Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Series History: Bucs-Falcons

Recent divisional matchups between Tampa Bay and Atlanta have been high-scoring affairs, as with a 2013 two-game split that produced 124 points...The Bucs lead the series, but only by a single game

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Bucs lead the all-time series with Atlanta, 21-20, but the last three seasons have produced two-game splits
  • Since 2010, Tampa Bay and Atlanta have played mostly high-scoring affairs
  • The Buccaneers last win in the Georgia Dome came in the 2012 season finale

    It has been an unpredictable fortnight in the NFC South so far, but here's something we can predict with at least a reasonable amount of certainty: The next intra-division matchup will likely be a high-scoring affair.

That game is just two days away, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Atlanta for a nationally-televised Thursday night affair.  The Falcons are tied for 11th in points scored so far this season, and while the Buccaneers are not in the same vicinity on that chart, they have a history of cranking up the scoring when they face this particular division rival, especially of late.  Atlanta hasn't exactly been shut out by the Buccaneers in recent years, either.

Consider that, over the last five seasons (including 2014), Tampa Bay has scored an average of 24.3 points when facing the Falcons, and 19.7 in all other games.  If that doesn't sound like a big difference, consider also that the former total would rank ninth in the league over that same span while the latter would rank 27th.  Of course, the Falcons have scored 26.6 points per game against Tampa Bay in those same games, as compared to 24.5 in all other contests.

Case in point: The last meeting between these two squads, last Nov. 17 in Tampa.  The Buccaneers won that one, 41-28, setting a season high for points scored.  Running back Bobby Rainey was the star, rushing for 163 yards and two touchdowns and scoring a third time on a short pass.  The first Buccaneer ever to score twice on the ground and once through the air in the same game, Rainey was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.  Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy wasn't too shabby on defense, either, recording his first career three-sack game, though Atlanta still racked up 420 yards of offense in the shootout.

That win put the Buccaneers back in the lead in the all-time series with Atlanta, which has grown heated on occasion through the years, even before the two teams became division mates in 2002.  The Falcons had tied the series at 20-20 with a 31-23 victory in Week Seven last season in the Georgia Dome.  In the early years, the two teams went back and forth, each winning six times from 1977-93.  Then the streaks began, a trio of two-game runs for Atlanta (1994-95, 2003-04, 2006), interrupted by Buccaneer runs of six, three and three games.  That gave Tampa Bay a comfortable six-game cushion until the Falcons promptly ripped off five in a row from 2008-11.  Lately, it's gone back to a back-and-forth affair, with three consecutive season splits.

Tampa Bay's Week 17 win in Atlanta in 2012 – against a 13-2 Falcons team that did not rest its starters despite having the NFC's first-overall playoff seed locked down – was viewed as a boost for the Buccaneers heading into 2013.  However, the Bucs lost their first eight en route to a 4-12 finish that prompted the hiring of a new coaching staff and a new general manager.  The Falcons also struggled to a 4-12 finish in 2013, thanks in large part to a rash of injuries.

The two teams first met late in 1977, when the Buccaneers were still in the midst of the franchise-opening 26-game losing streak that spanned most of their first two seasons.  Atlanta won, 17-0, but the Buccaneers would get their first victory in New Orleans in two weeks later and close out with two in a row.  Early in 1978, Tampa Bay was clearly turning a corner, and a Week Four meeting at Tampa Stadium produced a 14-9 Bucs victory, just the team's second ever win at home.

McCoy09_16_14_1_a.jpg

DT Gerald McCoy recorded a career-high three sacks the last time the Bucs and Falcons met

The Bucs were 7-2 and on their way to their first playoff berth a year later when the Falcons, who would finish just 6-10, pulled of a 17-14 upset.  Contrastingly, in 1981, the Bucs made the playoffs for a second time by winning four of their last five to finish 9-76, and the closest decision in that string was a 24-23 home win over Atlanta.  The Falcons led by six in the fourth quarter before Doug Williams hit Kevin House for a 71-yard go-ahead touchdown, and the win was sealed when Atlanta kicker Mick Luckhurst missed a 45-yard field goal with four seconds to play.  "We just got beat today by a football team that out-executed us," said Atlanta Head Coach Leeman Bennett after the game.  "I can't say anything but good things about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  They are a fine football team.  They executed when they had to and scored when they had to.  I can't do anything but heap praise on them and their staff."

Five years later, Bennett would be head coach of the Buccaneers, as he replaced the retired John McKay in 1985.  The Bucs won just four of 32 games during Bennett's tenure, and a 23-20 loss to the Falcons in September of 1986 was the first of two straight defeats in overtime, the only time that has happened in franchise history.  Not surprisingly, the Bucs had a new coach, Ray Perkins, in place to start the 1987 season and the very first thing his team did was demolish the Falcons on opening day, 48-10.  QB Steve DeBerg, in his first of two stints with Tampa Bay (he would also later suit up briefly for the Falcons), threw five touchdown passes in that contest, a Buc record that would later be tied (by Brad Johnson and Josh Freeman) but never surpassed.  Coincidentally, Atlanta was also the victim in the Buccaneers' last win under Perkins, late in the 1990 season.  The Bucs won that game, 23-17, on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde to Mark Carrier with 39 seconds left, but it wasn't enough to save Perkins' job as the team used a late bye week to replace him with Richard Williamson.

If there were hurt feelings by those two Buccaneer wins under Perkins, they escalated in the early '90s when both teams brought in colorful head coaches, Jerry Glanville in Atlanta and Sam Wyche in Tampa Bay.  Glanville and Wyche had already crossed paths for years in the old AFC Central, with Glanville piloting the Houston Oilers and Wyche at the helm of the Cincinnati Bengals, and there was apparently no love lost between the two.  Wyche's Bengals running up the score in a 61-7 win over Glanville's Oilers in 1989 may have had something to do with that.  Glanville's Falcons drubbed Williamson's Buccaneers, 43-7, in 1991, and then poured it on again the next year in a 35-7 victory in Tampa.  That was Wyche's first year as head coach in Tampa, and during the offseason he had cut linebacker Jesse Solomon, who took the move personally.  Solomon ended up with the Falcons and Glanville fanned the flames of the rivalry by letting Solomon play on offense late in the blowout, even giving him two handoffs that he turned into 12 yards.

Deion Sanders also played on offense late in that game as another dig at Wyche by Glanville, but when the teams met again the next year, Sanders was prominently featured for a different reason.  The Hall of Fame-bound cornerback was surprisingly beaten for two long touchdowns by Bucs WR Horace Copeland, keying a 31-24 Tampa Bay win.  The Buccaneers' rise in the second half of the 1990s was not matched by a renaissance in Atlanta, which led to Tampa Bay handily winning the last three matchups before the two teams became fellow NFC South denizens in 2002.

Since the South was formed, the Falcons and Bucs have evenly split 24 meetings.  The Bucs swept in 2002, 2005 and 2007, each time helping propel Tampa Bay to division titles.  Atlanta swept in 2006, 2009 and 2010, though only that final year was followed by a Falcons division title.  The Falcons have won eight of the last 11 in the series.

Other than last year's win in Tampa, the best games in the series since the creation of the NFC South, at least from the Buccaneers' perspective, occurred in 2002, 2005 and 2012.  In '02, the Buccaneers were on their way to their first Super Bowl title, but they had a high-profile December matchup with the streaking Falcons and their new star quarterback, Michael Vick.  The Bucs' defense completely stifled Vick in that game, especially on the ground, and won 34-10 to essentially wrap up the division title.  In '05, the Bucs were on the verge of following out of division title contention – and maybe the playoffs altogether – when they went to overtime against the Falcons at Raymond James Stadium in Week 16.  A fumble on the opening kickoff in the extra period set Atlanta up for a chip shot field goal to win it but DE Dewayne White blocked the kick and the Bucs eventually won with their own field goal, 27-24, at the very end of overtime.  Last season, the Buccaneers stumbled into the Georgia Dome in Week 17, having lost five in a row after that 6-4 start, but finished strong with a 22-17 win over the division champs.

Bucs-Falcons Game-by-Game Record:

1977

L, 17-0

Tampa

1978

W, 14-9

Tampa

1979

L, 17-14

Atlanta

1981

W, 24-23

Tampa

1984

W, 23-6

Tampa

1986

L, 23-20 (OT)

Tampa

1987

W, 48-10

Tampa

1988

L, 17-10

Atlanta

1990

W, 23-17

Tampa

1991

L, 43-7

Atlanta

1992

L, 35-7

Tampa

1993

W, 31-24

Atlanta

1994

L, 34-13

Atlanta

1995

L, 24-21

Tampa

1997

W, 31-10

Atlanta

1999

W, 19-10

Tampa

2000

W, 27-14

Atlanta

2002

W, 20-6

Atlanta

2002

W, 34-10

Tampa

2003

W, 31-10

Atlanta

2003

L, 30-28

Tampa

2004

L, 24-14

Atlanta

2004

W, 27-0

Tampa

2005

W, 30-27

Atlanta

2005

W, 27-24 (OT)

Tampa

2006

L, 14-3

Atlanta

2006

L, 17-6

Tampa

2007

W, 31-7

Atlanta

2007

W, 37-3

Tampa

2008

W, 24-9

Tampa

2008

L, 13-10 (OT)

Atlanta

2009

L, 20-17

Atlanta

2009

L, 20-10

Tampa

2010

L, 27-21

Atlanta

2010

L, 28-24

Tampa

2011

W, 16-13

Tampa

2011

L, 45-24

Atlanta

2012

L, 24-23

Tampa

2012

W, 22-17

Atlanta

2013

L, 31-23

Atlanta

2013

W, 41-28

Tampa


Series Notes:

  • Overall Season Series: Buccaneers lead, 21-20
  • Bucs' Home Record: 13-9
  • Bucs' Road Record: 8-11
  • Current Streak: Win 1 (2013)
  • Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 6 (1997-2003)
  • Falcons' Longest Winning Streak: 5 (2008-10)
  • Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 875, Falcons 780
  • Most Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Buccaneers 48-10 (1987)
  • Most Points in a Game, Falcons: Falcons 45-24 (2011)
  • Most Points, both teams: Falcons 45-24 (2011)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Falcons 17-0 (1977)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Falcons: Buccaneers 27-0 (2004)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: Falcons 14-3 (2006)
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