The Buccaneers had a big opportunity on Sunday afternoon. With a win, not only would they have gotten back above the .500 mark, but they also would have sent the division-rival Falcons to 1-5. In the end, Tampa Bay couldn’t get it done. There are plenty of reasons for the loss, but instead of getting into those here, let’s break down week six for the rest of the NFC South.
New Orleans Saints (4-1)
The Saints had Sunday off after last week’s blowout of the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. New Orleans is still the top team in the division through six weeks.
Up Next: at Baltimore Ravens (4-2)
Carolina Panthers (3-2)
The Panthers failed to capture their third straight win on Sunday, falling 23-17 to the Redskins. Washington took an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter on two touchdown passes by Alex Smith before leading 17-6 at halftime. The Panthers got the game to 20-17 in the fourth quarter when Cam Newton and Torrey Smith connected for a touchdown and two-point conversion, but a field goal from Dustin Hopkins brought the deficit to six with 3:15 left. Newton got his offense down the field late, but the drive stalled out at the Washington 16-yard line with 38 seconds to go.
The ground game was a problem for Carolina, as Christian McCaffrey ran for just 20 yards on eight carries. Newton was the team’s leading rusher with 43 yards on nine carries in addition to throwing for 275 yards and two touchdowns (to one interception) on 27-of-40 passing. Devin Funchess was his top target, catching five passes for 74 yards and a score. The Panthers outgained the Redskins 350-288, but three turnovers did them in.
Up Next: at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
Atlanta Falcons (2-4)
The Falcons prevented their season from getting too out of hand on Sunday, improving to 2-4 on the year with a 34-29 home win over the Buccaneers. The offense clicked throughout, throwing all over an awful Tampa Bay defense. Atlanta got out to a 21-6 lead before leading 24-13 at halftime. The Falcons allowed the Bucs to get back into it in the second half, but did just enough to hang on.
Coach Dan Quinn made a gutsy call late in the game, calling on Matt Bryant for a 57-yard field goal with just over one minute to go. He delivered to extend his team’s lead to five, meaning the Bucs needed a touchdown to win the game. But had he missed, it would’ve given Tampa Bay great field position and the potential for an easy game-winning field goal. The Atlanta defense allowed the Jameis Winston to lead a drive down the field in just over a minute, but a wild final play fell just short and the Falcons held on.
Matt Ryan was excellent throughout the afternoon, completing 31 of his 41 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns. Julio Jones led all receivers with 143 yards on 10 catches, but remains without a touchdown through six games this season. The Atlanta defense allowed 512 total yards, but came up with two interceptions in the win.
Up Next: vs. New York Giants (1-5)— Monday Night Football