TAMPA, Fla. -- The Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered this Week 5 clash tied atop the NFC South standings.
Sunday's result would create separation, a singular leader early in the division race.
Both teams were banged up a bit heading into this contest, with the Falcons offense significantly depleted after losing Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson to injury.
That was an element the Falcons couldn't overcome in the first meeting between these teams, but there was a lot more going one in a game that concluded with Tampa Bay's 21-15 victory at Raymond James Stadium. And, as each Falcons game has been this season, this one also came down to the final moments.
Let's take a look at what stood out in this contest:
Falcons battle their way back
The Falcons were down and seemingly out of this game midway through the second half, but battled and, as they've done so many times in this young season, found a way to battle back.
Two fourth-quarter touchdowns – Avery Williams scored one, Olamide Zaccheaus the other – and a bunch of short, unsuccessful Tampa Bay drives let the Falcons get back in it. They were down 21-15 with a few minutes left, with some positive momentum in their favor after operating without it most of the afternoon.
The Falcons seemingly got another huge stop tanks to a Grady Jarrett sack, but the star defensive tackle was flagged for a controversial personal foul that kept the drive alive. That series went deep into field goal range, eliminated the Falcons store of timeouts and left them unable to complete an improbable comeback.
Pitts, Patterson surely missed
This one was expected. I mean, it's hard for anyone to expect the Falcons to operate as well without Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson as they would without them.
But…we're including it here anyways after watching it play out. The Falcons missed their most dynamic skill players, who were ruled out during the week. Patterson will miss at least four games with a knee ailment and Pitts was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Neither ailment is expected to be a long-term issue, but they were enough to hinder the Falcons' ability in this game.
Head coach Arthur Smith often says that he's in the solution business and worked to play of the strengths of the talent he had available. That occurred, but it still proved too difficult to overcome those losses.
You'll find no bold predictions here that Pitts and Patterson could've reversed the result, but it would've helped an offense that struggled to put points on the board early on. In a game where every score mattered, Pitts and Patterson would've been big assets.
The Falcons don't have tons of depth at the skill spots, and losing those two top performers brought things down to the point Atlanta couldn't keep up with Tom Brady and the Bucs' prolific skill players. They still found a way to score twice late and make it a game, but the offense couldn't finish the comeback after falling behind.
Defense didn't do quite enough vs. Brady
Before we dive into some initial thoughts about the Falcons defense, never forget something my dad used to always say. It wasn't revelatory and sort of a statement of the obvious, but ultimately true.
You can't win if you don't score.
The Falcons did. Eventually. Avery Williams scored the team's first points on an eight-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. The Falcons were shut out before that, down 21 points when that final stanza.
The Falcons defense made some good plays, including a fourth-down stop deep in Falcons territory to prevent a score. They were solid against the run all day, but quarterback Tom Brady started finding Leonard Fournette in the flats with room to run.
Tampa Bay was in a bunch of third-down situations, but ultimately converted too many and retained possession with somewhat plodding play that kept the sticks moving. Brady's effective quick passing game was accented by some bigger plays to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Brady's overall numbers were high, well above 300 yards, without major mistakes. With Tampa Bay's defense performing as it did, that's all that was required to secure a victory. Things got a little tight at the end, but it was ultimately just good enough to beat the Falcons on this day.
There's an argument to be made that Jarrett did enough and shouldn't have gotten flagged for roughing the passer, but the Falcons allowed too many points earlier in the game to overcome a tough situation where the offense often struggled.
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Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Week 5.