The Atlanta Falcons won the toss to start the game and elected to defer. The Bucs offense was up first but went three-and-out to turn the ball back over to the Falcons right away. The Tampa Bay defense would answer and after an offensive holding penalty at midfield, the Falcons wouldn’t recover and were forced to give it right back.
The next possession by the Bucs got started with a couple nice runs from running back Peyton Barber before quarterback Jameis Winston hit wide receiver Mike Evans over the middle for a 19-yard gain. With the catch, Evans broke the franchise record for most receiving yards in a single season set by Mark Carrier in 1989.
The Bucs continued their drive down the field that was then punctuated by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Evans to put the Bucs up 7-0 with 3:48 left in the first quarter.
The Falcons got nowhere on their next possession after a big third-down stop by linebacker Lavonte David. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed the pass to wide receiver Julio Jones when David came down with a big hit to stop Jones short of the line of gain, forcing the Falcons punt.
The teams ended up trading punts as the Bucs were stopped just before midfield on their next drive. The Bucs defense answered right away with a three-and-out, giving the ball right back to the Tampa Bay offense.
The Bucs drove down the field and inside the red zone on their ensuing possession. Kicker Cairo Santos managed to tack onto the Bucs’ lead with a 36-yard field goal to make the score 10-0 with 8:25 remaining in the first half.
The Falcons were stalled on their next drive behind a sack from defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul followed by a holding penalty that brought up third-and-24. The Bucs started the next drive on their own 12-yard line. However, Atlanta was immediately hit with a holding penalty to give the Bucs a first down. It’d be the only one they got on the drive after stalling near their own 20-yard line and would punt the ball right back with nearly three minutes left in the half.
Atlanta wouldn’t be able to come up with anything on their next possession, either. It was an exciting ensuing drive for the Bucs, though. Tampa Bay moved down the field thanks to a 25-yard grab by wide receiver Chris Godwin. On the following play, Winston threw a beautiful ball to the back corner of the end zone, which Godwin came down with for a 30-yard touchdown that put the Bucs up 17-0 with under a minute left before halftime.
The Falcons wouldn’t go into halftime empty-handed though as they quickly got down the field and Ryan connected with Jones for a 19-yard touchdown to make the score 17-7 with 20 seconds left in the half. The Bucs wouldn’t be able to make anything happen before the half, leaving the score 17-7.
Atlanta drove down the field as they got the ball back to start the second half. On third-down and six at the five-yard line, quarterback Matt Ryan handed the ball off to wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who in turn, handed it to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who then threw the ball to Matt Ryan for a wide open touchdown. It closed the gap to 17-14 with 8:49 left in the third quarter.
The Buccaneers answered with a drive of their own. Kicker Cairo Santos would tack on an extra three with a 45-yard field goal to put the Bucs up 20-14 at 6:39 in the third quarter.
Atlanta would fight their way down the field on the next drive but would be forced to settle for a field goal by the Bucs’ defense and a couple penalties. Kicker Matt Bryant hit 49-yarder to put the Falcons back within three points, making the score 20-17 with less than two minutes left in the third quarter.
The Bucs’ next drive was stalled when a pass from Winston to Evans was deflected and picked off by Atlanta safety Damontae Kazee. The Falcons capitalized on a Tevin Coleman 23-yard touchdown run to take their first lead of the day, 24-20, with 44 seconds left in the third.
Tampa Bay would be forced to punt on their next possession. The Falcons took advantage of the stop and scored on their next drive. Ryan hit rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley for the seven-yard touchdown that extended the Falcons’ lead to 31-20 with 10:51 remaining in the game.
The Bucs would answer this time on a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Evans for his second of the day. Tampa Bay went for two but couldn’t convert, leaving the score 31-26 with 8:09 left in the fourth quarter.
The next drive saw some more excitement for the Buccaneers as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul got pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan, who upon scrambling, fired the ball into the waiting arms of Tampa Bay safety Andrew Adams. Two plays later, wide receiver Chris Godwin was in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown, his second of the day. The Bucs again went for two but didn’t convert, making the score 32-31 with just over five minutes left in the game.
The Bucs forced third-down and 11 at their own 32-yard line after a penalty knocked the Falcons back. Atlanta converted on a 16-yard pass to Julio Jones to get inside the red zone. The Falcons were able to run the clock down then bring out kicker Matt Bryant, who hit a 37-yard field goal to win the game for Atlanta, 34-32.