Four Downs: Falcons surge late to beat reeling Bucs
In between Atlanta’s two wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — the Falcons destroyed the Bucs in Week 3 by 42, and won on Sunday by 10 — were five tough losses. But after a team wins on the road for the first time in seven tries, and puts an end to an extended losing streak, all it wants to do is look forward.
Here are four observations from Atlanta’s 27-17 win over Tampa Bay:
Entering Week 10 action, the Falcons had just 24 points in the fourth quarter of the eight games they had played. Teams had outscored Atlanta 84-24 in the final frame.
That’s why when Josh McCown hit Austin Seferian-Jenkins with a 1-yard touchdown strike 42 seconds into the fourth quarter, things started looking bleak for the Falcons.
But bleak is something the Falcons have grown accustomed to, and Sunday they learned to power through.
Five minutes later, Matt Ryan hit Roddy White with a pass to add six points to the tally, then Harry Douglas on a 2-point conversion. Matt Bryant added three points with a field goal with 4:10 to play.
Atlanta’s 10 points in the fourth quarter were the most since it scored 10 against New Orleans in Week 1. When the Falcons scored twice in the fourth on Sunday, it was just the second time they had put any points on the board in their last seven games.
Give Atlanta credit for a fourth-quarter, come-from-behind victory. Also congratulate the Falcons for adding 41.7 percent to their total scoring in the final 15 minutes of games.
This is an area where Atlanta has excelled in recent seasons. It would be huge for the prospect of more wins moving forward if the Falcons could continue adding points late.
For the fourth game in a row, Biermann was able to put pressure on an opposing quarterback.
Biermann hurried Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler three times in Week 6. He had a hit and a hurry on Baltimore’s Joe Flacco in Week 7, and the next game registered two hurries on Matthew Stafford in London.
But in none of games did he get to the passer and pull him down for a sack. In fact, Biermann didn’t have a sack all season.
That is until Week 10 against the Buccaneers.
Biermann registered 1.5 sacks on Sunday and was a force in getting after McCown. It was the first time since Week 15 of the 2012 season that Biermann got a sack.
The Falcons notched four sacks on Sunday, which was a huge total considering they only had seven in their previous eight games of the season.
Jackson was a catalyst for Atlanta’s first score of the game, in fact he crossed the goal line after 27 yards on that drive. He was also a powerful force late.
After his 27 first-half yards on the ground, Jackson poured in 54 in the second half, including 37 yards in the fourth quarter. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry in the first half and 5.4 in the second to finish with 81 yards on 16 carries (5.1 yard per) and a score.
His 18 carries were by far the most of any Falcons running back on Sunday. Antone Smith carried the ball four times, Devonta Freeman three times and Jaquizz Rodgers got one touch in the ground game.
But Jackson and Freeman were the only backs to make good use of their carries.
Freeman actually averaged more yards than Jackson with 5.3 yards per carry. Rodgers was mired with a lowly one yard per carry and Smith a dismal 0.8 yards per carry.
Jackson ran with power and looked agile when he got into space. Freeman looked as if he’s starting to shed the rookie moniker, and just run like an NFL rusher. That said, where do the Falcons go from here with their four-back committee?
The bell cow has to remain as is; Jackson is the guy who should get the mother lode of the carries. But maybe it’s time to take away from Smith and Rodgers and give to Freeman.
The Buccaneers’ first drive was a 17-play behemoth that took 8:36 off the clock. But Atlanta’s defense came out the victor as it held Tampa Bay to a field goal.
Oh, and Atlanta’s barely-there pass rush this season was dialed in; even harrassing if you will.
On offense, the Falcons were sharp on their first drive as well.
Atlanta went 78 yards on 11 plays and Jackson put the visiting team up early, 7-3. Speaking of Jackson, he picked up 27 yards on the Falcons’ first drive, and fellow veteran Roddy White added 41.
When those two "old guys" move the chains, Atlanta does well.
But after Atlanta shined on both sides of the football early, the polish wore off.
The Falcons had trouble moving the football (dropped passes) and scoring (dropped passes), their secondary wasn’t covering well and Atlanta’s attacking pass-rush wasn’t all that threatening as the game moved forward.
Had the team not found a way to score points in the fourth quarter on Sunday, there’d be more doom and gloom talk surrounding the franchise in the upcoming week.
But the Falcons did win. And while it wasn’t a pretty victory, any time an NFL team goes on the road and comes away happy, it’s done its job.
But just because the 10-point win looks good on paper, don’t forget that the second and third quarters against Tampa Bay were rough. Remember that this was Atlanta’s first win since Week 3, and 66 percent of the team’s victories have come against a team (Tampa Bay) with one of the worst records in the NFL.
Some will blame injuries — both last season and in 2014 — as the reason why Atlanta has struggled, and still is laboring. But the truth is that Atlanta just doesn’t have enough talent from the top to the bottom of its roster to regularly win in the NFL any longer.
The Bucs are a one-win team with plenty of problems of their own. It is absolutely telling that the Falcons has such a tough time in Tampa on Sunday.
This win could spark a second-half resurgence. But until a few wins have been strung together (Atlanta hasn’t won consecutive games since Weeks 15 and 16 of the 2012 season), it remains time for cautious optimism.