The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came off the bye week looking for an important victory after losing their last two after before the break after starting 2-0.
Jameis Winston looked sharp with the exception of a poorly thrown ball that was almost intercepted in the end zone, and Peyton Barber had a big run as well as the offense moved right down the field on the battered Atlanta Falcons defense, before Winston finally found Cam Brate for the touchdown to put the Bucs ahead 7-0 after the opening drive.
The Buccaneers defense looked a lot like it had before the bye week in Chicago as Matt Ryan and company quickly carved the Bucs defenders before Mohamed Sanu put the Falcons ahead (because their kicker made his extra point) 7-6 as each team had put a touchdown on the board less than seven minutes into the game.
After the Bucs were forced to punt on their second drive the Falcons once again navigated through Tampa Bay’s horrid defense before Ito Smith ran the ball in from 14 yards out to put Atlanta up 14-6 with just over 12 minutest to play in the half.
After a 3-and-out for the Bucs, Atlanta took over and went right down the field again before Matt Ryan found Austin Hooper who walked into the end zone for another Falcons touchdown after Ryan Smith whiffed on the tackle, pushing the score to 21-6.
The Bucs next drive wouldn’t go well either as Winston looked deep downfield for Desean Jackson, but missed him badly, and the pass was intercepted Damontae Kazee inside the Falcons 5-yard-line with just under five minutes to play in the first half.
The Bucs defense finally forced Atlanta to punt, even forcing the Falcons into a 3-and-out, and after the punt, Tampa Bay started what would be their final drive of the first half in very good field position, and Jameis was able to lead the team down the field with under a minute to play in the half before finding O.J. Howard for a touchdown over the middle, pulling the Bucs to within 21-13.
Despite having next to no time on the clock, Atlanta wouldn’t be satisfied, and took advantage of the Bucs awful pass defense to push the ball into Bucs territory and line up Matt Bryant for a 45-yard field goal with he pushed through with one second remaining in the half to make the score 24-13 Atlanta heading into halftime. The Bucs hit the locker room fortunate to only be down 11.
The Falcons would start the second half with the football, but the Bucs were surprisingly aggressive, coming with blitzes and forcing the Falcons to punt without a first down, despite Gerald McCoy being called for offsides on first down.
Winston and the offense would come hit the field still down 11 when they began their first drive of the second half. On the second play of the drive, Winston found Adam Humphries for 51 yards setting up the Bucs with a 1st-and-goal. Moments later Winston was looking for Godwin in the back of the end zone, but hit a Falcons defender in the back. The ball popped straight up in the air and ended up being intercepted by Brian Poole, giving the ball back to Atlanta, still up 24-13.
The Bucs defense got a second straight stop on the next drive, giving Jameis and the offense another chance to cut into the lead, and while the drive once again stalled in the red zone, Catanzaro drove home the field goal to pull the Bucs to within eight at 24-16.
After yet another defensive stop by the Bucs, Winston was once again able to drive the ball downfield in large part thanks to some hard running from Barber, and before long Winston was hooking up with Godwin for six, and the Bucs were to within a 2-point-conversion. Atlanta covered up the play perfectly on the attempt, and the Bucs trailed 24-22 just moments into the fourth quarter.
Just when the Bucs needed their defense to make another big stop, they not only gave up a long drive for a touchdown that all but sealed the game, they lost Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a calf injury. The touchdown put the Falcons ahead 31-22, making it a two-score game with just over six minutes to play in the game.
Jameis Winston once again took the ball and attacked the Falcons defense, and got the ball deep into Falcons territory quickly, eventually finding Peyton Barber over the middle for a touchdown to bring the Bucs back to within two points at 31-29 with 3:47 remaining.
It looked as if the Bucs had held Atlanta to a fourth down with just over three minutes to play, but the Falcons were given the first down on a questionable spot. The Bucs did finally hold Atlanta to where you would expect them to punt, but instead Dan Quinn sent Matt Bryant out for a 58-yard field goal, which the Falcons' kicker pushed through (despite inuring himself) to put the Falcons ahead 34-29 with 1:10 remaining.
Winston and the Bucs offense moved the ball into scoring position, and were on the doorstep, and on the final play of the game, Winston took off with the ball up the middle before lateraling the ball back to Mike Evans, who then pitched it back to Desean Jackson who watched the ball bounce out of bounds, ending the game on the most ridiculous and bizarre play.