View photos of Tampa Bay's Week 12 matchup against Atlanta.
The Falcons got the ball to start the game and went downfield in a hurry behind a 53-yard pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to tight end Jaeden Graham. The Bucs' defense bent but didn't break as they managed to hold Atlanta to a field goal despite them getting as far as the Bucs' seven-yard-line. It gave the Falcons an early 3-0 lead.
The Bucs' first offensive play was an 11-yard handoff to running back Ronald Jones. The second play unfortunately turned the ball right back to Atlanta as quarterback Jameis Winston was intercepted by cornerback Desmond Trufant. It was a pass intended for Mike Evans and would have gotten him to 1,000 yards on the season right then and there.
Tampa Bay's defense went back to work and was able to hold Atlanta on their next drive. After electing to go for it on fourth-and-three, they got hit with a false start penalty, resulting in a punt and a big stop for the defense, instead. The ensuing kick would pin the Bucs at their own three-yard-line, though.
Despite the unfortunate field position, the Bucs would span the 97 yards on their next drive. Most of it came on a 71-yard touchdown pass from Winston to wide receiver Chris Godwin to put the Bucs up 7-3 halfway through the first quarter.
The Bucs' defense was then able to get a stop on the Falcons' next drive and the offense went back to work. On the third playoff the drive, Winston was intercepted again at the Bucs' 19-yard line – gifting the Falcons a red-zone possession.
Atlanta would capitalize on a one-yard run by running back Qadree Ollison to put the Falcons up 10-7 with 46 seconds left in the first quarter.
The two teams then traded punts after two huge back-to-back sacks brought up third-and-28 for the Galcons. It was the rookie inside linebacker Devin White with his first full sack of his career following by a strip sack by outside linebacker Shaq Barrett – he has 12.5 on the season. Ryan recovered his own fumble but it ended up forcing the Falcons punt.
The Bucs then spanned the field their next drive by the hands of Godwin. Winston punched it in on a one-yard dart to Godwin at the goal line for the touchdown. It gave Godwin 125 yards on the day already. The point after was no good but the Bucs still took the lead back, 13-10, with 7:55 to go in the half.
The next Falcons possession saw Atlanta stopped by the Bucs' third sack of the game and second by White, who dropped Ryan for a 10-yard loss on third down, forcing the Falcons' punt. Once again, they pinned the ball deep in Tampa Bay territory, meaning the Bucs would start from their own five-yard line.
Winston and Mike Evans would finally connect on the Bucs' next drive – giving Evans 1,000 yards on the season for the sixth-straight season to start his career. He joins Randy Moss as the only players in NFL history to complete such a feat. The drive culminated with defensive tackle Vita Vea brought in as an eligible receiver at the goal line. Sure enough, he released into a route completely uncovered and Winston threw him the ball. The big man caught it for a one-yard touchdown pass, extending the Bucs' lead to 19-10 after another failed point after.
The Bucs left the Falcons with under a minute to work with before halftime. The defense ended up forcing another punt, too. It gave the offense the ball back with just five seconds and they took a knee, knowing they'd get the ball back to start the second half.
The opening drive was fruitful for the Bucs yet again who went down the field, this time getting the ground game more involved. A breakout 25-yard run for Jones set the Bucs up inside the red zone. It was Jones who punched it in from the four-yard line and the Bucs extended their lead to 25-10 after Gay's extra point was blocked and almost ran back a little over four minutes into the third quarter.
The Falcons were driving threatening inside the red zone when Ryan fired a pass off for wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Cornerback Carlton Davis was right there and ripped the ball from Ridley's grasp for his first career interception, instead. It gave the Bucs the ball back at their own 11-yard line.
But Tampa Bay would come up empty on their bonus drive and after a good return, Atlanta took back possession at their own 44-yard line. A couple ill-timed penalties and after getting inside the red zone, the Falcons would instead have to settle for a field goal. The 40-yard attempt was good to cut the Bucs' lead to 25-13 with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
The Bucs answered with a field goal of their own on the next drive. After missing three of his extra points, Gay redeemed himself by booting a 32-yard field goal to put the Bucs up 28-13 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Falcons would have to settle for another field goal following a big sack from Vea, who scored a touchdown earlier, where he dropped Ryan for a loss of six on second down. He got credited for a pass defensed on the next play. Kicker Younghoe Koo was good from 25 yards and Atlanta cut the lead to 28-16 with 8:12 to go in the fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay came up empty on their next drive after a false start backed them up from third-down and five to third-down and 10. The Bucs' defense returned the favor behind a sack from Carl Nassib, the Bucs' fifth sack of the day.
Another punt for the Bucs gave the Falcons the ball back with 3:44 left in the game. Bradley Pinion's punt pinned Atlanta at their own 10, which wouldn't make it easy on the Falcons. The Tampa Bay defense brought up fourth-and-five for the Falcons where Jason Pierre-Paul stripped Ryan of the ball, which was then picked up by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and taken into the end zone for his second scoop-and-score of the season. It gave the Bucs a 35-16 lead with just over three minutes to play.
Matt Schaub then replaced Matt Ryan for the Falcons' next drive. It looked as though the rookie Mike Edwards had an interception and it was ruled as such on the field before a booth review determined it hit the ground before he caught the ball. It was the second near-interception for the young safety on the day.
With no timeouts left for the Falcons, the Bucs were able to drain the clock and get the win.