TAMPA, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10) closed out the season hosting the Atlanta Falcons (6-9) at Raymond James Stadium Sunday and brought their A-game early, but couldn’t hold it once the Falcons surged in the second half.
The Buccaneers started the scoring, nabbing the first touchdown of the game with Winston’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans with less than four minutes left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Buccaneers were able to keep the Falcons from scoring early and were able to add to their lead with Santos’s 36-yard field goal, making the score 10-0 at 8:25.
The Bucs got their second touchdown with Winston’s 30-yard pass to Chris Godwin, stretching their lead to 17-0 with 30 seconds left.
The Bucs defense kept the Falcons scoreless for most of the half between six pass break-ups and a sack by Jason Pierre-Paul. They were able to stop Atlanta’s run with 23 tackles, and between Pierre-Paul, McCoy and Elliott, forced four quarterback hurries.
Atlanta turned the tables near the end of the first half, however, with Ryan’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, making the score 17-7.
On the Bucs’ final drive of the half, Winston scrambled and attempted a touchdown pass to Mike Evans, but it was broken up by Atlanta safety Sherrod Neasman, leaving the score 17-7 at halftime.
The Falcons made a solid gain in the third with a touchdown seven minutes in comprised of short passes, the last of which was from Sanu to Ryan for five yards. With the successful extra point, the Falcons shrank the Bucs’ lead to three points, 17-14.
The Bucs answered nine minutes in with Santos’s 45-yard field goal, bringing the score to 20-14.
The Bucs defense continued their run. Ryan’s touchdown pass intended for Hooper, which would have given Atlanta the lead, was broken up by Tampa Bay’s Isaiah Johnson. On the fourth down, the Falcons nailed their first field goal, a 49-yarder by Bryant, shrinking Tampa Bay’s lead to three again, 20-17.
The Falcons were finally able to snatch the lead from Buccaneers at the end of the third with a 43-yard touchdown run by Coleman, 24-20. On the Falcons’ next drive, the Bucs defense went easy on them, allowing another touchdown, broadening Atlanta’s lead to eleven points, 31-20.
The Bucs appeared to be losing their nerve, with Humphries dropping a pass from Winston (his second drop), but made up for it in the next play, with Humphries completing a 19-yard pass and Brate completing the next two passes for a total of 39 yards to bring the Bucs into the red zone. Mike Evans finished the job with a 10-yard touchdown pass catch, making the score 31-26. They attempted a two-point conversion, but failed.
Tampa Bay’s Andrew Adams intercepted a key pass on the Falcons’ next drive, sending a jolt into the fans. Humphries completed a 15-yard pass, which helped the Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin make another explosive touchdown catch, this one for 19 yards, tipping the one-point razor-thin lead to Tampa Bay, 32-31. Winston attempted another two point conversion to Humphries, but it was no good.
The Falcons put the nail in the coffin in the final minute of the game with Bryant’s successful 37-yard field goal, making the final score 34-32.
Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter talked about the breakdown in the postgame press conference:
“Well, we struggled on third down today. We had them in third down too often and let them off the hook. [Atlanta] did a good job of getting us to check to zone coverage today. We probably played a little too much two-deep zone and [quarterback] Matt Ryan put those receivers [where] they’re going to be able to attack that. I thought we struggled to get pressure today with a four-man rush. The last half of the season we’ve gotten good pressure with the four-man rush but again, against a good quarterback with receivers like that, we just let them off the hook too many times on third down.” -Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter
It is reported that the Buccaneers organization released Koetter as head coach Sunday evening.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org