Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Rapid Reaction: Bucs 44, Falcons 27

The Buccaneers locked up the fifth playoff seed with a convincing win over the Atlanta Falcons at home, ending their season on a four-game win streak.


The Buccaneers won the toss and elected to receive for the second week in a row. Quarterback Tom Brady's first pass was to wide receiver Mike Evans, who needed just 40 more yards to eclipse 1,000 on the season. He picked up 12 on the first play, fittingly. The Bucs then drove down the field and the drive ended in a 29-yard touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Chris Godwin. The 68-yard drive gave the Bucs an early 7-0 lead with 11:06 left in the first quarter.

The Falcons would get as far as the Bucs' three-yard line but a second-down fumble and third-down incompletion on the series would force them to settle for a field goal attempt. Kicker Younghoe Koo was good from 23 yards to make the score 7-3 with 3:33 left in the first.

Tampa Bay would again drive down the field and with two big catches, Mike Evans hit the 1,000-yard mark on a 20-yard pass from Brady. It made him the first player in NFL history to stat his career with seven-straight 1,000-yard seasons. Brady tried going to Evans again in the end zone for the touchdown but it fell incomplete as Evans fell in the end zone. He'd exit the game there, limping with the help of a trainer to the locker room. Despite being at the 11-yard line, the Buccaneers would also settle for a field goal, increasing their lead to 10-3 with three seconds to go in the first quarter.

It was a quick three-and-out for the Falcons as the Buccaneers' defense brought the pressure. They got the ball back to the offense immediately and after a Falcons personal foul penalty on the return, the Bucs would start with good field position at their own 43 with 14:44 on the clock.

The next Tampa Bay drive would see another spectacular touchdown throw from Brady, who rolled out on third-down and 10 to hit wide receiver Antonio Brown in the end zone for the 25-yard score. It put the Bucs up 17-3 in the second quarter.

The Falcons got the ball back with 12:30 left in the half but wouldn't hang onto it for long. Four plays into the drive and Ryan fumbled the handoff, this time, it was recovered by safety Antoine Winfield Jr. for the first fumble recovery of his career. He picked it up and took it to the house, thinking he also got the first defensive touchdown of his career but it was called back upon review. It still resulted in a change of possession and the Bucs took over.

Tampa Bay would get three on their bonus possession, extending their lead to 20-3 while winding the clock down to almost the two-minute warning in the process.

Before the half, the Falcons would answer with a touchdown as Ryan quarterback-snuck his way into the end zone from the half-yard line with 1:56 left before halftime. It cut the Falcons' deficit to two scores, 20-10.

Knowing they needed some points, the Bucs again marched down the field but would be held to another field goal despite getting inside the Atlanta 10. Tampa Bay went into the half up 23-10.

The Falcons opened the second half with a statement. They took an 11-play, 75-yard trip down the field to the end zone when Ryan connected with Russell Gage on third and 17 for the touchdown. It cut the Bucs' lead in a big way as they got the ball to start the second half up 23-17.

The next drive looked promising for the Bucs until a fluke play resulted in a change of possession. Brady his wide receiver Scotty Miller, who was called for OPI, and as he went to the ground, the ball popped up and was caught by safety Ricardo Allen. It was officially ruled an interception and the Falcons would get a bonus shot to make up some ground.

They once again took a ton of time off the clock, putting together a 6:43 drive but the Bucs' defense would come in clutch, holding the Falcons to just a field goal despite Atlanta getting as close as the three-yard line. The Falcons settled for the points and came within three points of the Bucs, 23-20, right before the end of the third quarter.

The Buccaneers moved well down the field on their next drive. Running back Ronald Jones had a couple nice runs and back to back swing passes to Antonio Brown gave the Bucs first and 10 at the Atlanta 27. A defensive pass interference penalty drawn by tight end Rob Gronkowski helped the Bucs further. The drive then culminated in a three-yard touchdown run by Ronald Jones, putting the Bucs up 30-20 with 11:13 to go.

The Falcons answered quickly thanks to a 62-yard run by Brian Hill, who escaped up the sideline and set Atlanta up at the four-yard line. The Bucs defense stopped them three straight times but on fourth down and one, Ryan hit a wide-open Hurst in the back of the end zone for the score. It brought the Falcons again with a field goal, 30-27, with 8:19 left in the game.

The Bucs had a fast answer of their own thanks to a 47-yard completion to Godwin by Brady. It put Godwin over 100 yards on the day, his 11th game surpassing 100 yards. Three plays later it was Godwin again for the touchdown, putting the Buccaneers up 37-27 with 3:48 left in the game.

Atlanta started the drive fast and Ryan quickly connected with Ridley for an 18-yard completion. The next play however, Ryan went to Ridley again but this time, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting ripped the ball out of Ridley's hands and recovered it, giving the ball back to the Bucs offense.

From there, it was a quick 30-yard pass on third-down and two from Brady to Brown, putting the game out of reach of the Falcons, 44-27, with 2:52 left in the game.

The Falcons were forced in fourth and six and the pass went incomplete as it bounced off inside linebacker Kevin Minter, who was in for Devin White. The turnover on downs happened with 2:14 left in the game.

The Bucs ran three plays before the two-minute warning - all to Brown. They came out of the two-minute warning with a fresh set of downs and Atlanta out of timeouts to stop the clock. A couple knees later and the Bucs secured the victory and the fifth seen with a 44-27 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons to end the regular season.