All things considered, this loss will sting for a bit when you look back at how close the score was despite the feel of the game rarely warranting a positive feeling as fans watched from afar. The Buccaneers defense dug the team a steep hole in the first half and the offense fought an uphill battle to get back into the game. The defense appeared to turn things around to start the second half, only to falter when it mattered most as the Falcons traveled down the field to the tune of 75 yards on a 10 play drive that ate up 5 minutes late in the fourth quarter. The touchdown via Coleman put the Falcons up for good and gave the team a 31-22 lead with 6:28 left to play. The Buccaneers ultimately fell to the Falcons 34-29, leaving another sour taste in the mouths of coaches, players and fans alike.
The offense put up points and yards but ultimately failed to deliver some late game fireworks.
Jameis Winston had himself a good ball game but two turnovers proved costly. Winston finished the ball game with 395 yards passing to go along with his 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The first interception was an ugly overthrow while under pressure but the second interception despite being a bit of a fluke play given the ball being bounced up for grabs, was avoidable all together if Winston finds Adam Humphries over the middle who was open on the play. It was a very Jameis-like game with ups, downs and some late game heroic opportunities, ultimately it was not enough. Ahem, 395 yards, 4 touchdowns was simply not enough.
The running game seemed to get a bit of an adrenaline injection with Winston back at the helm as Peyton Barber had his best game to date totaling 82 yards on the ground at a 6.3 yards per carry clip. Barber added 24 yards on 4 catches including a touchdown reception. Ronald Jones saw some action with a single carry going for 3 yards. The more encouraging sign was the willingness to utilize Jones as a receiver out of the backfield as Jones caught 3 passes for 16 yards hauling in all of his targets in this match-up.
The receiving corps did their jobs as is usually the case with 4 receiving at least 4 targets in the game from Jameis. The group was headlined by Chris Godwin and DeSean Jackson who combined for 10 receptions on 18 targets for 133 yards with Godwin finding the end-zone.
The tight ends each reached pay dirt as Winston hit Cameron Brate on his lone target for a 15 yard score. O.J. Howard returned from injury and caught all 4 of his targets for 62 yards and a touchdown. The offense moved the ball well and possibly the most encouraging sign of all is despite the success overall, there is still a lot of room for improvement which is scary to think of.
The offensive line performed admirably as a whole with the left side really shouldering the load. It was good to see the line open some lanes for Peyton Barber to break out through and the pass protection was solid despite a few breakdowns that affected the first Jameis Winston interception as well as two sacks on the day.
The defense again had no answer early on and when it mattered most late.
Up front, Jason Pierre-Paul went to work and landed the teams 9th sack on the year, his 5th personally. Vita Vea made an impact here and there and otherwise did what he was brought in to do. Gerald McCoy injured what appeared to be his calf and was seen in a walking boot after the game but had a quiet game overall. Curry, Allen and the rest of the defensive line struggled to create any pressure and Matt Ryan took full advantage of the time he had. Ryan managed to start the game off with double digit completions in a row before finally tallying an incompletion.
Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David had solid games overall in what turned out to be Kwon’s best game of the season. The two combined for 3 tackles for a loss and 16 tackles in total. While the two helped out in shutting down the Falcon’s rushing attack, there was little aid to be offered in stopping the air assault on this Buccaneer defense.
The defensive backs had arguably there worst game of the season which is quite the statement considering the start to the season this defense has had. Wide open receivers were to be found in all levels of the defensive backfield. Evans failed to make a stop short of the goal line on Sanu. Several passes went for 20+ yards again against this defense. Ryan Smith struggled, M.J. Stewart was burned and Brent Grimes again looked every bit of his age in this ballgame. Despite 41 passes being thrown, the defensive backfield combined for zero passes defended and finished yet another game without an interception despite a multitude of passes being tossed. The defensive backfield is currently a cut artery with no sign of surgery to repair it on the way.
The not so special teams... again.
For a team that has had some kicking woes the last... well since Matt Bryant left the team, there is still no sign of a fix in the near future. Catanzaro missed an extra point but otherwise was able to make the rest. The team can’t seem to get any “automatic” points out of their kickers lately.
Rodgers served as the kickoff return man and averaged 15.5 yards a return on his two attempts leaving the Bucs to start from inside their own 25 on both occasions. Jackson showed his shiftiness in making two men miss on his lone punt return that went for 9 yards and Humphries managed 6 yards on his punt return. In the end, there was very little to feel good about on special teams aside from Anger’s lone punt inside the twenty (2 total punts for 81 yards).
The Buccaneers cannot continue to play football this way. Turning the ball over simply can’t happen on offense because there is little hope to rely on the defense making a stop when it counts or forcing a turnover. The offense has to be elite in order to win and that’s sadly not a realistic way to win football games. Mike Smith (or somebody else?) needs to figure out a way to at least be below average to help this team win. Right now this team is in for another historically bad season on defense and it’s about to cost the entire staff it’s jobs if something doesn’t change.