Tom Brady passed for 350 yards, and Leonard Fournette scored two touchdowns as the Buccaneers held off the Falcons to gain first place in the NFC South.
It wasn’t pretty, but it goes in the win column, as the Buccaneers get their first win at home in beating the Atlanta Falcons 21-15.
It was a tale of two halves for the Bucs, who played almost perfect football in the first half to build a 21-0 lead. Then, they got away from what they did well offensively and defensively in the second half, as the Falcons scored 15 unanswered points.
The big concern continues to be being unable to run the football consistently and not stopping the run.
As a team, the Bucs could only average three yards a carry and were stopped early in the game on a fourth and one at the Atlanta 15-yard line.
Buccaneers Leonard Fournette Breaks Out Of Slump
Outside of Tom Brady, who threw for 351 yards and a touchdown, Leonard Fournette was the Bucs’ best player on offense, as he led the team in rushing with 56 yards and was also the leader in receptions. Fournette caught ten passes for 83 yards with one touchdown receiving and one rushing touchdown.
This was Fournette’s best game since the 127-yard effort running the ball against Dallas in the season opener.
His 139 yards from scrimmage tied his single-game high as a Buccaneer.
"He's tough to take down." 🗣: @TomBrady on @_fournette pic.twitter.com/nazjAxCKl7 — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 9, 2022
Rookie tight end Cade Otten had his coming out party with six catches for 43 yards.
Mike Evans had another big game, especially in the second half, making the big catches and finishing the game with four catches for 81 yards.
Buccaneers Defense Dominates In First Half
The defense played well in the first half holding Atlanta to three first downs and 89 total yards. The Bucs also kept the run game in check, allowing the Falcons 53 yards.
The Bucs defense also registered five sacks of Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota. Logan Hall, Vita Vea, Antoine Winfied Jr. Deadrin Senat, and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka all joined in on the sack party.
Three of the Bucs’ defensive backs were injured and unable to finish the game. Carlton Davis left the game with a hip injury, Sean Murphy-Bunting then left with a quad injury, and Mike Edwards got dinged up and was helped to the sideline.
We should know more about the injuries after Todd Bowles weekly press conference.
The game was not without controversy. Late in the game, with the Bucs clinging to a 21-15 lead, Tom Brady was sacked by Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett on a third down play, which would have forced a Buccaneer punt.
Referee Jerome Boger threw a flag for roughing the passer on Jarrett as it appeared Brady hit his head on the ground. This kept the Buccaneer’s drive alive, and the Falcons would never get the ball again as the Bucs ran out the clock.
The “roughing the passer” just called in Tom Brady’s favor was the worst call of this young NFL season. pic.twitter.com/4w666qmkRV — Honorable Mention Podcast (@MentionPod) October 9, 2022
Was the roughing the passer call a makeup call?
On the previous play, Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller was blatantly interfered with on a pass down the sideline by Falcons defensive back Dee Alford, and no flag was thrown.
The roughing call against the Falcons was terrible, but they also got away with this no-call on the previous play pic.twitter.com/GDiAXHWbrE — Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) October 9, 2022
Did the roughing the passer penalty cost the Falcons the game? Absolutely not. The Bucs were the better team, and the final score indicated that.
Defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches talked about the penalty after the game. “You’re taking away what guys can do. You’re making them softer on defense, and you’re putting all this protection around the quarterback. I know they’re the franchise, but at some point, we’ve got to let it be football again.”
That’s what NFL Fans have been saying for years since the NFL decided to turn the league into a bunch of wussies where a hard hit is frowned upon. Let the guys play football the way it was meant to be played.
Julio Jones was inactive again for the second straight game, and it may be a while before he sees any playing time. Jones suffers from a torn posterior cruciate ligament and has four catches during the season.
Todd Bowles says they are playing the long game with Jones and are hoping to have him back sometime later this season.
The Bucs will take their 3-2 record to Pittsburgh next week for a 1 PM game against the reeling Steelers.
Even though the Bucs were winners against the Falcons, the swagger is missing from this team we saw the last two seasons under Bruce Arians.
They also can’t run the ball consistently and have given up 151 and 189 yards on the ground in the last two games.
These issues will need to be fixed for the Bucs to make a deep playoff run.