TAMPA BAY-- Kicker Matt Bryant kicked a 37 yard game-winning field goal as time expired to help the Atlanta Falcons (7-9) beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) in a see-saw battle between double digit loss teams. The loss ensured the Buccaneers of ending the season with a four game losing streak.
Atlanta won the opening toss & chose to receive the ball at the start of the second half. But on their opening possession, Tampa Bay was only able to manage five yards on three downs & were forced to punt.
After the punt, the Falcons registered a first down. But following an offensive holding penalty, they too were forced to punt on their first possession. And the Buccaneers started their second drive of the game at their own seven.
It took back to back runs by Tampa Bay running back Peyton Barber totaling 13 yards for the team to reach the 20 yard line. And after reaching the 20, quarterback Jameis Winston hooked up with wide receiver Mike Evans for a 19 yard completion, the wide receiver's first catch of the game, breaking the franchise's single season receiving yard record, set by Mark Carrier in 1989.
Tampa Bay second drive was a lot more productive than their first, included seven completions by Winston & ended with the quarterback connecting with Evans for a 19 yard touchdown completion.
The game's next three possession ended in each team punting. But after a punt by the Falcons, the Buccaneers got the ball back on their own 47 yard line. And after a second down incompletion, Winston, who threw for 345 yards & four touchdowns, hit Evans again, this time for an 18 yard gain. That pass play plus an eight yard run by Winston set the Buccaneers up just outside the redzone. And after a six yard run by Barber, the Buccaneers were inside the 20 yard line. But after a third down sack on Winston, the Buccaneers sent out kicker Cairo Santos, who drilled a 36 yard field goal to give the Buccaneers a 10-0 lead.
Trailing by 10, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed back to back passes totaling 25 yard. But first a false start penalty then a sack on Ryan by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on consecutive plays put the Falcons behind the chains. And after a failed third down pass by Ryan, Atlanta punted again.
The Buccaneers started on their own 30 yard line. And it took three completions from Winston to get the Buccaneers their second touchdown of the game. The scoring drive, which took under a minute, included a 25 yard completion from Winston to wide receiver Chris Godwin. And that same pair hooked up for a 30 yard touchdown play, with Godwin making a sliding catch in the right side of the endzone for his sixth touchdown catch of the year.
After a touchback, Atlanta put together their best drive of the first half. And with the use of their timeouts, the Falcons went five plays & 75 yards in 26 seconds to get their first touchdown of the game. The drive featured Ryan hitting tight end Austin Hooper for 20 yards & 19 yards on consecutive plays . And the drive ended when the Falcons' quarterback, who ended the game with 378 passing yards & a touchdown reception, hit his favorite target, wide receiver Julio Jones for a 19 yard touchdown completion.
The first half ended with Winston throwing a Hail Mary that fell incomplete. And in those first 30 minutes, Tampa Bay was four for 9 on third down while limiting Atlanta to just one conversion on third down.
The Falcons started the second half with the football & just like their previous drive, they were able to put up seven on the scoreboard. But unlike their previous drive, this drive took over six minutes & ended with the Falcons running a version of the "Philly Special," with wide receiver Mohammed Sanu throwing a five yard touchdown pass to Ryan on a third down play.
Now with the score 17-14 & having allowed touchdowns on two straight drives. Tampa Bay looked to increase the lead & they did just that when Santos kicked his second field goal of the game, this one from 45 yards away.
Faced with a six point deficit, the Falcons made it three straight scoring drives, when their 10 play 42 yard drive stalled at the 32 yard line & was capped off by a 49 yard field goal by kicker Matt Bryant.
Leading 20-17, Tampa Bay was looking to increase their lead but instead committed the first turnvover of the game when a pass by Winston, intended for Evans, was picked off by safety Damontae Kazee. And three plays later, Atlanta had their first lead of the game after running back Tevin Coleman ran up the right side for a 23 yard touchdown run.
Down 24-20 Tampa Bay managed just six yards on their next drive & after getting the ball back again, Atlanta made it five straight scoring drives, this drive totaling 75 yards & capped when Ryan hit rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley for a seven yard touchdown play.
With the score 31-20, Tampa Bay scored their first touchdown of the second half when Winston, after sliding in the pocket, found Evans again in the endzone for a 10 yard touchdown pass. Tampa Bay attempted the two point conversion but a pass by Winston to Godwin fell incomplete.
After the kickoff, the Falcons got the ball back on their own 26 yard line but after converting on a third down play, Ryan threw a pass high, out of the reach of wide receiver Justin Hardy & into the arms of Buccaneers safety Andrew Adams, who returned the interception 13 yards, giving the Buccaneers the ball on the Falcons 34 yard line. And the Buccaneers offense needed just two play, both completions by Winston, the final one being a 19 yard touchdown pass to Godwin. After the touchdown, the Buccaneers again attempted the two point conversion but again it failed.
Now with the score 32-31 & over five minutes to play, the Falcons took the ball & with a mixture of ran & pass, were able to get into field goal range for Bryant, who after a few timeouts by both teams, was able to convert the game-winning kick.
Tampa Bay ends their season with their second straight double digit loss season & in the three years under Head Coach Dirk Koetter have compiled a 19-29 record.