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Falcons needed more from all three phases of the game after loss to Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

You win as a team. You lose as a team. That cliché never rang more true than it did in the Falcons' 29-25 loss to the Bucs on Sunday.  

ATLANTA -- For 3½ minutes, Drake London stood on the 5-yard line alone.

At first, he was bent over. His hands resting on his knees. His head low.

He stood to his full height a minute later, but he never moved his lower body beyond the 5-yard line. He put his helmet atop his head. He placed his hands on his hips. He just took in one breath after another.

And that's where he stayed as the seconds turned to minutes. He only moved when Desmond Ridder, towel over his own head, walked by, patted him on the hip and kept moving. Only then did London -- snapped out of a post-loss stupor -- make a move toward the Falcons tunnel. Only then did London head to the Falcons locker room.

The 5-yard line where London stood doubled as the spot where Sunday's game essentially ended for Atlanta. It was near the final point of a 28-yard catch by London in a 29-25 loss to the Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It was the resting spot of a last-ditch effort.

The game itself was a must-win for the Falcons if they wanted to stay atop the NFC South. It's a loss that makes that goal more difficult with four weeks left in the season.

There's an old sports cliché that states you win as a team and lose as a team. That was never more clear for the Falcons than it was in their Week 14 loss to the Buccaneers.

Even London, who had 11 catches for 172 receiving yards, felt that way.

"We could have set ourselves up pretty, pretty well," London said postgame in the context of the divisional standings. But "could" is different than "did." And that, he said, "is a hard pill to swallow."

Every phase of the game left something on the field, something to be desired.

There's special teams.

Younghoe Koo missed two field goals -- one from 50 yards out and the other from 52 -- in a game that was decided by four points. 

"I feel like I cost us today," Koo said.

Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo #6 kicks a PAT during the fourth quarter of the Week 14 Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, December 10, 2023. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta Falcons)

There's the offense.

Even though the Falcons were down three starting linemen at one point in the game, they struggled to consistently find the end zone. Taking care of the ball was a problem early, too. Ridder threw the interception that set up Tampa Bay's first touchdown of the day. Then, a sack-fumble in the end zone recovered by the Falcons gave the Bucs two extra points by way of a safety.

The third quarter alone saw the offense fail to convert with chance after chance.

The Falcons had four possessions in the third quarter. All four of those drives ended in a punt. What's more, the Falcons had solid field position in three of those four drives -- within 5 yards of midfield. They may have scored twice in the fourth quarter, but having seven drives separate their first touchdown and their second with two missed field goals and a safety in between? That leaves a bad taste in their mouth.

"There's a lot, offensively, that we need to be better at," Ridder said. "We go in there in that third quarter and we keep going back and forth, back and forth, especially when the defense gives us a short field. We have to be able to go down there and score points."

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder #9 rushes for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the Week 14 Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, December 10, 2023. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta Falcons)

Then, there's the defense.

By the end of the third quarter, it felt as though this group was the only redeeming unit for the team. The Falcons were tough in the middle of the game, forcing three consecutive three-and-outs for the Buccaneers offense. The only points the Falcons had surrendered to that point was the touchdown at the start of the second quarter. (Which, in their defense, put them behind the eight ball when Tampa Bay started its drive on the Atlanta 8-yard line).

Then, the unit that was so strong for three quarters began to fade.

When the Buccaneers started to run the ball with a head of steam in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the defense struggled to stop them. The exhaustion of the day set in for the defense in the Buccaneers' final drive. It was one that saw Tampa Bay drive down 75 yards on 12 plays, converting on 4th-and-1 at midfield and 3rd-and-long four plays later to set up -- ultimately -- a game-winning touchdown from Baker Mayfield to Cade Otton.

"We didn't get the job done," Richie Grant said of the Falcons defense. "We had goals today. There was a lot riding on this game and we didn't get the job done at the end of the day."

Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III #3 after the Week 14 Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, December 10, 2023. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta Falcons)

Every unit took responsibility in the locker room after the game. A lot of players pointed the finger at themselves. However, it was head coach Arthur Smith who said the Falcons are "not into the blame game." Truth be told, you can't play the blame game when there's enough blame to go around.

And this is where it comes full circle: This loss to the Buccaneers was a team loss. You can point to every single unit and see mistakes and missteps. You can point to every single unit and see the could've, should've, would've(s) of the game. You can see opportunities missed and points out of reach. Points that should have been in reach.

Ultimately, you have to see the game for what it was: a team loss. No way around it. Every unit failed the other at one point or another. It's what pushed the Falcons toward a loss when they desperately needed a win.

"We had opportunities," Smith said. "Yeah, we did. Obviously, miss two field goals. We had decent field position at times. We had opportunities the same way on defense. ... When you look at that (game), you're all going to be frustrated."

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Week 14.

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