It was a true tale of two halves, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers erased a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons, 31-27, Sunday in Atlanta.
Leonard Fournette scored two one-yard third-quarter touchdowns, and Tom Brady and the offense reversed a putrid first half where they failed to score a point and amassed only 70 total yards.
The Bucs took the lead for good on a 46-yard TD pass from Tom Brady to Antonio Brown, Brown's first as a Buccaneer, to give Tampa Bay a 31-27 lead with 6:19 left.
Two great defensive plays by defensive backs kept six Falcons points off the board. Carlton Davis late in the first half knocked a ball away from Russell Gage, and Antoine Winfield Jr. in the 4th quarter knocked the ball away from Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley to prevent sure touchdowns. Those drives both ended in Falcon field goals.
The Buccaneers talked all game week about getting off to faster starts, but once again, that fault of theirs led to an early deficit. Right after the opening kickoff, the Falcons used a nice combination of runs and intermediate passes to drive the ball right down the Bucs' throats, going 75 yards in eight plays, culminating in a five-yard touchdown from Quarterback Matt Ryan to Russell Gage.
There really wasn't much to say about the Buccaneers' offense in the first half, so there isn't really much more to say except they had four possessions and four punts. They ran 25 plays wfor a grand total of 60 yards.
The Falcons scored their second touchdown in the second quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Calvin Ridley to end a 10-play, 65-yard drive.
The first real sign of life for the Bucs came on Davis' deflection of what was sure to be a second touchdown pass to Gage. The Falcons had to setlle for a Younghoe Koo 32-yard Field goal to take a 17-0 halftime lead.
The Falcons have a history of blowing leads this season, and the second half was set up for the Bucs to just do that, even though Tom Brady-led teams were 2-5 down 17 points at halftime.
The Bucs came out firing to start the second half, with big completions to Antonio Brown, Cam Brate and Mike Evans down to the 1, as the Bucs gained more yards on that drive than they did the first half. Leonard Fournette punched it in from the 1 to give the Bucs their first score with 11:28 left in the third, and a sign of life.
But the Falcons picked up where they left off, methodically driving down the field after the Bucs' score, as Matt Ryan completed the seven-play 75-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst. The highlight of the drive was a splendid 28-yard catch by Ridley, tapping his second foot in bounds along the right sideline.
But the Bucs answered right back, with Mike Evans coming up with two big catches on the drive, and Chris Godwin finishing it off with a four-yard touchdown reception from Tom Brady, cutting the Atlanta lead to 24-14.
Then it was on the Tampa Bay defense to finally live up to its hype and make a stop, which they did, forcing the Falcons to a three-and-out on its next possession.
The Bucs, down by 10, were by no means out of the game. And their next possession was helped out by a big double-penalty against the Falcons. A.J. Terrell first interfered with Mike Evans on a sideline pass from Brady, then Terrell grabbed his facemask, tacking on an extra 15 yards, bringing the ball to the Atlanta 17. Four plays later, Fournette scored his second TD of the day, another one-yard run.
Again, the Bucs defense sent the Falcons' offense off the field after three plays, and then they drove down to tie the game at 24 on a 27-yard Ryan Succop field goal with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay is on the road on Saturday to face the Detroit Lions. Coverage begins on 95.3 WDAE with Countdown to Kickoff, hosted by Tom Krasniqi and Michael Clayton. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., and can be heard on our sister station, 98ROCK.
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