Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan both spoke after a 23-20 overtime home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports from the Georgia Dome.
Despite the ridiculous mishandling of the football and a game laced with 14 penalties, the Falcons somehow managed to rally back from a 17-point and force overtime against an up-and-coming Tampa Bay team, which had to overcome its own coaching blunders.
Nobody from Canton, Ohio will be calling asking for a game tape of this one. If anything, this game was tribute to former Commissioner Pete Rozelle and this whole ill-conceived notion of “parity.”
For the second week in a row, the Falcons treated the football with reckless disregard in another rudimentary display of “professional” football.
Let’s get on to the grades:
Game ball: Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay head coach. The Falcons were so kind in gifting the Bucs four turnovers that led to 20 points, that the Tampa Bay coach thought it would nice to give back with a bootleg call to go for it on fourth down and give Matt Ryan a short-field to force overtime. Former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter bailed out Smith with some nice calls during a 15-play game-winning overtime drive.
Quarterbacks, D. Ryan had an interception, a botched hand off, another fumble in overtime that Devonta Freeman recovered, a nearly botched toss and he failed to fall on a Mike Person’s errant snap. That’s too many ball handling mistakes by the normally flawless Ryan. He was 37 of 45 for 397 yards passing with two touchdowns and the interception. He finished with a passer rating of 109. The Falcons were 2 of 6 in the redzone (counting the drive that ended at the 20.)
Running backs, C. Devonta Freeman rushed 21 times for 88 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. His string of three straight 100-yard games was snapped. Tevin Coleman had three carries for 11 yards. Freeman played 67 of 80 snaps (85 percent) and Coleman played 10 snaps (12 percent).
Wide receivers/tight ends, C. Julio Jones caught 12 of 13 targets for 162 yards and a big touchdown with 17 seconds left to force overtime. He played 72 of 80 snaps (90 percent), but had the ball taken from him by Tampa linebacker Kwon Alexander. Jones must be used more in the redzone. Roddy White is an afterthought in this offense. He had two catches on just three targets. Rookie Justin Hardy made his debut and played 53 snaps (66 percent) and had more targets than White with four. Hardy caught two passes for 21 yards. Tight end Jacob Tamme had 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons used their three-tight end formation as Tony Moeaki played on 11 percent of the snaps. The Falcons had two 100-yard receivers for the first time this season. Jones (162) & Tamme (103). The last time Atlanta had two 100-yard receivers in the same game was Week 13 of 2014 against Arizona–Jones (189) and Harry Douglas (116).
Offensive line, D. The unit committed four of the 14 penalties. Left guard Andy Levitre had two accepted false starts. Right guard Chris Chester had an accepted holding call and center Mike Person had a declined holding call. Overall, the run blocking could have been better as the Falcons averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Ryan was sacked once, but hit 10 times as Tampa Bay defensive tackles Henry Melton (three hits) and Gerald McCoy (three hits) turned in strong games.
Defensive line, C-minus. For just the second time this season, the Falcons run defense gave up more than 100 yards rushing. The Bucs, who gained 117 yards on 32 carries, became the first team to rush for more than 100 yards on the Falcons since Dallas rushed for 127 yards in Week 3. The Falcons had two sacks and seven quarterback hits, but only two of the hits were by defensive linemen. Paul Soliai registered a hit and so did Adrian Clayborn. Rookie Vic Beasley played 29 of 69 snaps (41 percent) and had two assisted tackles. Ra’Shede Hageman had four tackles. Soliai (left hand) and Tyson Jackson (ribs) suffered injuries, but returned to the game. Kroy Biermann tied for the team lead with six tackles.
Linebackers, C-minus: Paul Worrilow and Justin Durant were solid. Worrilow had five tackles and a quarterback hit. Durant, who left the game but returned, had four tackles. Brooks Reed played 45 of 69 snaps (45 percent), but had just one tackle.
Defensive backs, C. The Falcons, who were without starting safety William Moore because of a groin injury, finished the game with three-fourths of the starters out after cornerbacks Desmond Trufant (lower back) and Robert Alford (groin) left the game. Trufant injury is not expected to be serious. He attempted to return to the game. Phillips Adams and Jalen Collins finished the game at cornerback. Ricardo Allen and Kemal Ishmael were the safeties. Adams was called for a key pass interference in overtime to help get the Bucs in field goal position. Allen tied for the team lead with six tackles.
Special teams, C-plus. The Falcons didn’t punt against the Bucs. Matt Bosher boomed his six kickoffs, which were all touchbacks. Matt Bryant made short field goals of 21 and 24 yards as the offense continued to stall in the red zone. Returner Eric Weems had a 31-yard kickoff return and averaged 11.5 yards on two punt returns.
Coaching, D. The penalties and the red zone play-calling must be put under the microscope and corrected by the coaches, immediately. The shoddy ball handling is on the players and their proper execution of the plays. The Buccaneers entered Week 8 with the most penalties per game in the league while the Falcons were among the least penalized teams. The Bucs came to the Georgia Dome and dragged the Falcons down into the muck. The Falcons were called for 14 penalties which resulted in 124 loss yards. Three penalties were declined. The two false starts by Levitre and the two defensive offsides (Clayborn and Beasley) are utterly unacceptable. The rest of the penalties were errors of commission. Defensively, the coaches were limited to zone coverages with the backups in the secondary in overtime. Also, the defense almost had another too many men on the field penalty in overtime. Better organization with signal calling may be required.
How did the Falcons get to 6-2?
Here’s a look back at the game stories, news and notes from the Falcons’ 23-20 overtime loss to Tampa Bay, win over the Titans (10-7), the loss to the Saints (31-21) and their victories over the Redskins (25-19 in OT), Texans (48-21), Cowboys (39-28), Giants (24-20) and Eagles (26-24).
TAMPA BAY GAME COVERAGE — Bucs 23, Falcons 20 in OT
TENNESSEE GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 10, Titans 7
NEW ORLEANS GAME COVERAGE — Saints 31, Falcons 21
WASHINGTON GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 25, Redskins 19 in OT
TEXANS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 48, Texans 21
COWBOYS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 39, Cowboys 28
GIANTS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 24, Giants 20
EAGLES GAME COVERAGE — FALCONS 26, EAGLES 24