Written by Erik Slaby
Atlanta, GA – It wasn’t pretty at times and late in the game, the nervous tension was palpable. In the end though, it didn’t matter. In an NFC South division matchup, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 34-29. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn spoke after the game about the win.
I thought the team this week and the focus and energy were really on point,” said Quinn. “We took them all the way through the week from Wednesday on. We talked about the moments that test us and the moments that elevate us and that’s what today was about. It takes a lot of leaning in and making sure that when that moment comes, you’re able to nail it and handle it and they just keep building. That’s what happened today. It was all-hands-on-deck and it took everybody.
Heading into today, many people thought this game would be an offensive shootout between these two teams, as their both defenses have struggled this season. While that was the case for most of the game, both defenses showed up in key situations to make game-changing plays. The Falcons defense especially showed up in key situations, intercepting Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston twice.
On the first interception, midway through the second quarter, the Buccaneers were driving down the field and had the ball on the Falcons 47-yard line. Winston threw the ball deep down the field to wide receiver DeSean Jackson, but the pass was overthrown and intercepted by Falcons safety Damontae Kazee on the one-yard line. Luckily for the Buccaneers, the Falcons weren’t able to score any points off of that turnover. The turnover still hurt though as it appeared Tampa would at least get a field goal, down 21-6 at that point, on that drive.
The second of Winston’s two interceptions was far more costly, however. Early in the third quarter, the Buccaneers defense had just forced Atlanta to punt and had begun their drive with great field position from their 40-yard line. On second down, Winston would complete a short pass to wide receiver Adam Humphries, who sprinted down the field for 51-yards. This set up 1st & goal from the two-yard line.
After a false start penalty by Tampa, it was 2nd & goal from the seven-yard line. Winston dropped back to pass and threw a dart towards wide receiver Chris Godwin in the end zone but the ball bounced off the back of Falcons defender and it hung up in the air for seemingly forever. There were no Tampa players in the immediate area and Atlanta safety Brian Poole went up and grabbed the deflected ball for an interception. This halted a promising, potentially momentum-changing drive for Tampa. The Buccaneers were down 21-13 at that point so a touchdown would’ve made it a one-point game. But it was not to be. Quinn spoke about the two interceptions after the game.
“Defensively, to have two takeaways you probably heard me talk about that until you feel sick of hearing about it. The one in the red zone I thought was especially important.”
While the Falcons defense made a couple of plays and key situations, it was the offense that really led the way for the team. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan led the way, completing 31-41 passes, for 354 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Julio Jones led the team in receiving with 10 catches for 143 yards and tight end Austin Hooper added nine catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Both of these players were heavily leaned on by Ryan as the Falcons number two and three wide receivers in Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley left the game with injuries.
This victory will be a good building block potential confidence builder heading into next week’s game against the New York Giants. Although the Giants have struggled this season, they are a very talented team and are desperate for a win. It’s long been said that a desperate team is a dangerous team, so the Falcons cannot sleep on the Giants. This game will take place at Merced-Benz Stadium on Monday night, at 8:15PM EST.