The Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew a 17-point lead, and then fought back to retake the lead. In the end, it was all for naught as the Falcons would escape with a win.
For two teams that had nothing two play for, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons threw haymakers for 60 minutes in one of the most entertaining games of Week 17.
Former Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant would hit a 34-yard field goal as time expired to give the Falcons a 34-32 victory.
The loss would lock the Buccaneers into a top-five pick in the NFL Draft.
Facing a crucial third-and-11 the Buccaneers somehow left Julio Jones wide open over the middle of the field to set up a simple field goal attempt for Matt Bryant.
Following a Tampa Bay takeaway, Winston found Chris Godwin for his second touchdown catch of the day. The Bucs took a 32-31 lead with 5:10 left in the fourth.
Despite trailing by 11 points in the final quarter, Winston tried to give the Buccaneers some life. He attacked the Atlanta secondary, eventually finding Mike Evans in the end zone for his second touchdown catch of the day.
Mike Evans cemented his name in the Buccaneers record books yet again. He passed Mark Carrier for the most receiving yards in a single season. Carrier’s record stood for 29 years. He also became the only receiver in franchise history to gain over 1,500 yards in a season.
The Falcons built on their four-point lead early in the fourth quarter when rookie wideout Calvin Ridley caught his 10th touchdown pass on the season, a franchise record.
After Damontae Kazee picked off a pass that Desmond Trufant tipped into the air, Falcons running back Tevin Coleman burst through the Bucs defense for a 23-yard touchdown run. The Bucs 17 point first half lead was no more. Atlanta took a 24-20 lead into the final period.
In the middle of the third quarter, both teams traded field goals, but Winston would toss an interception at the end of the third quarter.
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The momentum was on Atlanta’s side out of the halftime break. After a methodical drive, the Falcons ran their version of the ‘Philly Special’, where Mohamed Sanu found Matt Ryan in the back of the end zone.
Quickly, the Buccaneers were on the verge of giving up a 17-point lead.
After Winston found Chris Godwin on a beautiful throw to extend the Bucs’ lead to 17-0, Tampa just needed a few stops to hold the Falcons to a first-half shutout.
Instead, the prevent defense allowed Ryan to drive down the field. He found Julio Jones in the end zone to give the Falcons all of the momentum heading into the locker room.
Godwin, by the way, had a terrific game. After he slowed down in recent weeks, Godwin had one of his best performances of the season. He caught six passes for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Tampa Bay’s defense played exceptionally well for almost the entire first half. They forced Atlanta to punt on their first five drives.
Strong play from Brent Grimes and Andrew Adams stifled the Falcons passing attack. With Atlanta continually shooting itself in the foot with penalties, the Bucs defense showed up in for nearly all of the first half.
Shortly after Evans broke the record, Winston found him wide open for a 19-yard touchdown to give Tampa Bay a 7-0 lead to cap off a 93-yard drive.