Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons held off a frantic and furious comeback attempt and beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-29 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Tampa started fast as Jameis Winston led the offense down the field and capped the 8 play, 75 yard opening with a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro would miss the extra point so the score was only 6-0 for the Buccaneers.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who had an outstanding performance on the day would lead the offense right back on their first possession, marching down the field, and he would hit wide receiver Mohamad Sanu for a 35-yard scoring strike to put the Falcons up 7-6.
After a stop by the Falcons defense, who played much improved on Sunday, Ryan marched the offense downfield early in the 2nd quarter; the Falcons hit paydirt again as running back Ito Smith scored from 14 yards out to put the Falcons up 14-6.
The Atlanta defense stopped Tampa on offense and gave it back to their own offense. Ryan displayed precision passing all day and scored through the air again midway through the quarter as tight end Austin Hooper would be the beneficiary of a 9-yard touchdown pass, putting the Falcons up 21-6.
On the next Buccaneers possession, Winston drove his offense down deep but safety Demontae Kazee intercepted an attempted touchdown pass.
The next Falcon offensive possession after the interception started at the 1-yard line where the drive stalled and the Bucs forced an Atlanta punt. Winston then drove the Tampa offense downfield for a half-killing drive and capped it with a 10-yard score with 26 seconds left in the half, bringing the score to 21-13.
The Falcons were not content with the scoring for the half, so the offense completed a deep out to Julio Jones, completed another pass to Sanu, and got down to kicker Matt Bryant’s field goal range. Bryant scored from 45 yards pushing the Falcons lead to 24-13 at the half.
At the beginning of the third quarter, both offenses could not get going.
Finally, Winston got the Bucs to the 2-yard line. After a penalty backed Tampa up, Winston threw his second interception of the day as his ball was tipped and intercepted by safety Brian Poole. After another Atlanta offensive stall, Tampa moved the ball into field goal range where Catanzaro converted from 40 yards and cut the Atlanta lead to 24-16 with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter.
As the 4th quarter began, the Falcons offense sputtered again. Their inability to move the ball emboldened the Bucs.
Winston got the Bucks back into the end zone with a 9 yard TD pass to WR Chris Godwin. Tampa would attempt a 2-point conversion but it failed; the lead was cut to two, by the score of 24-22 with 11:34 left in the contest.
Ryan and the Falcon offense answered back with a drive of their own. With much of the starting receiving corps out for Atlanta, Ryan led the offense down the field and 6:28 left in the contest; then he hit Tevin Coleman with a 6-yard TD pass extending the lead to 31-22.
Tampa came right back with a drive of their own and with their backs against the wall, Winston would hit Peyton Barber for a 5 yard scoring pass, cutting the lead to 31-29, leaving 3:47 left in the game.
On the ensuing drive, the Falcons came out methodical picking up two first downs. As the drive stalled after they failed to convert a 3rd and 1 run, Head Coach Dan Quinn rolled the dice and entrusted his Kicker to extend the lead. The gamble would pay off as Bryant would hit a 57 yard Field Goal to up the lead to 34-29, leaving Tampa 1:03 left to have to score a touchdown.
Tampa would not go quietly in the night as Winston led the offense in their 2-minute mode. He would get the offense down deep in Falcon territory and it came down to one play with 7 seconds left.
After Winston lured the Falcons defense to spread out, he dropped back seeing the middle part and then took off running. After the defense caught Winston, he attempted to lateral the ball to his left, but finally, the ball hit the ground, and the scoring threat would end with the Falcons winning 34-29.
Ryan had another outstanding performance going 31 of 41 for 354 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. Jones caught 10 balls for 143 yards and Coleman would lead the team in rushing with 35 yards on 10 carries. The Falcons are now 2-4 overall, but 2-1 in NFC South play. They will host the New York Giants next Monday night.