Defense struggles to stop Atlanta on third down in second half
Eduardo Encina, Tampa Bay Times, published 31 December 2018

If the Bucs' season-ending loss to the Falcons could be broken into two halves, one number stood above the rest to explain Atlanta's second-half surge on offense. In the first half, Atlanta was 0-for-5 converting third downs. In the second half, the Falcons were 6-for-8.

"We struggled on third down today," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "We had them in third down too often and left them off the hook. They did a good job of getting us to check to zone coverage today. We probably played a little too much two-deep zone, and Matt Ryan put those receivers (where) they're going to be able to attack that."

On the season, Atlanta ranks sixth in the league in third-down conversion percentage (45.26 percent), so its first-half struggles were uncharacteristic.

The Bucs defense allowed the most critical third-down conversion on the final drive of the game, allowing Ryan to connect with Julio Jones for a 16-yard gain on third-and-11. The play put the Falcons in range for Matt Bryant to make his winning 37-yard field goal as time expired. "They were right on the verge (of being in field-goal range), and then they hit that big third-down pass," Koetter said. "We could have maybe had one last shot there."