Sunday’s Falcons game against Tampa Bay was painful to watch. As Matt Ryan’s pass fell incomplete on fourth down in overtime after Tampa Bay’s Connor Barth had put them ahead, it was easy to realize that Atlanta lost the game 23-20 and that the Buccaneers did not defeat Atlanta.
Looking at the stat sheets this was a blowout. There is no way this game could have been close. The Falcons out-gained the Bucs by over 200 yards. Matt Ryan had one of his best passing days in over a year throwing for three yards short of 400 yards and once again the running game hit the century mark.
However, it was Tampa Bay who was ahead late in the third quarter 20-3. It was as if the Falcons were playing cat and mouse with their divisional rival. Unfortunately this cat and mouse game was as if played between Tom and Jerry or Itchy and Scratchy.
“The issue for us came down to the ball. Not creating any takeaways defensively, and then finishing in a minus four turnover ratio. We’ve got a really tough outfit, and I think that showed the fact that we’re in this game and taking it into overtime, and having a chance to go win it when you’re in minus four,” said Falcons coach Dan Quinn. “That part is tough. The penalties were certainly a factor. I believe we had 11 for the game, and part of our motto as finishing is doing right longer and that caught up to us today. We weren’t able to do that, and we’ll give credit to Tampa Bay in this case for them being plus four. That’s what it was for us, the issue came down to the ball.”
Turnovers once again hurt the Falcons as they did in their only other loss at New Orleans and almost did them in against Washington. Four turnovers turned what could have been a day of celebration into a day of head scratching and soul searching.
“Three of our four turnovers were on the plus-side of the 50. That’s directly taking points off the board. I thought we battled. We did kind of everything we wanted to offensively, other than protect the football. I think we had a few too many penalties as well,” said Ryan.
Matt Ryan seems to be getting the brunt of the blame for the turnovers. He had one interception, mishandled a snap and had another snap deep in the red zone misfire. Ryan has been a turnover machine the past couple of weeks but the one fumbled snap inside the Tampa Bay ten was all on the center as it was hiked wide of Ryan who was in shotgun formation. But it was all part of the frustration that the Falcons’ offense has been through lately as well as their fans.
The Falcons took the opening kickoff and drove down the field taking over seven minutes off the clock but ended up with only getting a field goal of a 21-yard kick from Matt Bryant. A lot of work and a lot of time for little reward.
Atlanta looked to extend their lead as Ryan hit Julio Jones across the middle. Braking a couple of tacklers Jones was headed towards midfield when he ball was stripped from him. Tampa Bay took advantage of the turnover to tie the score.
In actuality the Bucs scored 20 unanswered points before the sleeping giant finally awoke.
Ryan engineered three scoring drives in the fourth quarter – a seven yard TC strike to TF Jacob Tamme, another field goal by Matt Bryant with 4:32 and an eight yard touchdown strike to Jones with 22 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Tampa Bay helped Atlanta a lot with the comeback as well as they had a fourth-and-one from their 40 and the Falcons defense held Jameis Winston short turning the ball over with under a minute left and no time outs.
But anyone that knows of the legend of Matt Ice knew what to expect.
“We dug ourselves too deep of a hole. I expect nothing less than us to continue to compete for however long we need to play. I don’t think that’s ever going to change,” said Ryan. “I think we have the right guys in the right mindset that regardless of the situation, we’re going to battle. However, we can’t dig ourselves that hole and expect consistently to get out of it.”
But in the overtime period the Falcons failed to move the ball after the go-ahead field goal by Barth giving the team their second loss in three weeks after starting the season 5-0.
“We’re doing okay, 6-2 isn’t too bad. We should be better than that, we can play better on the offensive side of the ball, but we’ll continue to get better, said Roddy White. “Like coach says, we’re going to go out there and grind, and continue to get better.”
“It is just another game, and we lost. The good thing is that we can come back next week and play again,” said Falcon DE Adrian Clayborn.
The Falcons indeed will get a chance to right the ship next week as they travel out west to play the San Francisco 49ers who have bench Colin Kapernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert. It could be a feeding frenzy for the hungry Falcon defense and just what the doctor ordered. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:05pm and will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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