Buccaneers “ball hawk” shows up in 48-25 victory over the Atlanta Falcons

By Michelle Sabin

Sports Talk Florida

Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted division rival Atlanta Falcons in week 2. Although they pulled off the win, it was nothing short of a battle between these two teams for all four quarters. 

In the opening drive, the Bucs offense came out focused with a 75-yard series in 2:35 that culminated in a 20-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. During the series, Brady targeted receiver Mike Evans on two deep passes.  He looked for Antonio Brown in the end zone but the pass was broken up by Falcons.  

After a short 2-yard gain by running back Ronald Jones, Brady found Gronkowski in the end zone.  Kicker Ryan Succop’s extra point was good and the Buccaneers were on the board 7-0.  The rest of the first quarter was dominated by the defense, as they held the Falcons to three and outs and did not let them past the Bucs 49-yard line.  

However, Atlanta mirrored the performance by holding Tampa Bay to a three and out, and landing a sack on Tom Brady with a fumble recovered by the Falcons. It was the first sack on Brady this season, and the first of three in the game.  

With a minute left in the first quarter, the Falcons turned the ball over on downs at their own 45-yard line.  Tampa Bay capitalized on the field position with a scoring drive and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski.  

Both teams traded scoring drives for the rest of the half. Atlanta responded with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson.  Brady put up another short touchdown pass to Mike Evans in the end zone.  And then the Falcons drove down the field for a field goal.  

At halftime, the Buccaneers led 21-10 and appeared to be on a trajectory for another win. However,  the Falcons disrupted the plan in the third quarter holding the Bucs to just one touchdown and shifting the momentum in their favor.  Atlanta added two touchdowns, an extra point, and a 2-point conversion by Quarterback Matt Ryan on a dive into the end zone.

Head Coach Bruce Arians explained, “I am not happy with the way we played. Loved the start, then we get lackadaisical. I liked the start of the second half. Then we get lackadaisical. That’s not going to work next week. I think we got a lot to learn from.”

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Bucs held onto a narrow lead of 28-25.  After an offensive holding penalty, an incomplete pass, and a sack on Brady for a loss of 7 yards, Tampa Bay’s offense looked out of sorts for the first time in a long time. 

They recovered on the next series with a 3-play touchdown drive from the Falcons 43-yard line.  Brady connected with Chris Godwin, who snatched the ball out of the air in the corner of the end zone on the 13-yard pass. Although this was the fifth touchdown of the game, the Bucs only led the Falcons by 10 points with 9 minutes left in the game. 

Ultimately, it was the performance of the Buccaneers defense that guaranteed their team win. With a combination of both skill and luck, safety Mike Edwards had not one, but two pick-6 plays.  The first interception was on a pass intended for receiver Russell Gage. 

Ryan, who was under pressure with a blitz rush, attempted to throw the ball to Gage on a hook route. Edwards jumped in front of the pass, tipped the ball up and right into his own hands. He ran it back 31 yards for the touchdown.   

“Yeah, I mean he’ll tip it to himself. I mean he is just a ballhawk,” Arians said, “He always has been since he’s been here. He finds the ball. Guys are hollering to him ‘get outside, get outside.’ He suckered them right into it. He knew exactly what he was doing.” 

Brady added, “there’s certain people I’ve been around in my career that just find a way to get the ball in their hands and make plays with it, and Mike obviously comes up with a lot of those at the end of the game.”

With four minutes left in the game, Edwards came up with another interception at the Atlanta 15-yard line with the assist of Carlton Davis.  Edwards ran it in and celebrated in the end zone, which resulted in a taunting penalty enforced between the downs. Succop, who finished 6 for 7 attempts in the game, hit the extra point and the Buccaneers won 48-25.

It is an accomplishment to have one pick-6 in an NFL game, but two is an impressive feat.  Edwards explained this was the first (and second) of his career.  He said,  “you have to be ready for the moment. I knew when I caught it, I had to score and take this one back too. Good feeling, great feeling.”

While they ended on a high note, as Arians explained, the team still has a lot of work to do in between these plays. He added, “we haven’t played for 60 minutes yet. And that’s what we talked about. We are going to have to play 60 minutes to beat the Rams.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Los Angeles to play the Rams on September 26. 

The videos used in this story were provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youtube channel.