The Atlanta Falcons fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-17 Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta is now 5-7 but they are still in the playoff hunt, barely. Matt Ryan was hit a lot once again and the Falcons offensive line struggled to protect the quarterback. Shockingly, with the Alabama Crimson Tide’s win over the Georgia Bulldogs last Saturday, the Tide have more wins (three) than the Falcons (zero) in the last calendar year at Mercedes-Benz Stadium! Here’s my five lessons from the game.
First, Cordarrelle Patterson went missing in the second half. In the first half Patterson proved how much he’s needed on the field for the Falcons. He had 72 yards from scrimmage, notably 66 rushing yards on six carries in the first two quarters. I always say a good running game is a quarterback’s best friend. However, Patterson had only 24 total yards in the second half. The Falcons’ biggest weapon was taken away by Bucs’ defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles.
Secondly, the NFL Fans love Brady. When walking into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, you can tell who everyone was here for. Men, women and children were ready to see the living legend, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. Luckily for the fans, the Bucs’ head coach Bruce Arians put the game into his seven-time Super Bowl champ’s arm. Brady finished the afternoon 38-of-51 for 368 yards and four touchdowns. Brady didn’t throw an interception.
Two of those touchdowns went to his bestie, tight end Rob Gronkowski. According to NFL Research, Brady and Gronkowski have connected for 90 regular-season touchdowns and surpassed Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates (89 touchdowns) for the second-most regular-season touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver pairing in NFL history. Only the Pro Football Hall of Fame combination of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison (112 touchdowns) have more.
Next, can the Falcons defense put a complete game together? In the first half, the Falcons were able to keep Tampa Bay in check. They were able to keep it close. With Atlanta down 20-17 at halftime, the defense was able to keep Brady and the Bucs in check. However, in the second half, the Bucs converted six out of eight downs in the second half.
Fourthly, there was a big shift in energy. With 29 seconds remaining in the second quarter, it was 2nd and 8 on Tampa’s nine yard line. Marlon Davidson intercepted a Brady pass intended for Leonard Fournette and ran it back for a touchdown. The second half started smoothly but penalties and dropped passes hurt the Falcons.
Finally, Matt Ryan still needs to be protected. I’m not sure what the offensive line is thinking but yet again Ryan was sacked one too many times during this game. He was sacked three times and hit eleven times in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Tom Brady was hit once by Grady Jarrett. Otherwise, Brady was untouched all afternoon. It is a dirty truth: Ryan needs a clean pocket and a cushion to get the ball to the receivers. Once again, the Falcons were dominated in the trenches. That would have played a big role in Atlanta’s hopes of keeping the game close.
“It’s one of those things that we have to do a better job of as we move forward,” Ryan said postgame. “When you’re playing against a really good football team, a really good offense, an offense that can score, you know you have to come away with touchdowns. That part was disappointing for sure.”
This Sunday, the Falcons will travel to Uptown Charlotte and will face the 5-7 Carolina Panthers. Carolina’s head coach, Matt Rhule, fired his offensive coordinator Joe Brady during their bye week. Brady has struggled to adapt to the return of Cam Newton. Before ‘Ace Boogie’ returned, Joe Brady’s offense had been unimaginative. Coupled with the loss of all-world running back Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers have struggled. After winning their first three games, Carolina has lost seven of their last nine games. Kickoff is 1:00PM from Bank of America Stadium.