the second-half, the general consensus was that the first two possessions would be crucial.
Atlanta came out and was promptly forced into a three-and-out by the Buccaneers defense. A surprising change from the pace of the game previously.
Then, with the ball for the first time since the break, Tampa Bay drove from their own 40-yard line down to the Atlanta seven-yard line.
This is when disaster struck. On a back-line throw to Chris Godwin, Winston left the ball just low and it ricocheted off of the helmet of Duke Riley who was covering on the play.
As the ball hung in the air, my eyes frantically searched for a Buccaneers jersey to come in and grab the rebound. Instead, it was Brian Poole who came down with it, and the chance to make it a four or three-point game was lost.
THE PLAY: Matt Ryan thwarts the suddenly effective Buccaneers defense.
Atlanta scored their final touchdown of the game with just under six-and-a-half minutes remaining. The touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman made the game a 31-22 affair, and seemed to put the game on the edge of being out of reach for Tampa Bay.
However, had the drive ended the way many second-half possessions ended, it would have never happened.
Nearly four minutes earlier, the Falcons faced 3rd-and-9 from the Bucs’ 42-yard line. In previous second-half possessions, the Buccaneers defense successfully prevented the potent offense from converting.
This time however, Ryan decided to take matters into his own hands - or legs - and with most of Tampa Bay’s defense in coverage, the veteran-slow quarterback scampered 13-yards for a first down.
If this doesn't happen, then the Falcons punt leading by just two points, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have gotten the ball back with over ten minutes remaining.
BONUS PLAY: The last four minutes of the game.
So, this isn’t a singular play. It’s many plays.
How did Julio Jones get so wide open on the first play of the Falcons’ final drive? Why would he run out of bounds after making the catch? If he doesn’t, do the Buccaneers even get the ball back?
Is Matt Bryant really this good? And how many more Super Bowl trips do the Bucs have if they never let him go to Atlanta?
In the Buccaneers’ own final drive of the game, how might have things turned out had Mike Evans gotten out of bounds?
Was Humphries late getting behind Winston on the final play? And would Jackson have scored had he not taken his eyes off the ball before securing it?
A three-game losing streak is frustrating to say the least. Any loss to a division rival hurts a bit more. But the team has the horses, this we know. Can the coaches and players put it all together to move forward successfully?
I don’t know. But it’s going to be fun watching and finding out.