Julio Jones ignites Falcons in 34-20 win over Tampa Bay

Written by Adrian Beecher

Atlanta, GA-Julio Jones had himself a game on Sunday with 12 catches for 253 yards and hauled in Two TD’s to help lead the Falcons to a 34-20 win over Tampa Bay. In the running game Tevin Coleman shined for the Falcons just a day after his twins were born, he finished with 97 yards on the ground and two TDs, including the game-sealing TD with under two minutes left to play.

The Buccaneers got off to a fast start, with Ryan Fitzpatrick leading Tampa on a 10-play 57-yard drive that stalled out just as they got into the red zone. A 36-yard field goal from Patrick Murray made it 3-0 with 9:45 left in the 1st quarter.

Atlanta had similar success on their opening drive. After getting past midfield, it looked as if the Falcons were going to storm right into the red zone. Then on a 2nd- and-10 from the Bucs 39-yard line, Tevin Colman rushed 10 yards to the left sideline before being pushed out of bounds. However, Taylor Gabriel was called for a holding and would be a catalyst that stalled out the Falcons drive forcing them to settle for a 49 yard Matt Bryant field goal, which tied the game up at 3 with 3:40 left in the 1st quarter.

After exchanging punts and a second straight failed drive from Tampa Bay, the Falcons took the first strike to the end zone. On 3rd-and-one from their 49-yard line, Mohamed Sanu Jr. took a direct snap and threw a perfect pass downfield that found the cradling hands of Julio Jones in the end zone for a 51-yard TD score. The trickery for a touchdown made it 10-3 with 12:44 left to play in the 1st half.  It was Sanu Jr.’s third career TD pass.

The play was one that has been in the Falcons arsenal for a while according to head coach Dan Quinn.

“That’s not something that we just put in this week. It’s been something that we’ve had not just this season, but we’ve had it up last season as well. Sometimes you’re just waiting for a look that could happen. I’ve got to tell you, I wasn’t confident in it when I saw him bobble the snap, but I knew when he ripped it down the field, we’d have a chance at it. He’s a really good athlete. He can throw it, he can punt it, he can kick it. He can damn sure catch it, but for today, I thought there were some good third down conversions by him. That connection from Mo to Julio, we were excited for that one.”

After a third straight punt from the Bucs, Atlanta once again went to work. This time it was a 6-play, 72-yard drive that was capped off on a 25-yard TD connection from Ryan to Jones as the defender slipped as Jones made his cut. With 7:26 left to play in the 1st half, Falcons led 17-3.

On Tampa Bay’s ensuing possession, they would put together their most productive drive of the 1st half. It was a 14 play 74-yard drive that saw the Buccaneers get into the red zone with a 1st and goal on the 9-yard line. However, after three straight incompletions from Fitzpatrick, the Bucs would again have to settle for a field goal making it 17-6 with just 1:36 left to play in the 1st half.

Matt Ryan was able to quickly move his team downfield as time ticked off the clock. After a 7 yard run to start the drive from Coleman, Ryan would complete four straight passes to set the Falcons up with a 1st and ten at the Bucs 18-yard line with just 12 seconds left on the clock. However, Ryan’s first incomplete pass of the drive would come with only five seconds left on the game clock, and the Falcons would have to settle for a 36 yard Matt Bryant Field goal to make it 20-6 as the teams went into the locker room at the half.

At the half, Julio Jones was leading the Falcon’s receiver core with six catches on nine targets for 138 yards and two TDs.  On the flip side of the ball, no players from Tampa Bay had more than 33 yards in any stat category except their quarterback Fitzpatrick who had 71 yards passing in a struggling offense.

Atlanta continued the 2nd half the same way they wrapped up the 1st. Matt Ryan completed four of five passes to get the Falcons into the red zone before Coleman finished off the drive. After a 9-yard rush, he took it in from three yards out on the ensuing run giving Atlanta a commanding 27-6 lead with 10:04 left to play in the 3rd.

In the 2nd half, things started clicking for the Bucs. Tampa was able to answer the score on their first possession of the 2nd half. Fitzpatrick helped lead the Bucs on a ten play 75-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard rushing TD from Peyton Barber. The Falcons lead would be cut to just 14 with 6:07 left to play in the 3rd quarter.

After another Atlanta drive stalled out around midfield, the Bucs once again got to work. On the 2nd play of the series, Fitzpatrick connected with tight end OJ Howard for a 29-yard gain to move the ball into Falcons territory. Shortly after, an 11-yard scramble from Fitzpatrick and a seven-yard completion from DeSean Jackson set the Bucs up in the red zone. It then took just three plays before Barber dove into the end zone for the 1-yard score to cut Atlanta’s lead to only 7 with 13:53 left to play.

Needing to get back into rhythm, Atlanta did not disappoint. On the first play from scrimmage at their 22-yard line, Ryan connected with Jones for a 44-yard completion to set up the Falcons in Bucs territory. Shortly after another pass to Jones from Ryan, Atlanta faced a 1st and ten at the Bucs 23-yard line. That’s when Terron Ward took a rush to the left side for 10 yards. However, Bucs linebacker Kendall Beckwith put a lick on Ward, forcing a fumble. Brent Grimes picked it up at the 5-yard line for the Bucs and ran it back 37 yards to the Tampa 42 yard line.

As the Buccaneers moved down the field, it looked like they were poised to tie the game up. On the first play from scrimmage, Fitzpatrick connected with Adam Humphries for 19 yards to get into Falcons territory. Then, facing a third-and-11 from the Atlanta 40, the Bucs were able to convert as Fitzpatrick found Mike Evans for the 13-yard completion. However, four plays later, the Bucs faced a fourth-and- one from the Atlanta 18 yard line with just 7:57 left to play.

Tampa elected to go for the conversion instead of taking the field goal. Fitzgerald looked short over the middle for Cameron Brate, who was unable to corral the reception. The Falcons regained possession with a one touchdown lead and 7:05 left on the clock in regulation.

One might think that Atlanta would just do what they can to run the clock out. However, that was not the case. After a three- yard run from Coleman on the first play of the drive, Ryan completed three straight passes. Then after a rush from Ward, Ryan found Jones for a 24-yard reception on 3rd and 8 to give him 253 receiving yards for the game.

“My teammates did a great job. The offensive line did a great job keeping Matt [Ryan] upright and letting him deliver some shots downfield. Mohamed [Sanu] did a great job on the deep ball down the middle to me and gave me an opportunity to make a play.”, said Jones after the game.

With just 3 minutes and 42 seconds left, the Falcons turned to the running game to eat some clock. Four straight runs would take us to the 2-minute warning with the Falcons facing a second-and-seven at the Bucs 14 yard line. After the 2-minute warning, it took Coleman just one play to get to the right edge and make his way untouched into the end zone to put the Falcons up by two scores with only 1:53 left to play. The Bucs would do what they could to get downfield. However, they were down and out for the count.

As the final whistle blew, the Falcons improved to 7-4 on the season with the 34-20 win, while the Bucs dropped to 4-7 on the season.  Atlanta will continue their homestand next week when they face the Minnesota Vikings in a 1:00 PM kickoff.

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