Falcons Finish 2019 Season With Overtime Win In Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. – On a sunny, cool day here at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the Atlanta Falcons faced off against their NFC South division rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the final game of the 2019 NFL season the Falcons defeated the Buccaneers 28-22, in a game that went to overtime.

This game was a fierce affair between two teams that know each other and their tendencies very well and it showed on the field. It was also a game that was filled with massive shifts in momentum for both teams and went right down to the wire. And nothing showcased this more than the last two offensive possessions for Atlanta and the first overtime possession.
Roughly midway through the fourth quarter, the Falcons were down 22-16 and it felt like they weren’t going to be able to make a comeback as they couldn’t get anything going offensively in the third quarter and beginning of the fourth. However, Atlanta was able to start a drive with good field position, on their 38-yard line and nine plays and 37-yards later, Atlanta kicker Younghoe Koo drilled a 43-yard field goal to cut the lead to 22-19.

The Buccaneers weren’t able to get anything going on their next drive so they punted the ball to the Falcons with 3:01 left to play in the game. Atlanta then went on an absolute surgical 14 play, 65-yard drive that culminated in a game-tying 33-yard field goal by Koo as time expired. The Falcons offense did a fantastic job on that drive milking the clock and getting into field goal range.

When both teams took the field for the overtime coin flip, the Buccaneers won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball. At that point, it felt like momentum had shifted Tampa’s away. On the very first play of overtime, Tampa had the ball on their 25-yard line and quarterback Jameis Winston dropped back to pass. He looked to his right and threw a short pass towards tight end Cameron Brate but Falcons linebacker Deion Jones jumped the route and intercepted the pass. With nothing but green grass in front of him, he returned the ball 25-yards into the end zone for a pick-six, and more importantly, the winning score.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spoke after the game about the game-winning pick-six.

“It was a crazy ending to the game,” said a smiling Ryan. “I’m just proud of the effort that everybody gave today and really the last half of the season. Nobody let up. I think that’s a credit to the character of the guys in the locker room and on the coaching staff. It was a cool way to end it – to battle back, get the three points right at the end of regulation and for Deion to have the pick-six. It was a fun celebration afterwards.”

That pick-six gave Jameis Winston one of the strangest, most interesting stat lines for the season. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a season. He also finished the season with over 5,000 yards passing and was the first quarterback in Buccaneers history to accomplish that.

Early on, it seemed like the Falcons were going to run away with the victory. From their first drive of the game, the Falcons drove down the field seemingly with ease. An eight-yard run here, a four-yard pass there and just taking what the defense was giving them. The drive was capped off but one of the best things to see in the NFL, or any level of football. A big man touchdown.

Facing a first down-and-five at the Tampa 35-yard line after a penalty, the Falcons reached into their bag of tricks and pulled out a play they haven’t run at all this season. Backup offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo came into the game, reported eligible and lined up as an extra blocker. Instead of blocking though, he leaked out into the middle of the field for a pass and quarterback Matt Ryan, seeing that no one was even near him, threw him the ball. Sambrailo made the catch in stride and ran 35-yards to the end for the first score of the game. This score was also the longest touchdown for a player that weighs at least 300 pounds in NFL history.
Sambrailo spoke after the game about what that record means to him and how it feels.

“That’s special, it’s really cool,” said a grinning Sambrailo. “We talked about running it and I didn’t know what kind of distance they (the coaches) were expecting me to run but it was a fun one. It was cool that we called it at the 35.”
Atlanta’s good fortunes continued on the very next drive. On the very first play of Tampa’s first offensive drive, running back Ronald Jones took the handoff and was stopped for no gain but Falcons defensive end Jacob Tuioti-Mariner ripped the ball from him and linebacker Deion Jones recovered the ball for Atlanta. This game them great field position at the Tampa 29-yard line. Six plays later, Koo drilled a 27-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead. Not even halfway into the first quarter.

In the second quarter however, momentum shifted massively to the Buccaneers. On Tampa’s first drive on the second quarter, Winston drove the team on a nine-play, 67-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Brate on 4th down. This cut the Falcons lead to 10-7.

Much like on the first drive of the game, Atlanta was able to move the ball down the field, aided in part by a roughing the passer and lowering the head to initiate contact penalties by Tampa. They got all the way down to the Tampa 11-yard line and after an illegal forward pass penalty on Ryan, they had to settle for another Koo field goal, this time a 33-yard field goal.

The next couple of plays were a wild sequence of plays for both teams.

Down 13-7, the Buccaneers got the ball and on the second play of the drive, Winston was intercepted by Atlanta safety Ricado Allen, who proceeded to return the ball 27-yards to the Tampa 19-yard line. Winston has been much maligned by fans and media alike for his turnovers over the years but none more so this year, where that interception was his 29th of the season.

Five plays later, deep in Tampa territory, facing a 3rd & 10, Ryan dropped back to pass and as he was in the process of throwing the ball, it was knocked out of his hand by Buccaneers defensive

end Jason Peirre-Paul and was rolling around on the field. Buccaneers rookie linebacker Devin White scooped up the fumble and ran 91-yards for a touchdown. The stadium was going absolutely crazy at that point and one could almost feel how shocked Falcons fans were to see that happen. The Buccaneers to their first lead of the game at that point, 14-13.

Atlanta would add another field goal to take a 16-14 lead but the Buccaneers answered right back with five-play, 76-yard drive that was capped off by a 24-yard heave from Winston to Perriman in the back of the end zone. Perriman had to leap in the air to snag the ball out of the air and just get two feet in bounds to make the catch. That gave Tampa a 22-16 lead heading into halftime.

Atlanta was led by Ryan, who completed 30-51 passes for 313 yards and one touchdown. He also was sacked six times. Wide receivers Julio Jones and Russell Gage led all pass catchers in catches with seven apiece and Jones led the team in receiving yards with 78-yards. Running back Devonta Freeman led the team in rushing with 18 carries for 58 yards. Perhaps the most impressive stat of the game though was that Koo made all five of his field goal attempts, which was the difference in the game.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn spoke after the game about Koo’s performance.

“I thought it was really consistent by him today,” said Quinn. “He has had a few games like that. Obviously, you are always wanting to score when you get down into the red zone, but in those moments, to be aggressive and say, ‘Alright here is his chance and we have to build trust as we went with him and build as we’re going.’ To see him nail it at the end – that’s a good pressure kick to come in, although it’s not a game winner, he gave us a chance to have one. I was proud of him.”

It’s been a disappointing season for the Falcons based on how the team, media and fans thought it would go before the season started but they’ve made huge strides the second half of the season after starting out 1-7. With this victory, the Falcons have won six out of the last eight games they’ve played, ended on a four-game winning streak and finished with a record of 7-9. Quinn spoke after the game about this win what it means, especially in context to the season as a whole.

“We knew coming in to this whole week that this was going to be a fight,” said Quinn. “[These are] two teams that played over the last two months at a 5-2 spot and played really well in some areas. I was proud of the fight all the way till the end. All three phases kept battled for it – that has kind of been our space – complementary football. To win the turnover margin three to one, that was going to be a big deal. That space to come all the way to the end and win it on a turnover, that’s the kind of stuff that you look for. This is a pack of fighters and they have proved it over the last two months.”
To close it out, a smiling Quinn said, “I think all of us, all of us, need to channel our inner Yogi Berra – it ain’t over till it’s over.”

Written by Erik Slaby

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