In what was supposed to be a must-win game, Atlanta turned it into a heart-wrenching loss against Tampa Bay. If Atlanta had come out with the win on Sunday, they would have controlled their destiny in the playoffs, due to having the best record within the division. However, now that the Buccaneers won Sunday, they take control of first place in the South, due to having a better record among other teams in the NFC. Confused? Me too. I guess that happens when the NFC South is just a complete dumpster fire. Here's the NFL tiebreaking procedure, something we'll have to keep a close eye on for the final weeks of NFL football. Either way, Atlanta will have to focus on winning out the rest of the season and hope Tampa Bay and New Orleans (also tied for first place) lose a few games along the way. Let's get into Sunday's game and find out what went wrong.
London Lights it Up
First, let's remind ourselves that there was still some good for Atlanta in this game. One of those was the performance of Drake London. London had a record-setting day for himself, as he recorded a career single-game high 172 receiving yards on 10 receptions. London made some ridiculous catches, a few saving Ridder from an interception. The clip below was on the last play of the game, where Atlanta was down by four and needed a touchdown. The pass would be completed to the three-yard line of the Bucs, but wouldn't be enough. You can see the heartbreak in London, as he did everything he could to get his team a win.
To keep the good vibes flowing, Kyle Pitts would score a 36-yard touchdown for his second of the year, hopefully, more of this to come. A healthy and efficient Kyle Pitts will be a necessity for the Falcons offense.
In other offensive news, Bijan Robinson would find the endzone against the Bucs, recording his seventh total touchdown on the year. The whole red-zone stand would be dominated by Bijan that series, as the play before a 33-yard jet-sweep (technically a pass) would set himself up to score. Hey, look Bijan is being used in the red zone, thanks Arthur!
Desmond Ridder would also score six for the Falcons on Sunday as he would give Atlanta the lead before the Bucs snatched it way again. It's nice to see Ridder used in the run game, something I wish Arthur Smith would call more, but it also seems that the options that have been called are out of the same pistol-pro formation. I understand trying to build off the zone runs, but maybe an inverted option or a QB power would be nice to see every once in a while.
Offensive Fustrations Still Loom
So, there is still frustration with the offense (which seems to be a recurring statement), as Atlanta threw the ball 40 times versus rushing the ball only 26 times for an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Now, there are some variables to this, as Tampa touts the 10th best-rushing defense, and Atlanta had a flurry of offensive-line injuries in which at one point, they only had one starting lineman on the field. However, when Atlnata first played the Bucs back in Week 7, Atlanta ran for 156 yards without Bijan Robinson, and on Sunday Atlanta was only able to gain 96 yards on the ground. It was obvious that Arthur Smith wanted his offensive to throw the ball as Ridder had a final line of 26/40, for 347 yards, a touchdown, and a pick.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again; Atlanta is a RUNNING TEAM and a good one at that (currently sixth in the league). Arthur Smith and the offense need to find ways to have successful rushing attacks against teams that are better at stopping the run.
Defense Can Only Hold For So Long
With a fleury of injuries for the Atlanta defense (Jeff Okudah, David Onyemeta, and Nate Landman), the Falcons held Tampa Bay to only 85 yards of total offense in the first half, compared to Atlanta's 182 yards. With the injuries to the defensive line, the pass rush could only muster one sack coming in the form of Kentavius Street. However, Atlnata's first-half performance would be spoiled by Cade Otton scoring with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Atlanta would also give up 148 rushing yards on 37 carries.
However, Atlanta's secondary performed fairly well despite the Jeff Okudah injury, only allowing 144 passing yards. Clark Phillips has performed really well the last couple of weeks, making his first start on Sunday, and the Utah product showed out. He had six targets toward his side, allowed no receptions, and had 2 PBUs.
Whenever the Bucs are on the schedule, most of the attention goes to defending Mike Evans, and Atlanta did just that, holding Evans to only one catch for eight yards. A.J. Terrell, who did most of the coverage against Evans, had a good day in coverage against the standout receiver, defending three out of his six targets. allowing zero catchers.
To end, Atlanta will have to win out just to have a chance to make the playoffs. Things could very well come down to the last game of the season against the Saints depending on how the Bucs perform. Atlanta will travel to Carlina to take on the 1-12 Panthers in hopes of righting the ship. Like always (or most of the time), I'll have a preview of the game at the end of the week!
(Even with the loss, I still can stop watching this catch)
Final Score: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29, Atlanta Falcons 25
Main Image via