Buccaneers: Key Plays from Week 15 against the Falcons

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 18: Quarterback Jameis Winston
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 18: Quarterback Jameis Winston /

On Monday Night Football, the Buccaneers suffered a tight loss to the Atlanta Falcons, 24-21.

The Buccaneers lost by the same scoreline two weeks in a row, with a last-second field goal attempt being their undoing. However, this time it was a missed field goal attempt by the Bucs that lead to a loss. Patrick Murray’s 54-yard field goal attempt went wide right, it was not exactly a gimme field goal, but one he should have made.

The Bucs lost several players to injury throughout the game, ten to be exact. Most notably, OJ Howard, Desean Jackson and JR Sweezy all suffered injuries. Defensively, the Bucs lost Ryan Smith and Adarius Glanton to injuries. Glanton’s injury appeared to be very serious as he was carted off with an air-cast.

Jameis Winston played an absolutely stellar game, posting 130.5 passer rating. Winston’s three touchdowns were all great plays. Winston with a makeshift line, no rushing game and down weapons put on a show. If there were any doubts about Winston’s ability to lead this franchise, they were silenced for the timebeing.

The defense played the best they could. It was not a good performance, but for how shorthanded they were it was enough. The defense was missing McCoy, David and lost several players during the game. With the game on the line, they came up with a big-time sack to give the offense a chance to tie.

The Bucs have not appeared to give up, but their effort has not been enough to win games.

Without further ado, let’s get to the key plays.

Must Read: Winners and Losers from Week 15

Matt Ryan 27 yard pass to Justin Hardy: 10:53 Q1

After the Falcons went three and out they were determined to do better this time. Following a run by Devonta Freeman that put them on the edge of Bucs territory, Atlanta faced a first and ten. On the first and ten from their 49, Ryan found Hardy deep down the sideline for a 27 yard gain. That pass put the Falcons at the Bucs 24.

This was a key play because it put the Falcons in a good position to score.

Matt Ryan six-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hardy: 6:54 Q1

Hardy finished what he started. Several plays after picking up 27 yards, Hardy found the end-zone as he was left wide open. The Bucs inexplicably had 10 players on the field and suffered for it. The Bucs sent a blitz but did not have enough players in coverage to make a stop. Ryan saw the blitz and quickly threw to Hardy for the touchdown.

This was a key play because the Falcons scored a touchdown to take the lead.

Jameis Winston 30 yard touchdown pass to OJ Howard: 1:52 Q1

Following the score by the Falcons, Winston wanted to answer. The Bucs drive was kept alive due to a ticky tacky unnecessary roughness call, but the Bucs would take it. Winston continued to methodically lead the Bucs down the field. Winston was looking sharp and not forcing anything. On a first and ten from the Falcons 30, Winston found Howard on a check-down and he would go the distance for a touchdown.

This was a key play because the Bucs tied the game with their first touchdown of the game.

Matt Ryan pass to Devonta Freeman for 29 yards: 0:03 Q1

The Falcons looked to respond after the touchdown by the Bucs. After a big pickup by Freeman, he continued to pick up big chunks. Ryan found Freeman on an angle route over the middle and Freeman did the rest picking up 29 yards. Freeman was off to a great start to the game and put the Falcons just outside the Bucs red-zone.

This was a key play because it put the Falcons in another great position to score.

Levine Toilolo fumble recovery for a touchdown: 12:56 Q2

The Bucs almost caught a break, but the result was another touchdown for the Falcons. Atlanta was able to get it all the way inside the five and wanted to finish off the drive with Freeman. On a second and goal from the one-yard line, the Falcons ran Freeman, he appeared to cross the goal line but fumbled after. Upon further review, it was seen that Freeman lost the ball before he crossed the plain, but it did not matter since Toilolo recovered the ball in the end-zone.

This was a key play because it was another touchdown by the Falcons that put them up again.

Jameis Winston 23 yard pass to Alan Cross: 8:30 Q2

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Injuries to Brate and Howard forced Winston to use players he is not accustomed to throwing the ball to. Alan Cross was the unlikely recipient on a deep ball by Winston and he made a great play. On a third and four from the Bucs 45, Winston took a shot deep down the field and found Alan Cross with a picture-perfect pass and a great adjustment by Cross. This play put the Bucs well into Atlanta territory.

This was a key play because it was a big third-down conversion that put the Bucs in a good position to score.

Keanu Neal forced fumble: 6:40 Q2

The Bucs found themselves inside the Falcons ten after some hard running by Peyton Barber. However, his hard running would end up costing him. Barber had picked up enough yardage for a first and attempted to go for more yardage but was stripped. On a second and 1 from the Atlanta nine, Barber ran to the right side, easily picking up the first down. Barber was thinking about end-zone, but Neal was thinking about the football and he took it from Barber.

This was a key play because it prevented what seemed to be guaranteed points for the Bucs.

Matt Ryan 29 yard pass to Julio Jones: 6:30 Q2

This was the first time Julio broke out in the game so far, the only mystery was why it took so long. The Bucs were making a concerted effort to stop Jones this game, and they were doing okay for the most part, but this time Julio just broke contain. It was the first play after the fumble by Barber. Ryan found Julio open over the middle of the field and picked up 29 yards to give the Falcons some breathing room.

This was a key play because it was a big pickup that took them out of poor field position.

Jameis Winston 42 yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans: 8:31 Q3

This connection has not been there for the Bucs this season as much as they have hoped. However, when they do connect, big things usually happen and that was the case here. After having a touchdown called back because of an offensive pass interference last drive, Evans was determined to make this one count. On a first and ten from the Atlanta 42, Winston evaded the pass rush, stepped up and gave Evans a chance at the ball. Evans was able to make a spectacular catch between two defenders for a touchdown.

This was a key play because it was a touchdown for the Bucs that made it a one-possession game again.

William Gholston Blocked Field Goal: 1:22 Q3

The Buccaneers had not blocked a field goal since Gholston had done it three years ago. What better time to break that drought than on Monday Night Football. Following the touchdown by the Bucs, Atlanta easily moved the ball downfield before stalling at the Bucs fifteen-yard line. On the field goal attempt, Gholston just jumped up and using all of his 6’7 build he was able to get his hands on the ball and bat it down.

This was a key play because the Bucs prevented the Falcons from making it a six-point game.

Devonta Freeman 32 yard rushing touchdown: 7:58 Q4

Freeman was having his way with the Bucs defense and made it look particularly easy on this drive. Freeman was picking up good yardage on nearly every one of his carries. On a third and two from the Bucs 32, Freeman went untouched for the score, but not before humiliating Keith Tandy with a nice juke move. The play was a simple toss to the right, Freeman found a gaping hole and never looked back.

This was a key play because it was a touchdown by the Falcons that put them back up by two possessions.

Jameis Winston sixteen yard touchdown pass to Adam Humphries: 4:07 Q4

Following the touchdown drive by the Falcons, Winston refused to quit and led the Bucs on his own touchdown drive. Winston led a 75-yard touchdown drive finding several different targets. Following an incompletion on an end-zone shot to Evans, Winston looked for the end-zone again. Winston scrambled around looking for someone and eventually found Humphries on a beautifully placed pass for a touchdown.

This was a key play because it was a touchdown by the Bucs to cut the deficit to three points.

Clinton McDonald sack: 2:00 Q4

What better time to get a sack than with the game on the line. The Bucs defense had failed to come up big on defense several times this year, but this depleted defensive team came up with the biggest defensive play of the game. The Bucs needed a stop to have any chance of tying the game. On a third and nine, Ryan was stepping up in the pocket looking for someone to throw to, but McDonald was able to catch him from behind and bring him down.

This was a key play because it was a key defensive play to give the offense a chance.

Patrick Murray missed 54-yard field goal: 0:06 Q4

After the Bucs got the ball back, Winston was able to get a drive going. Winston led the Bucs to the Falcons 36, with six seconds left. You could argue that the Bucs unfairly lost four or five seconds because the ref fell down. If the Bucs were able to spike with 10 seconds left, they could have easily had enough time to run another play and maybe get closer. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The Bucs trotted Pat Murray out in a hurry, and with the play-clock running Murray hurried his kick and it went wide right.

This was a key play because it decided the game.

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The Bucs suffered another heart-breaking loss. These last-second losses have almost become the norm, and you almost begin to expect it.

This team fought to the end and deserved an opportunity to win the game in overtime. I do not completely put the loss on Murray, I fully believe he should have made it, but he truly had to rush his kick. If I’m being honest it is a little annoying to see the ref fall there, because you never see that happening to another team.

Winston was superb and deserved a better result, but he is ultimately judged on his wins and his win-loss record is beginning to look a little lopsided.

The Buccaneers take on the Carolina Panthers next week, looking to spoil their chances at the NFC South title.

"Walking the Plank returns with a recap of Monday Night Football, and a Panthers preview!"