Tampa Bay starts strong, but finishes poorly in victory over Atlanta
The Tampa Bay Bucs moved into first place in the NFC South with a closer than expected win over the Atlanta Falcons, 21-15 on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Tom Brady threw for 351 yards passing and improved to 11-0 all time against the Falcons. This was Brady’s 40th game over 300 yards passing after reaching the age of 40.
The Bucs had a much-improved start to this game, which proved to be very necessary, as they let the Falcons score 15 points in the fourth quarter, turning a potential blowout into a nail biter. The offense used an up-tempo style for most of the game, which resulted in five ball controlling drives of 11-plus plays, and a total of 420 yards gained on the day.
Brady attempted 52 passes for the second week in a row but spread the ball around to seven different receivers. Leonard Fournette led the Bucs with 10 receptions for 83 yards, and a receiving touchdown. Fournette also had 56 yards rushing and added another touchdown on the ground. Rookie tight end Cade Otton, and much maligned receiver Scotty Miller, also stepped up for the Buccaneer offense. Otton caught six passes for 43 yards, and Miller pulled in four catches for 35 yards. Miller could have had a much bigger impact on the game if two potential pass interference penalties were called on deep shots down the sideline.
Defensively, the Bucs shut out the Falcons for the first three quarters of the game. But they could not finish strong in the fourth quarter, as they allowed the Falcons to amass 116 yards, and 15 points. The run defense struggled once again, as the Falcons gained 151 yards rushing on 4.9 yards per attempt. Fortunately, the Buccaneer pass defense played well, holding Marcus Mariota to 110 yards net passing, and sacking him five times.
Antoine Winfield Jr. played up to his usual standard, totaling eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, and caused a fumble. Backup defensive lineman Deadrin Senat made a significant impact by totaling four tackles and adding a sack. Rookie lineman Logan Hall also caused problems for the Falcons, totaling three tackles, two tackles for losses, and a drive stopping sack in the third quarter.
Kicker Ryan Succop continued his strong 2022 campaign, as he made both of his field goal attempts, and added an extra point. Rookie punter Jake Camarda averaged 49.3 yards per punt, and once again made a tackle on a kickoff return.
This was the first game of the season that the Bucs started on the right foot. Unfortunately, they did not finish that way. In order for this team to reach its ultimate goal, they will need to learn how to play with intensity for all 60 minutes. The defense has to start stopping the run, and the offense has to be able to run the ball more consistently.
It’s extremely difficult to win any game in the NFL, so this victory is just as sweet as any other. First place in the division after five weeks is right where this team expected to be. The NFL season is a long, winding road, with many bumps along the way. Continued improvement in all three phases is necessary on a week-to-week basis. The grind continues next Sunday, as the Bucs travel to Pittsburgh for a 1PM ET tilt with the Steelers.