Game Recap: Bucs 41, Falcons 28
Playing just six days after a hard-hitting Monday Night Football win over the Miami Dolphins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were neither rusty nor run-down on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. In fact, they were downright entertaining in a 41-28 victory over NFC South-rival Atlanta, mixing big plays on both offense and defense with aggressive play-calling and unexpected heroes.
RB Bobby Rainey, the latest emerging star for an injury-plagued backfield, ran 30 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns, less than a month after he was claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns. Rainey joins Doug Martin and Mike James – both of whom are now on injured reserve – as the only trio of backs in Buccaneer history to each have a 100-yard rushing game in the same season.
Following ground-game performances of 205 yards against Seattle and 140 yards against Miami, the Bucs chewed up 186 yards of turf on Sunday to produce the team’s first two-game winning streak since Weeks 10 and 11 of last season.
Meanwhile, LB Mason Foster keyed a 21-point fourth-quarter barrage with a 37-yard interception return for a score, his second pick-six of the season. Ryan’s arm was hit as he threw on the play, part of the intense pressure the Buccaneers’ defense put on him all day. DT Gerald McCoy racked up three first-half sacks, and Ryan was hit another eight times in the game, four by McCoy. After allowing Ryan to complete 20 of 26 passes and throw three touchdowns in Atlanta in Week Seven, the Bucs held Atlanta’s star passer to 19-of-36 passing and a 70.8 passer rating while picking him off twice.
As for the entertainment value of the game, it was ramped up considerably by the Buccaneers’ take-no-prisoners approach to play-calling. The Bucs successfully pulled off a surprise onside kick and a sneaky direct snap to RB Brian Leonard, and unsuccessfully tried a fake field goal with P Michael Koenen throwing and a direct-snap pass with Rainey throwing. Even the Falcons got into the act with a successful fake punt on a direct snap to RB Jacquizz Rodgers. And though it wasn’t exactly a called play, the Buccaneers also got a relatively rare blocked punt by LB Dekoda Watson in the third quarter, setting up another touchdown.
Head Coach Greg Schiano pointed to those two big plays in the kicking game, as well as Tampa Bay’s 3-0 edge in turnovers, as a key to the final outcome. “Really, you stole four possessions [with those plays],” said Schiano. “And if you can do that, you can win a lot of games.”
Like Rainey, Watson was another surprise contributor to the landslide win. Watson also played extensively as a situational pass-rusher, and it was his hit on Ryan’s arm that led to Foster’s interception. Rookie QB Mike Glennon, on the other hand, is moving out of the surprise category after posting a string of impressive games. In his seventh start of the season, Glennon was more efficient than ever, completing 20 of 23 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 137.5 passer rating.
His first touchdown pass was to Rainey, making the newcomer the first player in Buccaneer history to have two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown in the same game. “I thought Mike handled the game very, very well,” said Schiano. “He waited for the chance to make the plays that were game-winning plays, and he let the bad plays die. That’s really hard to do, to let the bad plays die.”
Glennon was sacked twice in the fourth quarter as he held onto the football while the Bucs were protecting a big lead, but otherwise he was rarely touched as Tampa Bay’s offensive line had a third outstanding performance in a row. “In all phases of the game, we really came out and played well,” said Glennon. “The defense came up big with some turnovers, special teams had the onside kick and the blocked punt, and then the offense. When we open up the running game like that…the offensive line deserves a lot of credit. I didn’t get hit but a couple times and that was just because I was protecting the ball and not wanting to force anything. All around it was a great team effort. I’m proud of the way everyone played.”
Glennon’s second TD pass went to WR Vincent Jackson, who had his second big day of the season against Atlanta with 10 catches for 165 yards and a score. Jackson used his size to beat single coverage on long bombs of 47 and 53 yards and on his three-yard, third-down scoring catch in the third quarter. Tampa Bay’s offense had one play of more than 40 yards in the first 10 games and three on Sunday against the Falcons. They had two on one drive alone, as Rainey’s breakaway run followed Jackson’s 47-yard, one-handed catch.
All of that added up to the Buccaneers top offensive performance of the year - 410 yards and 41 points, and their highest point total since a 42-32 win over Oakland on November 4 of last season. The win improved the Buccaneers to 2-8 on the season and dropped Atlanta to the same record.
Tampa Bay’s offense got off to a fine start on a play-action slant to Jackson for 14 yards, and Leonard’s first carry got six up the gut. After a sweep failed to gain a yard, Glennon dropped back on third-and-four but was forced to scramble and had to throw it away after finding no one open. Michael Koenen’s 54-yard punt was fair caught at the Atlanta 13.
The Falcons got off to a good start, too, but they were able to maintain it into Buccaneer territory. Jackson started the game with two hard-charging runs of 15 and seven yards and Ryan’s first pass was a dart down the middle of the field to Gonzalez for a gain of 18. The drive gained a first down at the Bucs’ 35 before McCoy decided to turn it away. He swarmed over Ryan for a four-yard sack on first down, and on the next play beat his man off the line and got to the quarterback in an instant for a loss of 10. Those two plays forced a punt from the 39 that Eric Page fair caught at the Bucs’ 15.
Rainey ripped off runs of 10 and 11 yards to help the Bucs get the ball over midfield, but the offense faced a third-and-five at Atlanta’s 38. Leonard ran a shallow route to the left sideline, caught Glennon’s short pass and was able to extend the ball past the sticks as he was tackled at the 32. The next third down came at Atlanta’s 25, and the Bucs got the necessary three yards (plus a few more) on a direct-snap sweep to the right by Leonard. The drive stalled at the 12, however, and the Bucs settled for Rian Lindell’s 30-yard field goal.
Jackson got the ball out to Atlanta’s 41 on the ensuing drive when he escaped on a screen play that was nearly trapped in the backfield and got 12 yards. His three-yard run on the next play brought the first quarter to an end. A short pass to Gonzalez on the first play of the next period got worse for the Buccaneers when DE Adrian Clayborn was flagged for a late hit on Ryan. That moved the ball to the Bucs’ 35 before the Bucs forced a third-and-eight at the 21. McCoy brought that drive to an end, too, with his third sack of the game. K Matt Bryant banged a 46-yard field goal to tie the game.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Glennon went deep down the right sideline to Jackson, who fought off coverage from CB Asante Samuel and made a dazzling one-handed catch while backpedaling for a 47-yard gain to the Atlanta 34. Two plays later, a long screen pass to Rainey was called back on a holding call on G Ted Larsen, who had just entered the game to replace an injured Jamon Meredith.
The Bucs got the ball right back on a surprise onside kick, with Koenen hitting a high pop-up on the left sideline and WR Russell Shepard leaping high to catch it 12 yards past the kicking spot. Glennon immediately dropped deep and looked down the middle to Jackson, who made a sliding 17-yard catch. Two plays later, however, Jackson was called for pass interference on another deep throw towards the end zone. The Bucs faced a fourth-and-nine at Atlanta’s 34 and lined up for a field goal before motioning into a trick play. Koenen took the snap and rolled right, then threw a designed pass all the way back across the field to Leonard. However, CB Robert McClain was the one Atlanta defender to stay alert on the back side of the field and he was able to break up the pass.
Though the Bucs didn’t score on that borrowed possession, they did find the end zone moments later. On Atlanta’s very next play, Watson blitzed around behind Ryan and hit the quarterback’s arm as he threw, causing an errant pass. Foster intercepted it at Atlanta’s 37 and followed several good blocks before cutting back to the middle of the field and finding a path to the end zone.
Atlanta’s next drive was also short-lived as the Bucs’ defense came up with another turnover. After a 16-yard catch by White, S Dashon Goldson forced a fumble that S Mark Barron recovered at the Buccaneers’ 47. Rainey immediately broke off runs of nine and six yards, followed by an absolute dart of a 20-yard pass by Glennon to WR Tiquan Underwood at the three-yard line. Rainey ran it up the middle for the score on the next play.
Atlanta’s next drive reached Buccaneer territory thanks to a flurry of flags, including a personal foul on Goldson and a pass interference on CB Johnthan Banks. Two plays later, Banks broke up a slant intended for Gonzalez and on the next snap CB Leonard Johnson knocked down another Ryan throw. The pass-rush chased Johnson to the sideline on third-and-10 and he was able to get off just a short completion to RB Antone Smith. With one minute left in the half, the Falcons settled for Bryant’s second field goal, a 49-yarder to make it 24-6.
The Bucs decided to try to get something out of the last minute of the half and two Jackson catches moved the chains. An illegal-contact flag on LB Sean Weatherspoon produced another first down but the ball was still just at Tampa Bay’s 41 with 22 seconds left in the half. Glennon then found TE Tim Wright for 13 yards and used its last timeout with 16 seconds left in the half. Glennon had to scramble on the next play and got four yards before running out of bounds with 10 seconds left. A swing pass to Leonard took the ball to the 37 with four seconds left, giving Lindell a chance to try a 55-yard field goal. It came up a little short and wide to the right, however, keeping Tampa Bay’s lead at 24-6 heading into the break.
Atlanta got the ball first to start the second half – after a Koenen touchback, of course – and tried to go over the top to White on the first snap, but it was incomplete. On third-and-10, LB Lavonte David forced a wobbly throw with a hit on Ryan but CB Michael Adams was flagged for pass interference at the Atlanta 42. The Bucs nearly sacked Ryan and got off the field three plays later on an incompletion, but the Falcons executed a fake punt on a direct snap to Rodgers, who got 14 yards to the Bucs’ 42. The Falcons faced another fourth down moments later, at the 33, and went for it in more conventional fashion. The Bucs covered Ryan’s first look and Goldson hurried up to knock the ball out of White’s hands on a dump-off over the middle.
The Bucs followed with another quick-hitting scoring drive, much of it picked up on a 53-yard Glennon bomb to Jackson down to the four-yard line. On the next snap, Rainey snuck out of the backfield and was wide open for Glennon’s four-yard TD pass.
The Falcons got one first down on the next drive due to penalty but had to punt minutes later. Or they tried to punt, at least. Watson made an acrobatic sidewise dive to get a hand on the football as it left the foot of P Matt Bosher, and LB Jonathan Casillas tackled Bosher at the 20 after his recovery.
The Bucs ran Rainey four times from there, needing and getting a single yard on fourth down. A short pass and another tough Rainey run took the ball down to the three and Glennon lobbed a perfect fade pass to Jackson, who boxed out CB Desmond Trufant to catch it in the back left corner of the end zone.
The Falcons were able to match that score quickly, as Douglas broke free for an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Douglas caught the ball on a post in front of Banks, then broke out of Banks’ grasp and shot past Barron, who came up on the other side of the play. Atlanta’s defense then followed with a three-and-out to get the ball back to Ryan with 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Ryan didn’t have it for long. His next pass, intended for Douglas deep down the middle, was intercepted by Goldson at the Bucs’ 45. More hard running up the middle by Rainey and two quick passes to Jackson got the ball down to Atlanta’s 21 but the Bucs stalled there and had to settle for Lindell’s 47-yard field goal.