FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons are 3-0 in the NFC South, with their first conference rematch on tap Sunday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town.
The two teams already met in Week 7, when the Falcons walked away with a 16-13 road victory thanks to a game-winning 51-yard field goal by kicker Younghoe Koo.
"We thought we left a lot of meat on the bone when we were down there," Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder said. "We just want to put in that same work, same energy to be able to go out here on Sunday and be able to put on a good performance."
The Falcons were 3-3 when they entered that initial matchup and have since compiled a 6-6 record as Week 14 action nears. The Buccaneers were 3-2 and are now 5-7.
That's not the only stat line that has changed.
Below is a look at how both the Falcons and Buccaneers were performing before, during and after the Week 7 game. Averages were calculated for Weeks 1-6 and Weeks 7-13. Week 7 was kept separate because it was the Falcons-Buccaneers game.
NOTE: The Buccaneers' bye was Week 5. The Falcons' bye was Week 11.
Both defenses have been allowing more yards – total, passing and rushing – since Week 7 as compared to before. That kind of nixes any comparison there.
The Buccaneers offense, however, is performing better now than it was prior to Week 7. The Falcons cannot say the same. Tampa Bay's average total, passing and rushing yards per game are all higher, while only Atlanta's rushing average is higher.
"There are things that have gone on that we've gotten more efficient with and improved," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said. "Sometimes they're small things: I think being in sync, I think certainly some of your timing issues. And you have weeks where some bad habits creep back up or somebody takes them away. But yeah, for sure (the team has improved)."
It's tough to use the Falcons' average for passing yards since there was brief quarterback change in Weeks 8-10. Desmond Ridder was sidelined during halftime of the Week 8 loss to the Tennessee Titans, and Taylor Heinicke took over the role through the Week 10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers have only grown more comfortable with Baker Mayfield at the helm, as evident by their average increase between the two halves of the season so far.
"Earlier, you could tell they were kind of a little bit more vanilla (with Mayfield), just trying to get used to the game," Falcons assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray said. "But now, you can tell he's got complete control of it."
As for the head-to-head matchup, the Falcons performed better on offense across the board against the Buccaneers. Their total, passing and rushing yards were all higher than their respective averages entering the game. The Buccaneers' rushing yards were lower than their average.
The leaders for that game were as follows:
- TAM: Baker Mayfield, 27-42-1 for 275 yards and a touchdown
- TAM: Mike Evans, 6/8 for 82 yards and a touchdown
- TAM: Rachaad White, 13 carries for 34 yards
- ATL: Desmond Ridder, 19-25-0 for 250 yards
- ATL: Drake London, 6/7 for 54 yards
- ATL: Tyler Allgeier, 21 carries for 59 yards
The Buccaneers' names all make sense. They're all atop their team stat boards in their respective categories.
Ridder and London make sense for the Falcons. Allgeier, though, is not their leading rusher. Bijan Robinson is, but he only played 11 offensive snaps due to an illness.
Robinson is healthy this week, which just goes to show how availability is another variable when looking at the difference between the Falcons and Buccaneers in Week 7 versus Week 14. This isn't just a repeat performance.
"There are always things you adjust," Smith said. "That's the name of the game. It's a chess match every week."