The Buccaneers had a huge opportunity to make a huge statement on Sunday, with the NFC-leading Falcons coming to Tampa. But the Bucs fell just short.
Despite playing a tough, hard-fought 60 minutes against the Falcons, the Buccaneers were unable to prevent big plays at big times, and the Falcons escaped with a 24-23 win that all but wraps up the NFC South race.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a big game, completing 25 of 31 passes for 346 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown bomb to Julio Jones, who had a great game of his own. Atlanta running back Jacquizz Rodgers also had a big game, with 49 yards rushing and another 30 yards receiving.
The bad news for the Falcons? Running back Michael Turner looks like he’s wearing a weighted vest out there: He’s slow and plodding and doesn’t make big plays, and he finished with just 17 yards on 13 carries. At this point, any carry that goes to Turner is a carry that ought to go to Rodgers.
The Falcons made some foolish late-game decisions, including attempting (and missing) a 48-yard field goal with eight seconds left, which set up the Bucs in good field position for their final desperation try to win the game. But the Bucs fell short, and in falling short they’ve lost any hope they had of catching the Falcons in the NFC South.
As the Falcons continue their march toward earning home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, these are the kinds of games they need to win. This one wasn’t easy, but the Falcons won it.