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Falcons Nip Bucs to Take Over First Place in the South

Despite the Bucs' best defensive efforts in the red zone, Atlanta moved ahead of the Buccaneers in the division standings with a 16-13 win on Sunday that ended in Younghoe Koo's 51-yard walkoff field goal


In a low-scoring game largely defined by scoring chances lost to turnovers, the Atlanta Falcons delivered on their final opportunity, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 16-13, on Younghoe Koo's 51-yard field goal as time expired at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. With the loss, the Bucs fell to 3-3 and ceded first place in the NFC South to the 4-3 Falcons.

The Buccaneers had tied the game with 45 seconds left on Chase McLaughlin's 33-yard field goal, which was set up by Baker Mayfield's 31-yard scramble. However, Desmond Ridder hit Kyle Pitts for a 39-yard gain moments later to put Koo in position for the game-winner.

"I think we could have done some things in the passing game," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "We could have stopped them [in] 'two-minute' defensively. We could have done some things on special teams. But we've got to be able to score points. We're going to have to be able to run the ball. We're going to have to be able to throw it and execute in the red zone all the way around."

Tampa Bay suffered its second straight home loss and its third in four games on its home turf this season. After scoring just six points in a Week Six loss to Detroit, the Buccaneers' offense managed just one touchdown against Atlanta and didn't find the end zone again after Baker Mayfield's 40-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans in the first quarter. The Bucs had a chance to tie the game or take the lead late in the fourth quarter before Atlanta S Richie Grant intercepted a pass at the Falcons' 15-yard line. Then, after a defensive three-and-out, the Bucs drove down to the Falcons eight-yard line but had to settle for the field goal after two incompletions and a sack.

"We've just got to find a way down there with a couple plays, before we had to kick the field goal, to get the ball in the end zone," said Mayfield. "We're really close. [The Falcons] played well when they needed to do – our hats are off to them."

The Buccaneers stayed in the game thanks to their continued ability to hold strong on defense in the red zone. Tampa Bay came into the league with a league-best 23.1% touchdown rate in red zone defense and only allowed one of Atlanta's five drives inside the 20 to result in a touchdown. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. single-handedly turned two near touchdowns into a total of just three points, tipping away a third-down pass to WR Drake London in the end zone in the second quarter and forcing a fumble at the goal line by Ridder in the fourth quarter. Ridder, who scored on a two-yard run in the first quarter, appeared to be on his way into the end zone again on a 12-yard keeper but Winfield hustled all the way across the field to punch the ball out just before it got to the goal line.

"Just as a defense, and as a coaching staff, they're doing a great job of bringing plays in, and I think we're executing it," said LB Devin White. "Red zone, we've got to carry it over to the rest of the field and not let anybody drive on us. If they don't get points that does help us, but we've still got to be better so we can win this game.

The Falcons also failed to score on a first-and-goal in the third quarter. After a long replay break to determine if London had touched the ground out of bounds before fumbling at the goal line, the Falcons had first-and-goal at the one but lost the ball on a dropped snap by Ridder, with Yaya Diaby recovering for Tampa Bay. Another Atlanta drive that reached the Bucs' 11-yard line in the second quarter ended on a strip-sack by OLB Shaquil Barrett, with CB Jamel Dean recovering.

Atlanta finished with 401 yards of offense and extended the Buccaneers' defensive troubles on third down, converting on seven of 13 tries. After gaining just 43 rushing yards in the first half, the Falcons appeared to wear down the Bucs' defense in the second half, finishign with 156 yards on the ground, with Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson combining for 115 yards on 31 carries.

"It was good in the first half," said Bowles of the Bucs' run defense. "I don't think it was very good in the second half. I thought some people tried to make some plays and mis-fit some things."

Mayfield completed 27 of 42 passes for 275 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked a season-high three times. He completed six passes each to Evans, Chris Godwin and Rachaad White. White finished with 99 yards from scrimmage while Evans and Godwin had 82 and 66 receiving yards, respectively. Tampa Bay's offense was held to 329 total yards.

Each team was penalized nine times in the game, and the Buccaneers drew a number of pre-snap flags that put them in bad down-and-distance situations.

"It was little things," said Mayfield of the Bucs' second straight low-scoring output. "Too many penalties on offense, hurt ourselves. Not getting points in the red zone – a turnover in the red zone. That one's on me. It just giving up points and hurting ourselves with all the penalties today."

In addition to his 82 yards, Evans drew three defensive penalties on CB A.J. Terrell, who was used to shadow him throughout the game. Six of the Bucs' 21 first downs were gained by Falcon penalties.

"We had more penalties than the law allowed, offensively," said Bowles. "All three phases had a hand in it. We've got to be held accountable on all accounts."

The Bucs were aggressive to start the game, going for it on fourth-and-five near midfield in the first quarter but failing to convert. That gave Atlanta a short field for its one touchdown drive of the game, but the Bucs quickly tied it up on Evans' catch, the team's first touchdown in the first quarter this season.

The two teams played to a 10-10 tie at halftime. The Bucs had a slight edge in yardage (183 to 179) and first downs (12 to 11) and both teams converted three of six third-down tries. The Falcons threatened to take a lead into halftime after gaining a first-and-goal at the 10 with 30 seconds to play before Barrett's strip-sack. That was the only turnover by either team in the first half.

The Buccaneers have a quick turnaround before their next game. They had to Buffalo on Wednesday and will play the Bills on Thursday night. Buffalo lost to the New England Patriots on Sunday, 29-25, to fall to 4-3.

"We can't let one loss turn into two," said Bowles. "We've got a game in a couple days. We've got to get ready for that. Understanding the mistakes we've got, we've got to refocus and it's going to take everybody from a mental approach. We'll be mentally tough, and as bad as this one was, we can't let it affect the next one."

The Bucs got the ball first and started at their own 25, getting their initial first down of the game on a quick slant to Evans that gained nine yards. A pass tipped by DL Grady Jarrett then forced the Bucs into a long third down but a swing pass to White kept the drive going thanks to a series of impressive cuts that turned it into an 11-yard gain. A defensive holding call on Terrell against Evans created another first down just across midfield but the Bucs again faced a third down at the Falcons' 42, needing six yards. Mayfield was then pressured into a desperate sidearm throw and the Bucs initially brought out the punting unit before sending the offense back out. Mayfield side-stepped a blitzer off the edge and scrambled right but never found an open man and threw incomplete.

That allowed Atlanta to start with excellent field position on its first possession and it took one play to get the ball into Bucs territory. WR KhaDarel Hodge ran a deep in-breaking route and Ridder hit him when he popped open for a gain of 19. The Falcons got two more first downs on passes to TE Jonnu Smith, the second of which took the ball down to the six-yard line. LB Lavonte David flipped Smith on a quick slant to keep him out of the end zone on second-and-goal but Ridder ran left on a designed keeper on third down and was able to dive across the line for the game's first score.

Deven Thompkins gave the Bucs a boost to start their second possession, returning the kickoff 31 yards to the Bucs' 33. Evans then drew another defensive holding call by Terrell, which was followed in short order by an incompletion on which the officials threw and then picked up a flag for pass interference. TE Cade Otton took a short pass in the right flat and turned it upfield for a gain of 11, and RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn dashed into a seam up the middle for nine yards. A second-and-one became second-and-six on Matt Feiler's false start, and Otton got those yards back on a reaching catch. Mayfield powered up the middle on a sneak that gained enough to make it first down at the Falcons' 40. Two plays later, Evans got behind the defense and Mayfield hit him in stride inside the 10-yard line. Evans easily trotted into the end zone for the game-tying score.

Pitts made a stunning one-handed behind-the-back catch on the second play of Atlanta's second drive to make it third-and-four, but when Ridder tried to go back to Pitts again on the next play David nearly made a diving interception. The resulting punt put the Bucs' offense back on the field at its own 34.

A checkdown to White and a false start essentially canceled each other out to start the drive, but a holding call on C Robert Hainsey made it second-and-19. A short pass to WR Trey Palmer only got four and was followed by another false start. Mayfield was forced to throw underneath on third-and-19 and the quarter came to an end on a three-yard catch by Evans.

The next period began with a punt that put Atlanta back at its own 33. Ridder immediately went up top to former Buccaneer Scotty Miller, who hauled in a 45-yard pass on a post and was brought down by Carlton Davis at the Bucs' 21. Three plays later, on third-and-one, and a straight handoff up the middle to Allgeier got enough for a first-and-goal at the eight. S Christian Izien stopped Patterson at the five on a cutback to make it third-and-goal and Winfield kept the Falcons out of the end zone with a last-second breakup of pass almost caught by London. Koo gave the visitors a 10-7 lead with a 24-yard field goal with 12 minutes left in the first half.

A White run gained nothing to start the next drive but Godwin's catch on a crossing route made it third-and-four at the Bucs' 24. Mayfield hung in a shrinking pocket fo ra long time on third down and found Godwin again for a first down at the 37. Mayfield then took another downfield shot but rookie WR Rakim Jarrett attracted three defenders and the ball was out of his reach. After another hurried incompletion, the Bucs were bailed out on third down by a holding call on CB Jeff Okudah, drawn by Godwin. Vaughn was open on a flare pass on first down from the Bucs' 42 but couldn't haul in the pass. Mayfield then went back to Evans on an in-breaking route and got it to him for 16 yards to the Falcons' 42. A nice catch on a quick out to the right sideline got Thompkins got nine yards and a first down two plays later. On the next snap, Mayfield niftily avoided a sack by DL Zach Harrison and got the ball to a wide-open White on the right sideline. White took it down to the six, but Mayfield couldn't get away from pressure on the next snap and had to fall on his own fumble back at the 11. A shot to Evans in the end zone was broken up and Mayfield had to check down to White on third-and-goal. White got the ball back to the six and K Chase McLaughlin tied the game with a 24-yard field goal.

A Ridder scramble got the Falcons a first down to start the next drive as the half's clock ticked below five minutes. Ridder then found an open London, who stepped out of bounds at the midfield stripe. Patterson stopped on a run right and dashed all the way back to the left but Dean came up to limit him to a gain of two. Unfortunately, Izien was flagged for pass interference on the next snap, making it first down at the Bucs' 38. Two power runs up the middle put the ball at the 30 and brought on the two-minute warning. On third-and-two, Allgeier found a seam and rumbled all the way down to the five, but the play was mostly erased by a holding call. Now facing third-and-seven, the Falcons still got a first down on a quick slant to London down to the 23. Patterson ran another cutback and bashed his way down to the 10. Two plays later, OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka blew up a screen to FB Keith Smith, making it third-and-goal from the 11. That's when the Bucs' defense came up with the game's first takeaway. Barrett and Kancey collapsed on Ridder, knocking the ball loose, with Dean recovering. The Bucs kneeled to kill the clock and take it to halftime.

The Falcons got the ball at their own 30 to start the second half but went backward on the first snap as David upended Allgeier for a loss of four on a sweep to the left. On third-and-eight, Ridder tried to hit WR Van Jefferson over the middle but it was well-covered and incomplete. A holding penalty on the ensuing punt moved the ball the way back to the Bucs' 10.

The Bucs faced a third-and-five almost immediately but Mayfield was able to get off a pass in a collapsing pocket to Godwin, who fought for just enough yardage to move the sticks. Evans drew another penalty on Terrell, this time for hands to the face. On the next play, it was WR Trey Palmer who drew the flag for holding, erasing most of a shifty 17-yard run by White, and then the next play got worse. After going in motion and taking a little flip from Mayfield, Thompkins tried to fight for extra yardage and had the ball punched out of his arm by LB Nate Landman, with DL LaCale London recovering for Atlanta at the Bucs' 29.

Allgeier converted a third-and-two at the 19 with a tough run up the middle, then a strong open-field tackle by Izien on Allgeier two plays later made it third-and-eight. Ridder hit London near the right sideline and he tried to get to the goal line by leaping over Winfield, but he lost control of the ball as he came down. The play was ruled down at the one but Bowles threw his challenge flag to see if it was actually a fumble. The ruling was upheld on the basis that the fingertips on London's other hand made contact with the ground out of bounds before he lost possession. However, the Bucs still took possession on the next snap when Ridder fumbled the snap and Diaby fell on the loose ball at the three-yard line.

A White run up the gut got the ball to the four and Evans made an incredible catch while falling to the ground to make it third-and-one. The Bucs tried to get it on a handoff to White but were stopped short and had to punt. Jake Camarda's 52-yard kick rolled out of bounds at the Atlanta 37.

Barrett nearly sacked Ridder again on first down, forcing a throw-away, but Ridder made up for it by scrambling up the middle and getting 19 yards. Two Allgeier runs got another first down at the Bucs' 32, so the Falcons fed him again for four more, followed by a short catch by Jefferson to make it third-and-one. The Bucs' defense held on Allgeier's next carry and the Falcons sent Koo out to hit a 41-yard field goal with two minutes left in the third quarter.

White got the ball on the first two plays of the next drive ,the second one a 20-yard flare pass to the Bucs' 49. After the Falcons stopped Vaughn four yards deep in the backfield on a sweep right, the Bucs got an automatic first down on a defensive holding penalty. The next flag was on Bucs G Cody Mauch for holding, making it first-and-20 at the Bucs' 40. Two plays shortened it to third-and-10 but Mayfield couldn't find an open man on the next snap and was eventually sacked back at the 46. Camarda rolled his punt to a stop at the Atlanta seven at the 12:37 mark in the fourth quarter.

A quick pass down the line to London was good for just two, but when Ridder scrambled out to the right on second down, Devin White came up to meet him, which allowed the quarterback to flip the ball over his head to Allgeier for a gain of 46. An 18-yard Patterson run made it first-and-10 at the Bucs' 27, but the defense then forced a third-and-two. Allgeier stretched the ball past the line on his third-down run to get a first down and then got nine more up the middle on the next snap. A Ridder keeper on third-and-one made it first-and-goal at the seven as the clock ticked under seven minutes left. A delay-of-game penalty on Atlanta pushed it back to the 12 and stopped the clock at 6:35, but Ridder ran another keeper out to the left pylon for an apparent touchdown. However, a hustling Winfield managed to knock the ball out of Ridder's hand just before he crossed the goal line and the ball went into the end zone for a touchback.

That put the ball back in the Bucs' hands at their own 20 and Mayfield got the drive started with a 12-yard strike down the hashmarks to Otton. Otton caught another pass two plays later to make it third-and-three at the 39. Mayfield hit Godwin on a patented out to the sideline that was good enough for a first down but got much more when the defender slipped, as he raced all the way down to the Atlanta 28. The Bucs were unable to turn it into points, however, as a Mayfield pass intended for Otton was intercepted by Grant, who ran out of bounds at the Bucs' 15 with 3:41 left in the game.

Tampa Bay's defense got the needed three-and-out, with Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Zyon McCollum stopping Patterson one yard short on a third-and-five sweep. The resulting punt rolled out of bounds at the Bucs' 33, and three palys later, on third-and-nine, Mayfield scrambled up the middle, eluded one tackler and broke into the clear for a 31-yard run down to the Falcons' 35. An out to Otton got another first down at the 23 and a pass interference call on CB Dee Alford, drawn by Palmer, made it first-and-goal at the eight. Two incompletions and a sack forced the Bucs to settle for McLaughlin's 36-yard field goal attempt, which he sent straight down the middle to tie the game with 45 seconds left.

After a touchback, Ridder threw on the run to Pitts but the tight end couldn't quite snatch a low throw off the turf. However, Ridder got it to Pitts deep down the left side on the next play and he ran all the way down to the Bucs' 36-yard line. Two running plays added three more yards to make Koo's attempt a 51-yarder, and he drilled as time expired.

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