Bucs overcome shaky start to dismiss Falcons

by Gary Shelton on December 6, 2021

in general

Godwin's 15 catches were a team record./STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 4 a.m.

The quarterback was dominant. The receivers were dominant. The defensive tackles were dominant.

Why, then, didn't the Bucs' 30-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons feel dominant?

The Bucs moved to 9-3 with a victory that felt more difficult than it had to be Sunday. Despite the Bucs' array of weaponry, the Falcons were able to run on the Bucs -- especially on their first drive -- and they marched downfield often enough to make it a close game.

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In the end, however, the Brady Bunch was just too tough.

Tom Brady passed for 368 yards and four touchdowns, off-setting a pick-six he threw at the end of the first half. His 112.2 rating was higher than in his previous six games.

And he had so many weapons to choose from. His main receivers, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, combined for 22 catches and 242 yards.

Godwin caught a franchise record 115 passes for 143 yards. Mike Evans caught seven for 99 yards. And tight end Rob Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes. The offensive line was solid in protection.

And although the defense tackled poorly and had trouble getting off the field on third down, they gave up only three points after the Falcons' first drive. Defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea each had two sacks on the day. The Bucs never trailed in the game.

Still, it felt as if the Bucs were not hitting on all cylinders. They're still fell short of the Bucs that fans would want in the playoffs. Their secondary gave up 297 yards passing to Matt Ryan, and the team gave up 121 yards rushing. The Falcons converted nine of 17 third downs, some of them in long situations.

"It was a great road win," Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said. "December football. It wasn't perfect. It was really good at times and really bad at times."

Look, it's hard to sneer at a two-score win in the NFL, especially on the road. But the Bucs' defense, although it had a second-half shutout, didn't put the clamp on Atlanta until late.

Take Brady. His four touchdowns dominated the game. But with a 10-point lead in the final seconds of the first half, his screen pass was intercepted by 278-pound defensive lineman Marlon Davison, who returned it three yards for. a score to narrow Tampa Bay's lead to 20-17.

"Poor call," Arians said. "Poor execution."

"Give him credit," Brady said. "He made a good play."

The Bucs were shaky against the run early, but they gave up just 20 yards in the second half. However, Matt Ryan threw for 181 yards in the second half.

The Falcons lost, however, largely because they couldm't figure out how to stop Godwin, who set a franchise record. He also ran once for nine yards.

"Chris is what he is," Arians aid. "He's a great player. He's one of the best in the league ."

Godwin caught five passes on the Bucs' first drive, which featured 13 straight passing plays.

“He did a great job," Brady said. "He’s had a great season Great teammate. Unbelieveble player."

The Bucs are home against Buffalo next week at 4:25 p.m. Brady called it his team's "biggest game of the year."

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