Editor's note: Archer's Take is a weekly series in which Falcons analyst Dave Archer provides insight and analysis of each Falcons game.
Chris Godwin challenged the middle of the Falcons zone coverage, and won
It was three plays really that were effective against Atlanta and they were down the pipe plays. The Falcons were playing some 2-high coverage against a good receiving corps, but it was mainly Mike Evans and Chris Godwin who were effective. Give Tampa Bay credit, because they got Godwin inside in the slot, which is where he's begun to really blossom.
On the long touchdown to Godwin, they got him down the pipe and they had him isolated on the linebacker Deion Jones. Jones had great coverage on Godwin, but Kazee can't miss that tackle. You've got coverage and it's tight coverage – a great throw from Winston, who is one of the better deep ball passers in the league. Once Godwin caught the ball, the tackle has to be made. Make it a 40-yard play instead of a 71-yard touchdown.
On two of Godwin's other big plays, the Falcons weren't playing their technique properly. Once it was Blidi Wreh-Wilson and the second play was on Kendall Sheffield. They were playing too shallow. They've got to lose ground with the vertical because the safeties have to get as much depth as they can to see the perimeter for the two deep routes on the outside as well as one down the pipe. That really can hurt a team. They have to lose ground with those verticals and make Winston throw the ball underneath and then rally up and tackle – that is what zone coverage is about.
Tampa was able to stop the run and generate pressure without having to load the box
When you can generate pressure by only rushing four guys, then you have something. The Falcons were able to do that the past two weeks, but the Buccaneers did that this weekend. Part of the problem was also the Falcons not being able to run the ball against Tampa's two safety looks. The Falcons have to be able to run the football against the umbrella because essentially you have four defenders moved out from the interior run defense.
Tampa Bay did a really good job early in the game with pressure-looks from their linebackers. Devin White had two sacks and they did a good job of bringing Lavonte David in a few times as well. Shaquil Barrett was the guy the Falcons knew they had to block, but they didn't do a really good job on him. Once a team gets home a few times, you kind of start to sense some blood in the water a little bit. Atlanta couldn't run it and Tampa knew the pass was coming so it all feeds to one another.
I thought the Buccaneers' backend played really well and were willing to play man coverage on third down and some of the conversion situations. Let's give credit where credit is due, it was contested catch after contested catch all day long. The Falcons made some good grabs, but they also didn't make grabs because of how physical Tampa Bay's secondary was. This is a young secondary, three rookies and two second year guys – and they played their rear ends off.
Atlanta's receivers needed to find a way to create more separation
I thought that the Falcons receivers struggled against Tampa Bay by not getting separation at the top of the route. When a player is in a pass route, the offensive player knows where he is going and the defensive player doesn't. With that being said, the receiver has to find a way to create that separation. I thought that Russell Gage did a really nice job and caught a few contested catches and made a few really nice grabs and Calvin Ridley was good as always.
But Julio Jones being injured was a big deal because he simply affects coverage. Every team will always dedicate a couple guys to Jones – have run one with him in man-coverage with a safety shadowing him. He drew double coverage a lot, but when he is off the field then it becomes a different story. Ridley, Gage, Justin Hardy and Christian Blake had great effort throughout the day, but their technique needs to improve in order to win certain situations.
Falcons unable to generate pass rush; Jameis Winston takes advantage
Give Tampa Bay credit, they shut down the Falcons pass rush after two straight weeks of getting home to the quarterback. Jameis Winston was controlled in the pocket, he floated the ball up in the air for his receivers and he scrambled when he needed too. Winston was much better than I've seen him recently.
He has generally played well against Atlanta, having seven career games prior to Sunday. Winston threw 20 touchdowns and five interceptions and averaged about 290 yards per game. He's had success against this team and I think when you have that coming into the game, you anticipate playing well. The Falcons tried to get him out of his game early. Desmond Trufant made a great play on the throw to Evans and then they got the tip ball pick from De’Vondre Campbell. Winston made some poor decisions, which he does. But he is also a good deep-ball thrower and if you give him some opportunities, he'll shove it down the field on you.
Trufant knew what Mike Evans was running because he recognized what was developing
Trufant is such a good pattern reader, which means he understands what a route is supposed to look like, and not just the in route. He knew Evans was going in because he knew what the other routes look like by reading them through zone coverage. He back peddles out, turns his hips to the sideline, he's looking at the quarterback and watching the route develop. Tru does a tremendous amount of film study, nobody studies film as much as he does, maybe Ricardo Allen. Tru knew that it was an in route to Evans and he ran the route better than Evans did to pick the ball off. It's a veteran play, a classic play and he's playing at a really high level with back-to-back weeks with interceptions – he's doing a really good job.
Jaeden Graham steps up in Austin Hooper's absence
Jaeden Graham is tight left in the slot and he releases up the field uncontestably – nobody jammed him. Tampa Bay was playing two-high and weren't settled into what kind of looks the Falcons were going to give him. Nobody even touched Graham through the pipe.
Austin Hooper is an unbelievable tight end, but Graham is a good player and he's watched Hooper. He runs really well and he just maybe the fastest tight end the Falcons have, which surprised the Buccaneers from the start. Ryan made a great read, got the ball out on time and Tampa Bay was lucky the play didn't result in a touchdown.
Get an inside look at Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers with top photos from the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium