Falcons 43, Buccaneers 28: Immediate Reactions

Nov 3, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber (43) carries the ball as Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley (44) and Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) tackles during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 3, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber (43) carries the ball as Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley (44) and Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) tackles during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buccaneers (3-5) faced a short week after a tough loss on Sunday, and they didn’t handle it well. The Falcons (6-3), facing the same short week, blew them out by a score of 43-28. Here, we have observations and reactions from Tampa Bay’s second loss in five days.

28. 48. 43. 44. Final

The Buccaneers got out to a good start on Thursday night, but it didn’t last. The Falcons only held a six-point lead going into the locker room, but they came out in the second half and outscored the Bucs 23-14 to finish off a 43-28 win. Tampa Bay has now lost two straight, falling two games below .500 and two and a half back of first in the division.

Observations and Reactions- General

-The Bucs had a few bad moments in the first half, but overall, they did a good job of hanging in considering they played almost five quarters on Sunday. They went into the locker room down six, which was certainly a manageable deficit.

-That being said, Tampa Bay was very undisciplined in the first half, getting flagged eight times for 64 yards. The second half was better, as they committed just three penalties for 21 yards.

-The Bucs were cheated out of a timeout early in the second half. Head coach Dirk Koetter challenged a Julio Jones third-down catch after it looked like he had trapped the ball against the ground. After review, the call stood, which cost Tampa Bay a timeout. It kept the defense on the field, and Atlanta eventually scored to widen its lead.

-Tampa Bay’s inability to win at Raymond James Stadium is as puzzling as it is sad. There isn’t a lot to say about it other than that.

Observations and Reactions- Offense

-The first drive of the game was a big one for the Bucs. They were able to set the tone with an early scoring drive, which culminated with a three-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans.

-The connection between Winston and Evans was huge on Thursday night. In the first half, they hooked up seven times for 77 yards and two touchdowns. It’s really incredible to see what No. 13 is able to do regardless of the fact that the opposing team knows that he’s getting the ball the majority of the time. He made a sick one-handed catch near the sideline in the third quarter, getting hit hard after coming down with it. The 2014 first-round pick finished the night with 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

-Winston really didn’t play that poorly. Without protection and any sort of running game, he still completed 23 of his 37 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. There are times to criticize his play, but Thursday night wasn’t necessarily one of them.

-Winston left with a knee injury in the fourth quarter, while Evans left to get evaluated for a concussion. If they miss any time, things will get even worse for the Bucs. Yikes.

-The run game was, predictably, ineffective. No one really got going, with rookie Peyton Barber finishing the night as the leading rusher. He totaled just 31 yards on 11 carries. Antone Smith left the game late, which means that’s now four running backs down for Tampa Bay.

-The offensive line is not good enough. It’s well ahead of where it was in 2014, but there are a lot of issues. Joe Hawley lets his emotions get the best of him at least once a game. Donovan Smith seems to get called for holding at the most inopportune times. And really, there isn’t a lot of depth there. When Hawley left with an injury, the line somehow got even worse. It may not be the biggest problem with this team, but it has to be addressed at some point.

Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate were fairly effective on the night. They totaled 46 and 43 yards respectively, and both found the end zone.

-How about Mike Glennon? As a result of Winston’s injury, the Tampa Bay backup went 10-for-11 for 75 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Sure, it was “garbage time.” But hey, good for Glennon.

Observations and Reactions- Defense

-The opening drive for the Buccaneer defense was as bad as it gets. After such a quick start by the offense, the defense needed a stop. Instead, it gave up a quick score. A coverage breakdown led to six, as Matt Ryan hit Levine Toilolo for a 32-yard touchdown.

-The defense did respond fairly well after two turnovers by the offense. On both drives, they forced Atlanta to kick field goals despite starting with solid field position.

Gerald McCoy‘ strip-sack was the biggest play of the night for Mike Smith‘s defense. The constant ridiculing of McCoy is, quite frankly, ridiculous. He now has 39.5 sacks in his career, which is the fourth-most in team history.

-Tampa Bay lost Kwon Alexander in the first half, which is a big hit for the defense. Not only is he the signal-caller, but he’s also been one of the lone bright spots on this struggling defense.

-The second half was painful for the defense. The offense didn’t hold their own, which led to the Atlanta offense holding possession for most of the third quarter. The whole defense wore down quickly, with the Falcons scoring at will to put things out of reach.

-Just five days after giving up 626 yards to the Raiders, the Bucs gave up 461 yards to the Falcons. That isn’t good.

Observations and Reactions- Special Teams

-No complaints about Roberto Aguayo this week. He made both of his extra point attempts, even with one of them getting pushed back to 38 yards.

Bryan Anger punted three times, averaging 47.7 yards per punt. He downed all three inside the Atlanta 20.

Final Thoughts

Another one. The Bucs played another disappointing game and ended up with another disappointing home loss. At this point, they are what they are. They’re an average football team with a few talented pieces and a lot of holes. It’s time for the expectations to fall back down to earth. I, as much as anyone, thought this team could compete for a playoff spot this year. But through eight games, it just doesn’t look like that’s a possibility anymore.

I’m still behind Dirk Koetter as the team’s head coach. This definitely isn’t on him. The Bucs just don’t have enough, especially with all of the injuries they’re dealing with. Playing the injury card doesn’t mean everyone is in the clear. The defense is laughably bad, particularly in the secondary. The second half of the season must be a time for evaluation. Even still, there are some winnable games left on the schedule. The Bucs really need to cash in on those.

Next: Bucs Are At the Tipping Point

Tampa Bay concludes its homestand on November 13 with a 1:00 game against the Chicago Bears.