IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Falcons, Penalties Bring Tough Afternoon for Buccaneers

Ken Cross

October 26, 2023 at 12:04 pm.

TAMPA, Fla. – Two games ago, Tampa Bay went into the bye week with a 3-1 record. The defense was finding ways to stymie opponents, while the offense had gotten consistent enough through four weeks to give the Buccaneers the NFC South lead.

Two weeks later, it has been the opposite for Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers dropped a 16-13 decision to Atlanta on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay has lost back-to-back home games where the offense has been able to put up only one touchdown.

“We feel like there are a lot of plays to be had,” said Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans, who caught six passes for 82 yards to lead the Bucs. “They started going more two-high shell in the second half which was smart. We have to do a better job of not getting penalties and staying disciplined.”

The penalty aspect turned out to be as big of an issue as the lack of consistency on offense. The Buccaneers were penalized nine times for 66 yards. As we saw on Sunday, many times it’s when the penalties happen more than how many yards a team gives up.

Tampa Bay had three penalties on its third drive of the game which broke the offense’s momentum and riddled its confidence. This came after Mike Evans caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield on its second drive to tie the game at 7-7.

Evans pointed to discipline as the biggest hurdle in allowing the Buccaneers to be able to get by the Falcons.

“One drive, we had three penalties in a row, I believe,” said Evans. “That’s hard. It’s deflating. You know, second-and-20, it’s hard until you know getting into our stuff offensively, so we have to be better.”

Evans gave Tampa Bay a push on that second drive as he beat Falcons safety AJ Terrell on the scoring play.

“It was one-on-one coverage,” said Evans. “Baker (Mayfield) did a great job of looking off the safety and throwing a great ball.”

A big struggle was once again the inability to get consistency inside of the offense   where the Bucs could start a drive and finish with it in the end zone.

Kicker Chase McLaughlin made a pair of field goals from 24 and 36 yards that allowed Tampa Bay to stay even with their aggressive defense.

The Bucs took the ball over on their own 20-yard line with the game tied at 13-13 with 6:30 to play.

Falcons’ safety Richie Grant picked off Mayfield, who had just hit Chris Godwin with a 33-yard pass play to move the ball to the Atlanta 28-yard line.

After a three-and-out, Mayfield converted a 3rd-and-9 when he hit the middle and cut up the right side for a 31-yard gain to the Atlanta 35. McLaughlin’s 36-yard field goal came with 45 seconds remaining as it tied the game.

From there, Atlanta had the last big play in the game when quarterback Desmond Ridder found tight end Kyle Pitts with a 39-yard pass play to the Tampa Bay 36-yard line.

Two plays later, Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo made his third field goal of the day as time ran out and raised the Falcons to a 16-13 win.

“We just want to have their back,” said Buccaneers linebacker Devin White, of the defensive mindset when the offense struggles. “Whatever goes on out there, we don’t want to be a downer. We just want those guys to know that we got ’em. We are going to get them the ball back and that’s how you have to be in football.”

This is only the second week that Tampa Bay has been out of the NFC South lead in the last 40 weeks of regular season NFL action. Its back-to-back losses to the Falcons as the 60th game of the series has seen each team win 30 games.

 

Red Zone ‘D’: Tampa Bay’s defense once again kept it in the game and gave the Bucs a chance to win.

The Bucs held Atlanta to 401 yards as the Falcons were only 1-of-5 in the red zone.

“The coaching staff is doing a great job putting great plays in and we are executing it,” said White. “Red zone – we have got to carry it over to the field and not let anybody drive on us.”

The big defensive plays were inside the red zone as they kept the Buccaneers in position to maybe pull out a win. The Falcons had the ball in field goal range at the Buccaneers’ 11-yard-line late in the first half.

Shaq Barrett and Calijah Kinsey sacked Ridder on the last play of the half as Barrett forced Ridder to fumble. Defensive back Jamel Dean had the recovery and quelled another potential Falcons field goal.

Later in the third quarter after Ridder hit Drake London on a 13-yard pass play to the Buccaneers 1-yard line, Ridder fumbled the next snap and Bucs LB YaYa Diaby recovered on the four.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, Atlanta had moved the ball back into the red zone again. Ridder took a snap and went around the left end for what appeared to be an 11-yard gain to the Bucs 1-yard line.

However, Antoine Winfield had come over to make a play and he knocked the ball out and forced a fumble which rolled into the end zone and out the side. It gave Tampa Bay the ball on its own 20-yard line and quelled another potential Falcons score.

“Penalty-wise, it was very sloppy and there was a lack of execution at critical times,” commented Bucs head coach Todd Bowles. “Two-minute, defensively, in the red zone on offense and we got to be better than that going forward.”