Photos from Buccaneers vs. Falcons at Raymond James Stadium.
Game Ball:** Rookie QB Jameis Winston led a stirring 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to give the Buccaneers a 23-19 win over Atlanta they had to have in order to stay relevant in the NFC playoff hunt. Winston's passion to win was evident on a key second-effort 20-yard scramble on the winning drive that left his teammates stunned (more on that below). He completed the drive with a perfect sideline throw to WR Mike Evans for a five-yard touchdown. Winston completed 18 of 27 passes for 227 yards and his only interception came on a deflected pass. He also scored the game's first points on a five-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, giving him five such scores on the season to tie a team record in that category for quarterbacks.
Play of the Game: This one will be talked about for a long time. Evans referred to it as the "play of the year," and it doesn't feel like hyperbole. Facing third-and-19 at the Atlanta 43 after absorbing his only sack of the game, Winston dropped back to pass but didn't immediately find anyone open. He scrambled forward, then decided to take off running. The run appeared to come to an end at the 33 – from where the Bucs would have presumably tried a 51-yard field goal – as Winston is sandwiched by LBs Paul Worrilow and Brooks Reed. Winston ends up doubled over across Worrilow until LB Justin Durant delivers a hit that the quarterback uses to rise up and spin off the pile. Winston then whirls to his right, cuts inside two other Atlanta defenders and fights his way to the 23, which just happens to be one yard more than he needs for a first down. His game-winning touchdown pass to Evans would come four snaps later.
Turning Point:** Even though the Buccaneers appeared to be in control in the first half, the Falcons seized the momentum just before and after halftime. An interception by Desmond Trufant on a tipped ball had allowed the visitors to kick a go-ahead field goal in the closing seconds of the second quarter, and Matt Ryan led another field goal drive to start the second half. However, the Bucs' ability to hold in the red zone had forced Atlanta to settle for four field goals and a 12-7 lead. That in turn allowed Winston to put his team back on top with an impressive 82-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that hinged on a perfect 29-yard pass to Vincent Jackson on second-and-13. Doug Martin completed the drive with a one-yard touchdown dive over the top. Even though Atlanta would take the lead one more time before the Bucs' final rally, it was this drive in the third quarter that kept the visiting team from taking the game over.
It Was Over When: LB Lavonte David recognized a play the Bucs' defense had been practicing against all week and dropped to the perfect depth in coverage to intercept a pass intended for WR Julio Jones. After the game, David said the good reads made by his defensive teammates allowed him to attack the right zone and essentially "run [Jones'] route for him." The turnover came on the first play from scrimmage after Mike Evans' touchdown catch and ended the Falcons' own comeback attempt before it could even get started. The takeaway was such an emotional moment for David and his teammates that he ran all the way down to the mouth of the tunnel leading to the Buccaneers' locker room before being swarmed by teammates directly in front of the home crowd. Even Head Coach Lovie Smith made the trek all the way into the corner to join in the celebration.