Buccaneers lose NFC South lead after sloppy loss to Falcons

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AP Photos/Mark LoMoglio

By: Garrett Ballard

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Atlanta Falcons 16-13 on Sunday, falling to 2nd place in the NFC South in the process. Both teams struggled to secure a comfortable lead, allowing the Falcons to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired.

The Bucs struggled to get anything going at all, as turnovers and untimely penalties stunted any chance of positivity from the offense. The Buccaneers committed nine penalties for a total of 66 yards and had two turnovers.

Many of those penalties seemed to come at the worst possible time and were preventable. There were false starts, illegal procedures, and other penalties that should not happen in critical situations. The team once again said that they need to get better and not allow that to happen.

“We eliminated [the penalties] in practice, but we got to eliminate them in the game,” Todd Bowles said. “It takes more focus from a coaching standpoint, from a player standpoint, and we have to be held accountable.”

The Buccaneers started out the game with some excitement, as Mike Evans caught a 40-yard touchdown pass, something they were sorely missing against the Lions. However, that would be all that came on the touchdown front.

One thing that stayed constant from the Lions’ game was the poor rushing attack. Dave Canales, Rachaad White, and the interior offensive line once again struggled to get anything going on the ground. In fact, the majority of production from Bucs running backs came from screens and similar short passes.

Talking about the struggles in the run game, Bowles said that the struggles were all over the offense, not just the run game.

“We’re going to have to be able to run the ball, we are going to have to throw the ball, and execute better in the red zone all around.”

With 3:41 remaining in the game, the Bucs put together a nice drive and looked at a push for a touchdown, but a poorly timed Baker Mayfield interception stalled the drive.

“Can’t turn the ball over in the red zone,” Mayfield said. Per usual, Mayfield took ownership of his mistakes and admitted he must be better.

After a three-and-out by the Falcons, the Bucs got the ball back and ended up scoring a game-tying field goal with less than a minute left in the game. The game seemed destined to reach overtime, but the Falcons had other plans.

Desmond Ridder immediately found Kyle Pitts for a 39-yard game that put the Falcons in Younghoe Koo’s field goal range. The large chunk play to Pitts looked like a blown coverage by Ryan Neal.

Postgame, Bowles said, “I know exactly what happened, we’ll address it.”

This sloppy loss means the Falcons catapult the Buccaneers in the NFC South standing, and with how lackluster this division is, they might not give it back. The season is long, but the outlook is bleak for the Buccaneers right now.

Looking forward

The Bucs have a short week ahead of them, as they will travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills on Thursday night. Preparation for this game is going to be getting the Bucs back on track before focusing on Buffalo.

“We got to focus on us,” Bowles said. “We can’t play Buffalo plus Tampa, we got to get Tampa under control before we can focus on Buffalo.”

Mayfield said preparing for teams during a short week is much more mental than physical, so tape will be crucial.

“Thursday games are a lot of mental stuff for us,” Mayfield said. “We got to get on the same page and be professionals about it.”