Game Ball: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 283 yards on 27 of 44 passing, directing a pair of long scoring drives in the second half to pull the Buccaneers within one score. Fitzpatrick had a third drive deep into Atlanta territory midway through the fourth quarter after a Brent Grimes fumble recovery, though that one stalled on a fourth-and-one incompletion. Though the Bucs’ rally was ultimately incomplete, Fitzpatrick had the Buccaneers in position to tie it up late primarily because, for the second straight game, he and the offense did not commit a single turnover. Fitzpatrick also used his feet well, scrambling twice for a pair of key first downs.
Play of the Game: Fitzpatrick called it the “non-play of the game,” later in the locker room, and though we are usually awarding this to a snap that went well, in this case he’s right. The Buccaneers’ incompletion on fourth-and-one at the Atlanta 18 with seven minutes left was the most critical moment in the contest, and it cost the Bucs a chance to complete a 21-point rally from three touchdowns down in the second half.
Turning Point: Tampa Bay Head Coach Dirk Koetter said there were some “scary moments” for the Buccaneers before and after halftime, by which he meant points in time in which the team could have given up and let the game get out of hand. That’s not what happened. The Buccaneers took their next two drives 75 and 80 yards for touchdowns and were suddenly in a position to mount one of the best rallies in franchise history. It all started with a 20-yard pass to Mike Evans to open the first of those two long scoring drives. The Bucs lost, but that was a turning point on which the game stayed competitive rather than falling apart.
It Was Over When: Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for the last of Jones’ seven receptions that went for 20 or more yards. This one was a 24-yarder with the Falcons facing a third-and-eight at their own 36 with just under four minutes to play. It came on the drive that followed the Buccaneers’ failed fourth-down attempt, and at that point the visiting team still had hopes of forcing a punt and taking one more crack at tying the game. Instead, Jones’ catch extended Atlanta’s possession, which eventually ended in a game-clinching touchdown run by Tevin Coleman.