Despite the way the Falcons’ defense had been playing in the two weeks leading up to Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay’s offense is always capable of catching fire for a weekend. That’s exactly what happened in the Falcons’ 35-22 loss to the Buccaneers.
Jameis Winston did toss two interceptions, but he also threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Winston also ran for 38 yards as part of a Tampa Bay ground game that churned out 133 yards against Atlanta. Perhaps more surprising was the Falcons’ inability to keep pace on offense, as NFL.com’s Jelani Scott breaks down in greater detail in his post-game takeaways.
“Considering that Winston and Matt Ryan were fourth and fifth, respectively, in pass YPG and are tied for the most 300-plus yard passing games with seven, this game was set up to be a slobberknocker,” Scott writes. “It was not. Ryan (23-of-46, 271 yards, INT) was simply not up to par, registering his lowest completion percentage (50.0) of 2019 and a season-high six sacks (14 QB hits). One of those sacks turned into a six-yard Ndamukong Suh scoop-and-score after a strip by Jason Pierre-Paul late in the fourth when the game was essentially out of reach. Any QB in the league has the chance at a good day with Julio Jones on the field but, even with the receiver's brief injury scare, this was another low-key Jones showing; he had five catches (nine targets) for 68 yards and finished without a TD for the eighth straight game. Props to Bucs CB Carlton Davis (five PDs, five tackles, INT) for his above-average coverage against Jones in his second game back from injury. Jones' 121.1 rec YPG versus Tampa is the most by any WR against an opponent in the Super Bowl era, per NFL Research but Tampa's D was hellbent on preventing a breakout game. The Falcons' run game was M.I.A. in its second week without Devonta Freeman (19/57/1); Pierre-Paul, Suh, Vea and linebackers Devin White (2.0 sacks, eight total tackles) and Shaquil Barrett (sack, five QB hits, FF) were all instrumental in those efforts.”
To read the rest of Scott’s takeaways from the game, click here.
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ESPN: Week 12 NFL takeaways
On a greater scale, Sunday’s loss dealt a big blow to the post-bye momentum the Falcons had gained. It also put any playoff possibilities on life support. Given the renewed sense of urgency and energy Atlanta had showed against New Orleans and Carolina, this was not a game many saw coming.
“The Falcons blew a golden opportunity to build off the momentum from a two-game winning streak,” Vaughn McClure writes in his takeaway for ESPN. “When the Falcons failed to score touchdowns after Matt Ryan's early 53-yard connection to tight end Jaeden Graham and after defensive back Desmond Trufant's interception, you knew it was going to be a long day. The Falcons looked more like the team that started the season 1-7 than like a team on a mission to save its season and coach Dan Quinn's job. Now at 3-8, the playoffs are a far-fetched possibility.”
To read the rest of ESPN’s takeaways from Week 12, click here.
AJC: Falcons return to form
The Falcons’ loss to the Buccaneers felt similar to many of the team’s other defeats in 2019. That is to say it felt nothing like the two complete performances Atlanta had put together leading up to Sunday. In his weekend column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Michael Cunningham wrote that he didn’t put too much stock into the post-bye turnaround.
“After providing fresh material for two weeks, the Falcons came home and played a rerun for their fans,” Cunningham writes. “The 35-22 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday looked much like the six consecutive losses that sank the season. It looked nothing like the spirited victories at the Saints and Panthers.
“The loss means the Falcons (3-8) will have consecutive non-winning seasons for the first time since 2014-2015. It confirmed that they are a bad team that played over their heads for a couple of weeks. The Bucs had the same record as the Falcons and didn’t play particularly well, but still won by two touchdowns as 3-1/2-point underdogs.”
To read the rest of Cunningham’s column, click here.