With the NFC South crown wrapped up, the Bucs ended their regular season Sunday afternoon with a 30-17 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta. Tampa Bay played the most starters in the first half before rolling with the backups the rest of the way. The result was a 10-10 game that turned into a 13-point loss, dropping Todd Bowles’ team to 8-9 ahead of the playoffs.
Tampa Bay got off to a hot start, with the offense methodically making its way down the field. Three catches from Chris Godwin and a 17-yard run from rookie Deven Thompkins highlighted the opening drive for it Tom Brady connected with Kyle Rudolph for an eight-yard touchdown. After a 10-play, 70-yard drive that took 5:13 off the clock, the Bucs led 7–0.
The Buccaneer defense kept the strong start going, with Anthony Nelson grabbing a tackle for loss on the first down and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka pressuring rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder to an incompletion on the second down. Then, in third place, Akiem Hicks went to Ridder for his first layoff as a Buc to end the ride. And after a 12-yard return on the punt by Thompkins, Brady and the offense took over again on their own 45. This time, however, Tampa Bay went three-and-out and had to kick the ball away.
Rookie punter Jake Camarda, one of the heroes of last week’s game, pinned Knight and the Falcons offense on their own 9 to start drive No. 2. The poor field position didn’t matter though as the Bucs defense was pushed. A 26-yard gain by Drake London on an early 3rd & 5 and a low block call on Sean Murphy-Bunting led to runs of 17 and 16 yards by rookie Tyler Allgeier to get into the Bucs’ 10. Three plays later, Knight found MyCole Pruitt for a two-yard touchdown.
The Bucs’ great start felt like a distant memory in the waning moments of the first quarter. After allowing that 91-yard score, they returned the ball straight to the Falcons, with Godwin losing a fumble for the second week in a row. The Tampa Bay defense did well to contain the damage, but a Younghoe Koo gave Atlanta a 10–7 lead in the closing minute of the first quarter.
Brady and the Bucs answered back after the Falcons’ 10–0 run, compiling a 14-play drive that took 7:39 off the clock. Only instead of finishing the drive with six, they had to settle for a 41-yard field goal from Ryan Succop on a penalty from Luke Goedeke on 4th and 1. Nevertheless, the game was tied at 10 midway through the second quarter.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, the Bucs got a gift from Ridder, who lost the ball before making a pass. Devin White recovered the fumble and put in the attack at Atlanta’s 22-yard line. And when the unit took the field, it was veteran backup Blaine Gabbert who replaced Brady, who finished the afternoon 13-of-17 for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Gabbert and Thompkins connected for a gain of 13 yards on the 9 before a penalty set Tampa Bay back for the two-minute caution. But after the break, Gabbert and Russell Gage got together to set up 3rd & Goal of 3. On the next play, the two connected again, this time for a touchdown. With Succop’s PAT, the Bucs had a 17-10 lead late in the first half. That’s where the score remained as the two teams went to the locker room, with Atlanta poised to get the ball back to open the third quarter.
The third quarter was all Falcons, as they put together a nine-play, 69-yard field goal to open things up before forcing a three-and-out by the Bucs. And after the Tampa Bay punt, Ridder led a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock. With just under a minute left in the third quarter, Atlanta again led 20-17.
Getting the ball back on another Gabbert-led three-and-out, Atlanta again marched downfield on Tampa Bay’s second teamers and put up a nine-play, 83-yard drive that lasted 6:04. The possession ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Cordarrelle Patterson that extended the Falcons’ lead to 27–17 midway through the fourth quarter.
On the Bucs’ ensuing possession, 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask got his first taste of NFL regular season action. However, he threw incomplete on his first two passes, leading to Tampa Bay’s third three-and-out of the half.
The Falcons added another field goal on their next drive to extend the lead to 13. Trask and the Tampa Bay offense rushed on the next possession, giving them their first first loss of the second half. But that’s all the second/third team unity could muster, with the Falcons eventually killing the clock from there to win close to their 30-17.
Tampa Bay will now try to get healthy ahead of Wild Card Weekend. As the No. 4 seed, the Bucs will host the No. 5 seed next weekend, the opponent, date and kickoff time are yet to be determined.
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