Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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2021 Game Preview: Falcons-Buccaneers, Week 2

The Buccaneers get their first taste of NFC South action in 2021 as the Falcons visit on Sunday to renew the heated divisional rivalry and try to get their potentially explosive offense into gear

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers passed their first test as defending champions in front of a national audience, staving off the very frisky Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Kickoff Game, 31-29. Dallas had stumbled to 6-10 in 2020 but very much had the look of a contender in Week One with Dak Prescott healthy and back under center.

The Atlanta Falcons, meanwhile, struggled in Week One under a new coaching staff, losing at home to the Philadelphia Eagles, 32-6. Of course, if seasons were defined by Week One outcomes, than the Buccaneers would not, in fact, be defending champions, as described above. The Buccaneers did not have a new coaching staff in 2020 but they did have a new quarterback in an unfamiliar offense and that added up to an opening-weekend loss at New Orleans. The Bucs eventually came together, obviously, even winning in their next trip to the Superdome on their way to victory in Super Bowl LV.

As such, Arthur Smith's Falcons have plenty of time – even a 17th game this year! – to demonstrate that they are ready to be competitors in the NFC South after the 4-12 season that brought Dan Quinn's tenure to an end. The Falcons traded receiving icon Julio Jones to Smith's former team, the Titans, in June but otherwise have not made moves that scream of a rebuild. Most notably, the Falcons stuck with Matt Ryan and used the fourth-overall pick in the 2021 draft on tight end Kyle Pitts while several notable quarterbacks were still on the board.

The Buccaneers and Falcons are both trying to earn something they failed to snag last year: an NFC South title. That has belonged to the Saints for the last four years running, and New Orleans got their last year on the strength of a six-game sweep of their division mates, just edging the Bucs out by one game in the final standings. The importance of intra-divisional play is never lost on Buccaneers players and coaches, nor is the fact that the Falcons almost always give them a serious fight no matter the team's respective weapons.

Thus, the home team will be expecting a tougher challenge on Sunday than the raw numbers might suggest. Atlanta failed to find the end zone against Philadelphia but has a lot of potential on offense with Ryan surrounded by an intriguing cast of weapons. That starts with wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who emerged from Jones's shadow as a star in his own right last year. Pitts had a quiet NFL debut with four catches for 31 yards but is considered one of the best tight end prospects ever. And the Falcons' backfield may seem a bit anonymous but the duo of Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson looked quite capable of fashioning an improved rushing attack in Atlanta in 2021. The Falcons only ran for 95.8 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry last year, ranking near the bottom of the league in both categories, but piled up 124 yards at a 4.8-per-attempt clip on Sunday.

Where the numbers look particularly worrisome for Atlanta in its Week Two matchup with the Bucs is when its defense is on the field and Tom Brady is under center. Tampa Bay racked up 289.1 passing yards per game last year to rank second in the NFL while the Falcons surrendered 293.6 per game to finish dead last. Brady and company logged 431 net yards of offense in their Week One win while the Falcons gave up 434 yards to the Eagles in their loss.

However, Atlanta has almost completely rebuilt its secondary since last year, importing new safeties Duron Harmon and Erik Harris as well as one starting cornerback in Fabian Moreau. They join holdover cornerback A.J. Terrell, who had a very promising rookie campaign after being drafted in the first round in 2020. The Falcons have switched to a 3-4 defensive front under new coordinator Dean Pees, who has a long history of NFL success, which could help in applying the pressure that Atlanta's defense has been missing for several years. The middle of that front is very ably patrolled by intense defensive lineman Grady Jarrett and rangy linebacker Deion Jones.

The Buccaneers swept Atlanta over a three-week span at the end of the 2020 regular season, kick-starting an eight-game winning streak that carried through the Super Bowl and is now at nine games after the victory over Dallas. To realize the first double-digit winning streak in nearly a half-century of Buccaneers football, Brady and company will have to overcome a Falcons team that is never lacking for motivation when it comes to Tampa. It's the start of division play for both teams, and it might go a long way towards determining how many true contenders there will be in the NFC South in 2021.

GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS

Atlanta Falcons (0-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)

Sunday, September 19, 4:05 p.m. ET

Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 65,618)

Tampa, Florida

Television: FOX (Local WTVT Channel 13)

TV Broadcast Team: Kevin Burkhardt (play-by-play), Greg Olsen (analyst), Pam Oliver (reporter)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (sideline)

GAMEDAY INFORMATION

Coming to the game or enjoying pregame festivities? Check out our Tailgate Packages or visit the Buccaneers Gameday Page for everything you need to know about Bucs Beach and more! 

ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES

Thanks to just their second season sweep of Atlanta in the last 12 years, the Buccaneers pulled within a game of evening their all-time series with the Falcons in 2020, now down just 27-28. If Tampa Bay can get another two-game sweep in 2021, it will mark the eighth time the lead has changed hands in this head-to-head history.

The Buccaneers had a 24-22 advantage in the series as recently as 2016 but Atlanta then reeled off five straight victories in a streak that included sweeps in 2017 and 2018. Tampa Bay has won three of the last four to narrow the gap again. If the Bucs prevail this Sunday, it will mark the 13th time the series has been tied. Tampa Bay does have the all-time scoring advantage, having scored 1,245 points in those 55 games against Atlanta while allowing 1,199.

Tampa Bay padded its point total by 75 points in the span of three weeks last season, winning 31-27 at Atlanta in Week 15 and then taking the rematch in Tampa by a 44-27 margin. The first win required a wild comeback after the Falcons raced out to a 17-0 halftime lead, with Tom Brady throwing for 330 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. The second game at Raymond James Stadium was less stressful, as the Buccaneers led from wire to wire but included another huge day by Brady, who threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns. Those two games were part of a team-record eight-game winning streak (postseason included) with which the Buccaneers closed out their second Super Bowl championship campaign.

The Buccaneers came close to taking both halves of the series in 2019, winning by a 35-22 score in Atlanta and taking a 22-16 lead into the fourth quarter in the Week 17 rematch in Tampa. However, Matt Ryan led a game-tying drive in the final three minutes of that contest, leading to Younghoe Koo's 33-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. The Buccaneers won the overtime coin toss but lost the game on the first play of the extra period, as Jameis Winston's last pass for Tampa Bay was picked off and returned 27 yards for a touchdown by Deion Jones.

Both of the games in 2018 went down to the wire, neither ending well for the Buccaneers. In Week Six in Atlanta, Tampa Bay rallied from a 15-point deficit to make it a 31-29 game with four minutes to play on Peyton Barber's five-yard touchdown catch. The Falcons then tacked on a field goal to make it a five-point game with just over a minute to play but Winston got the visitors back into scoring range with consecutive completions of 18, 18 and 19 yards to DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans and Adam Humphries. With seven seconds left and the ball at Atlanta's 21, the Bucs tried a tricky play in which Winston began to scramble up the middle and then suddenly attempted a lateral to Humphries. The ball ended up on the turf before Evans scooped it up and got a one-hopper off to Jackson, who appeared to have a path to the end zone pylon along the left sideline. However, Jackson couldn't haul it in and time expired on a 34-29 Falcons victory.

In the Week 17 rematch, at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs gave up a 10-point halftime lead and fell behind by 11 in the fourth quarter before once again rallying, this time taking the lead with five minutes to play on a 19-yard Chris Godwin touchdown catch. That was too much time to leave Ryan, however, and he hit Jones on a pair of 16-yard passes to get the ball into field goal range. Matt Bryant won it as time expired with a 37-yarder.

View some of the photos from Buccaneers practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

NOTABLE CONNECTIONS

  • Keith Armstrong, the Buccaneers' special teams coordinator, filled the same role in Atlanta for more than a decade (2008-19). He was also on the Falcons' coaching staff from 1994-96, coaching safeties and the secondary.
  • Falcons Secondary Coach Jon Hoke tutored the Buccaneers' defensive backs during the 2016-18 seasons.
  • Tampa Bay Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich saw action for both team's in Sunday's matchup during his 10-year playing career. He was with Atlanta in 2007, making two starts, and with the Buccaneers in 2009, starting the first three games of the season.
  • Buccaneers Cornerbacks Coach Kevin Ross also spent a small portion of his long NFL playing career in Atlanta, joining the Falcons in 1994 after 11 years with the Kansas City Chiefs. Ross played two seasons in Atlanta before finishing his playing career with one year in San Diego and one more back with the Chiefs.
  • Keith Tandy, who joined the Buccaneers' coaching staff last year as a defensive/special teams assistant, wrapped up his NFL playing career with one season (2018) in Atlanta after six years on the field for Tampa Bay.
  • Danny Breyer, now an offensive assistant on Arthur Smith's staff, was on the Buccaneers' coaching staff in 2017 and 2018, first as an analytics assistant and then as a defensive assistant.
  • Atlanta outside linebacker Steven Means first entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick by the Buccaneers in the 2013 draft. Means played 11 games for Tampa Bay in the 2013-14 seasons.
  • Falcons backup quarterback Josh Rosen spent most of the 2020 season on Tampa Bay's practice squad.

SENIOR COACHING STAFFS

  • Tampa Bay:
  • Head Coach Bruce Arians
  • Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin
  • Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles
  • Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich
  • Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong
  • Atlanta:
  • Head Coach Arthur Smith
  • Offensive Coordinator Dave Ragone
  • Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
  • Special Teams Coordinator Marquice Williams

KEY 2020 ROSTER ADDITIONS

Buccaneers:

  • RB Giovani Bernard (FA)
  • LB K.J. Britt (fifth-round draft pick)
  • S Chris Cooper (FA)
  • WR Jaelon Darden (fourth-round draft pick)
  • CB Dee Delaney (FA)
  • OL Robert Hainsey (third-round draft pick)
  • QB Kyle Trask (second-round draft pick)
  • OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (first-round draft pick)

Falcons:

  • RB Mike Davis (UFA)
  • S Richie Grant (second-round draft pick)
  • S Duron Harmon (UFA)
  • S Erik Harris (UFA)
  • OL Jalen Mayfield (third-round pick)
  • CB Fabian Moreau (UFA)
  • RB Cordarrelle Patterson (UFA)
  • TE Kyle Pitts (first-round draft pick)
  • QB Josh Rosen (FA)
  • WR Tajae Sharpe (FA)
  • TE Lee Smith (T-BUF)
  • T Jason Spriggs (FA)

ADDITIONAL 2021 CHANGES OF NOTE

Buccaneers:

  • While "keeping the band" together on the field for a run at another championship, the Buccaneers also managed to keep their coaching staff almost entirely intact for 2021. The lone departure was Offensive Assistant Antwaan Randle El, who left to coach the receivers on Dan Campbell's staff in Detroit. There were two additions to Arians' staff: Offensive Assistant A.Q. Shipley and Assistant Wide Receivers Coach Thaddeus Lewis.
  • Mike Greenberg, who provided invaluable help to Jason Licht in the efforts to keep the Bucs' Super Bowl-winning roster together as the team's director of football administration, was promoted during the offseason to vice president of football administration. Greenberg is entering his 12th year with the team.
  • After playing their 2020 home schedule in front of audiences ranging from empty stands to about 25% capacity, the Buccaneers will be at full capacity at Raymond James Stadium in 2021. And we do mean full capacity. The defending champions have already sold out every home game this season; the last time every game at Raymond James Stadium sold out was in 2009.
  • The Buccaneers introduced new uniforms in 2020 that were heavily influenced by the look the team had during its first Super Bowl era but also included a brand new alternate set with matching pewter jerseys and pants. That gave the team four combinations last season: pewter on pewter, white on white, white on pewter and red on pewter. The Bucs will use a fifth combination in 2021, with a red jersey over white pants, which they will wear in the Sunday Night Football spotlight at home against the Saints in Week 15.
  • Veteran wide receiver Antonio Brown is not a new addition to the team in 2021 but he will have a chance to make a greater impact this season. Brown joined the Buccaneers at midseason last year and played in the last eight games of the regular season, recording 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns. He also appeared in three postseason contests and memorably scored a touchdown in Super Bowl LV. This time Brown will be an integral part of the offense from Day One, and he'll be moving more freely after having knee surgery in the offseason. From 2013-18, Brown averaged approximately 114 catches for 1,524 yards and 13 touchdowns per season.

Falcons:

  • Atlanta is starting over with a new coaching staff in 2021 after letting Dan Quinn go last November. Now at the helm is Arthur Smith, the former offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Smith brought in Dave Ragone as his offensive coordinator and coaxed Dean Pees out of a brief retirement to run the defense.
  • The Falcons revamped their football leadership overall, also moving on from long-time General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, who had been in control of the roster since 2008. Replacing Dimitroff is another familiar figure in the NFC South, former Saints executive Terry Fontenot. Fontenot was with the Saints for nearly two decades and in 2020 had been promoted to assistant general manager & vice president of pro personnel.
  • Another Falcon era ended during the offseason when wide receiver Julio Jones was traded to the Titans in June. A first-round pick in 2011, Jones played a full decade in Atlanta and left as the franchise's all-time leading receiver with 848 catches for 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns.
  • Without much room to work with under the COVID-suppressed salary cap, the Falcons let Alex Mack, the anchor of their offensive line the last five seasons, exit via free agency. Mack joined the 49ers and Matt Hennessy, a third-round pick in 2020, has taken over as the starting center.

TOP STORYLINES

Atlanta's Titan-ic Identity – The Falcons are obviously seeking a fresh start after three straight losing campaigns, and they began that process by hiring former Tennessee Titans' Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith as their new head coach. Smith became a hot head coaching candidate over the past two seasons while building a potent Titans offense around castoff Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill and previously underutilized jumbo back Derrick Henry. Tannehill resurrected his career with two seasons of a passer rating north of 106 and Henry bulldozed his way to more than 3,500 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns over those two seasons. Smith also brought Dean Pees, who was Tennessee's defensive coordinator in 2018-19, out of retirement and Atlanta switched their defense to a base 3-4. So how much of the approach and success from those Tennessee years can Smith and company bring to Atlanta. Obviously, every coach has to shape his approach to some extent to the players who he has on hand, and the Falcons obviously don't have Derrick Henry. Atlanta did seem intent on running the ball early in their season-opening loss to Philadelphia, and did so quite successfully before the score got too lopsided. How much would a strong rushing attack and more use of play-action and rollouts help Matt Ryan recapture his best days? Can Pees' schemes help Atlanta create the pass rush it has been missing for the last few seasons? Smith will be looking to build a new culture in Atlanta, as every incoming coach does, and a strong showing against the defending champs would help Falcons players buy in.

Down to the Ground – The Bucs scored 31 points (again) and racked up 431 yards of offense in their Week One win over Dallas, so it's clear that the tom Brady-led offense will be as potent as ever. However, a running game that finished in a tie for 28th place last season didn't show much in the opener, either, gaining 52 yards and averaging 3.7 yards per tote. The Bucs' longest run of the day was seven yards. This comes on the (distant) heals of a playoff run that made it seem as if Tampa Bay was starting to achieve more balance in its attack. After handing off on 36.3 of their offensive plays during the 2020 regular season, the Bucs ran on 45.7% of their snaps in their four playoff victories. In the 2021 season opener, both Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette were involved in costly turnovers and Jones did not get another carry after his second-quarter fumble. However, Head Coach Bruce Arians and play-caller Byron Leftwich both firmly expressed their confidence in the Jones-Fournette duo this week and Arians said Jones would start the game against Atlanta. (Fournette started the opener.) Atlanta's run defense was fairly good in 2020 and features stars in Grady Jarrett and Deion Sanders, but the Eagles got them for 173 yards in Week One. That's a bit misleading, however, as mobile quarterback Jalen Hurts accounted for 62 of those yards. Still, the Buccaneers may be looking to get their two co-starting backs much more involved in Week Two in search of an offense more like what they featured in the 2020 postseason.

Getting Home in the Backfield – The Buccaneers tied for fourth in the NFL with 48 sacks last year and came into 2021 eyeing the team single-season mark of 55 sacks set in 2000. Starting outside linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett (45.5 combined sacks over the past two seasons) had new help in rookie first-rounder Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, who showed great promise in the preseason. The Buccaneers also feature one of the best blitzing off-ball linebackers in the league in Devin White, who racked up 9.0 sacks last year. With young defenders becoming more and more comfortable in Todd Bowles' schemes, the third-year coordinator could be free to dig deeper into his playbook, and indeed the Buccaneers featured some exotic fronts against Dallas. The Buccaneers would finish that game with only one sack despite Dak Prescott dropping back to pass 59 times, this one belonging to Barrett. They would add seven quarterback hits and 17 pressures, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, but were rarely able to get home with Prescott routinely getting rid of the ball quickly. Against a Falcons offense that has the potential to be much more potent than it was in its six-point opener, the Buccaneers will try to turn more of those pressures into drive-killing sacks.

Secondary Concerns – Tampa Bay will have to make some adjustments in their defensive backfield after cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting was forced to injured reserve by an elbow dislocation in Week One. The Bucs opened the season with Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis starting on the outside and Jamel Dean coming in for sub packages when Murphy-Bunting moved into the slot. Now Dean will be the full-time bookend to Davis and will be looking to bounce back from a rocky game on Thursday night. The versatile Ross Cockrell took over in the slot but that reduces the team's depth at safety, a position Cockrell had successfully added to his repertoire during training camp and the preseason. Tampa Bay promoted veteran safety Andrew Adams, who knows the system well, from the practice squad and are hopeful of getting starting safety Jordan Whitehead back from a hamstring injury this week. They also believe that safeties Antoine Winfield, Jr. and Mike Edwards can take some snaps in the slot, if necessary. Whoever is available on Sunday, the Bucs' secondary is already going to have a significantly different look in Week Two.

Going for 10 – The Buccaneers last tasted defeat in the month of November. Since their comeback against the Chiefs in Week 12 of the 2020 campaign fell just short, the Bucs have reeled off nine straight wins, the longest active streak in the NFL (unsurprisingly, since every playoff team except the Bucs ended last year with a loss). That is also a team record, as the Bucs' previous long winning streak was seven games during the 1999 regular season. So the franchise can only extend its record with another win, but there is something appealing about a nice round number like 10 for a winning streak. And it's a milestone almost every existing franchise has had the pleasure of reaching at one point or another (or, you know, six times if you're the Brady-Belichick Patriots). As it stands now, the Buccaneers are one of five current franchises that has yet to hit double digits with a winning streak, playoffs included. The other four are Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston and Philadelphia. The Bills, Texans and Eagles have all had nine-game streaks, like the Bucs' current one, while Cincinnati's long run is eight games. The Buccaneers could also get their third straight win in the head-to-head series with Atlanta and, as noted above, if they do so they will once again tie that series up, this time at 28 wins apiece.

KEY MATCHUPS

1. Falcons C Matt Hennessy vs. Buccaneers DL Vita Vea

Vita Vea can be a problem for any man on the Atlanta offensive line, and he even lined up outside the left tackle on several snaps in the win over Dallas. The most difficult matchup for the Falcons on Sunday could be Vea against rookie left guard Jalen Mayfield, but it's possible Mayfield won't be in that spot after an up-and-down performance against Philadelphia last Sunday. Mayfield remains listed as the starter on the Falcons' Week Two depth chart, but Arthur Smith has said "all options are on the table" at left guard. The more certain matchup for Vea will be against second-year center Matt Hennessy, who takes over at the pivot after the departure of long-time star Alex Mack. Vea, whose surprise return from an ankle injury took the Bucs' pass rush to another level in the 2020 playoffs, had a dominant opening-game performance, repeatedly bull-rushing Cowboys blockers back into Prescott's pocket. Hennessy was a third-round draft pick in 2020 and the Falcons expect him to be a long-term solution at center, but he has just three starts under his belt and has a tough draw this weekend after having to face a very rugged Eagles' interior line. Last weekend, Ryan was sacked three times and was pressured on 18 of his 38 drop-backs even though Philadelphia only blitzed on six of those plays.

2. Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette vs. Falcons ILB Deion Jones

While the Buccaneers now have Giovani Bernard to help on third downs and in hurry-up situations, they still appear to be happy to utilize Leonard Fournette in passing situations. He had seven targets and five catches for 27 yards against the Cowboys. Fournette also led the Bucs with nine carries, but neither he nor Ronald Jones got the running game going in Week One. As Fournette showed in the 2020 playoffs, he's capable of being a powerful force both on the ground and through the air when he gets in a groove. The Falcons have a very able counter to Fournette in the multi-talented Jones, who was one of the league's best run-stopping linebackers in 2020. Jones is also fast and rangy and very capable of covering running backs in the passing game. In addition, Fournette and Jones could find themselves battling on plays even when Fournette doesn't get a handoff or a target. Jones led the Falcons with 4.5 sacks last year as he unlocked another facet of his game as a pass-rusher. Fournette may be the blocker who has to keep Jones away from Brady when the Falcon 'backer is sent on a blitz.

3. Falcons TE Kyle Pitts vs. Buccaneers ILB Lavonte David

The Falcons – actually, the entire football world – expect rookie Kyle Pitts to quickly develop into one of the NFL's best tight ends. He was drafted with the fourth-overall pick, higher than any other tight end in league history. Pitts has it all as a pass-catcher – speed, body control, size, hands, explosion and the ability to make plays on short, intermediate and deep routes. The Falcons are sure to move him around in search of mismatches in which he can exploit a smaller defensive back or a slower linebacker. Pitts had a mild first game, with four catches for 31 yards, though Matt Ryan did target him on four other throws. Pitts and the Falcons may not find a big mismatch, however, when Lavonte David is in Pitts' orbit. David consistently ranks as one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL and he had a pass breakup in the season opener against Dallas. He can run with tight ends in man coverage or quickly read the field in zone coverage and close the gap on Matt Ryan's intended targets quickly. Pitts probably will develop into a superstar, but as long as David is in the NFC South he'll have a couple challenging matchups every season.

4. Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown vs. Falcons CB A.J. Terrell

Tom Brady throws to the open man, whoever that may be, and in Week One that was quite often Brown, ostensibly the Buccaneers' third receiver behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Brown led the Bucs in their opener with 121 yards on five catches, including the team's three longest plays of the game. One of those was a 47-yard touchdown near the end of the first half in which he got completely behind the defense and caught Brady's perfect arc as he arrived at the end zone. Brown had one of the most dominant stretches ever by a receiver from 2013-18 in Pittsburgh, and if he is back anywhere close to that form in 2021 he's going to make defenses pay for focusing on Evans and Godwin. Terrell, meanwhile, is that front end of his career after being drafted in the first round last year, but he's already the focal point of Atlanta's secondary. The Falcons almost completely revamped their secondary in the offseason, building around Terrell with veteran additions after the 2020 rookie showed consistent improvement during his debut campaign. Terrell is good putting press coverage on receivers at the line but can also turn his hips quickly and stay in pursuit if his man gets by him and heads deep. That could be crucial against Brown on Sunday.

INJURY REPORT

Key:

DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

Buccaneers:

  • OLB Shaquil Barrett (back) – WED: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
  • WR Antonio Brown (knee) – WED: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
  • CB Carlton Davis (hamstring) - WED: NL. THURS: NL. FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
  • TE Rob Gronkowski (not injury related) - WED: NL. THURS: NL. FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
  • DL Steve McLendon (not injury related) - WED: NL; THURS: DNP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
  • OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) – WED: LP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
  • DL Ndamukong Suh (not injury related) - WED: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
  • S Jordan Whitehead (hamstring) – MON: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

Falcons:

  • WR Frank Darby (calf) – WED: NL; THURS: LP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

WEATHER FORECAST

Scattered thunderstorms, high of 88, low of 75, 39% chance of rain, 86% humidity, winds out of the E at 4 mph.

GAME REFEREE

Head referee: Carl Cheffers (22nd season, 14th as referee)

BETTING LINE

  • Favorite: Buccaneers (-12.0)
  • Over/Under: 52.5

INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS

Buccaneers-

Points Scored: TE Rob Gronkowski, 12

Touchdowns: TE Rob Gronkowski, 2

Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 379

Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 97.0

Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 32

Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 9

Receiving Yards: WR Antonio Brown, 121

Interceptions: CB Carlton Davis, 1

Sacks: OLB Shaquil Barrett, 1.0

Tackles: LB Lavonte David, 11

Falcons-

Points Scored: K Younghoe Koo, 6

Touchdowns: N/A

Passing Yards: QB Matt Ryan, 164

Passer Rating: QB Matt Ryan, 71.6

Rushing Yards: RB Cordarrelle Patterson, 54

Receptions: WR Calvin Ridley, 5

Receiving Yards: WR Calvin Ridley, 51

Interceptions: N/A

Sacks: OLB Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 1.0

Tackles: ILB Deion Jones, 11

TEAM STAT RANKINGS (2020 end of season)

Buccaneers-

Scoring Offense: 10th (31.0 ppg)

Total Offense: 7th (431.0 ypg)

Passing Offense: 3rd (379.0 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 30th (52.0 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-5th (24.0)

Third-Down Pct.: t-13th (45.5%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: t-1st (0.00%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: t-17th (60.0%)

Scoring Defense: t-21st (29.0 ppg)

Total Defense: 30th (451.0 ypg)

Passing Defense: 31st (391.0 ypg)

Rushing Defense: t-4th (60.0 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 26th (30.0)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 26th (52.9%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 30th (1.69%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-3rd (25.0%)

Turnover Margin: t-30th (-3)

Falcons-

Scoring Offense: 31st (6.0 ppg)

Total Offense: 26th (260.0 ypg)

Passing Offense: 31st (136.0 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 14th (124.0 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-22nd (19.0)

Third-Down Pct.: t-30th (21.4%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 27th (8.57%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: t-31st (0.0%)

Scoring Defense: 24th (32.0 ppg)

Total Defense: 27th (434.0 ypg)

Passing Defense: 17th (261.0 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 31st (173.0 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-22nd (24.0)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 21st (46.2%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: t-26th (2.78%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-21st (100.0%)

Turnover Margin: t-13th (0)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski hooked up for a pair of touchdowns in the Bucs' win over Dallas, giving them 86 scores as a duo and in the process allowing them to pass the former 49er duo of Steve Young and Jerry Rice (85) for third all-time. The Brady-Gronk duo now needs three more to tie former Chargers Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates for second on that list.
  • ·Gronkowski's 90 receiving yards in that game increased his career regular-season total to 8,574. He needs 110 more to pass Greg Olsen (8,683) for fifth in NFL history among tight ends. Coincidentally, Olsen will be in the broadcast booth at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, serving as the analyst for the FOX broadcast team.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett have very quickly climbed the Buccaneers' all-time sacks, with both already cracking the top ten. Pierre-Paul ranks eighth with 30.5 sacks and needs three more to pass Brad Culpepper (33.0) for seventh. After getting his first sack of the season in Week One, Barrett now has 28.5 as a Buccaneer. He just passed Ronde Barber (28.0) for ninth on the Bucs' list will join Pierre-Paul in chasing Culpepper's seventh spot.
  • Tight end Cameron Brate has 29 receiving touchdowns in his career, which is the fourth most in franchise history. He could tie Kevin House for the third spot with two more. Brate will also be playing in the 100th regular-season game of his career on Sunday, becoming the 45th player to suit up 100 or more times for the Buccaneers.

NOTABLY QUOTABLE

  • Head Coach Bruce Arians on how the Falcons look with Head Coach Arthur Smith and a new coaching staff: "Very similar to Tennessee when he was there. They're going to try to establish the run and bootlegs and all the play-action stuff, and they've got a ton of weapons. We've got to put our big-boy pads on and get ready to stop the run. Defensively, Coach [Dean] Pees has been around forever, and he's got every trick in the book, so we're going to have to be ready for them."
  • Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich on the Bucs' offense going into attack mode in the second half at Atlanta last December and staying in that mode the rest of the way: "When we play that way that's when we're at our best. It came to, well, let's just play that way all the time. Let's just try to play that way all the time and when you get the ball do what you can to try to score with it. But, have that mindset. We were capable of doing it at that time too because by that time we all knew what we were doing. We were capable of executing versus any defense, versus any coverages. We were at that point late in the year, so we just said, 'Hey man, we're going to be in attack mode and we'll just see how it'll work out from there.'"
  • WR Jaydon Mickens on how close he believes the team is to getting into the end zone on a return: "I'm saying the next one. And if we don't, the next one. And if we don't, the next one – every one. The first thing is catching the ball first then we're going to break it, but we are very close. Seeing that and allowing those guys to feel that success with me, they want it more than me. They really want it. If you watch that film and you see those guys stepping back into those guys, coach saying … these guys are going to come down hitting and we've got a rookie talking about, 'Yeah, I'm going to go right back into him.' That right there – when you've got the bottom of your roster have the mentality of the top of your roster, you've got a scary football team you're dealing with."
  • TE Rob Gronkowski on Falcons rookie TE Kyle Pitts: "Yeah, I've seen him, and I've been hearing a lot about him since he was coming out for the draft. He's just an athletic freak – he for sure is. I've seen some highlights of him and he can play. It's just unbelievable – his build, his speed, his size, his route running – the capabilities that he has are just second to none. It's going to be a fun ride to watch him play ball throughout the years."
  • S Antoine Winfield, Jr. on issues in the secondary in the season opener: "A lot it was communication – it was things we can fix, things we've been working on in practice and things like that. I feel like our communication was a little off, but it's something that we are going to work on and improve in."

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