ReFo: Falcons @ Buccaneers, Week 11
Heading into this divisional rivalry, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons were a combined 3-15 which prevented much excitement in the build up. Still these weren’t your usual 1-8 and 2-7 teams, with Tampa Bay having more talent than their record suggests and coming off their first win of the year, and Atlanta just a few months removed from just missing out on a trip to New Orleans.
The Buccaneers came out on top, building an early second half lead off the back of a dominant performance from another running back, leaving the Falcons tied for last place in the division, just a season removed from being the NFC’s number one seed.
It was a game that featured risks taken by both on special teams and some big performances from the triumphant Buccaneers, so with that in mind, let’s take a look at the key performances from this NFC South clash.
Atlanta – Three Performances of Note
Ryan’s Rough Stretch Continues
It’s something we’ve not been used to in his six year career, but Matt Ryan’s slump shows no signs of stopping. He was a bit unlucky with regards to his interception which was returned for a touchdown on 1st-and-10 with 7:19 to go in the first half, with the hit from Dekota Watson the primary factor in the pick. The same can’t be said for his second interception of the day, which came on 2nd-and-9 with 13:36 left in the game, with Ryan simply making a poor decision allowing Dashon Goldson to make a play on the ball.
He struggled outside the numbers, with all but one of his completions, and four of his passing yards, coming in the middle of the field. Both of his touchdown throws came without pressure, with his QB Rating dropping from 118.4 to just 11.2 when the Buccaneers were able to get there. The injuries at skill positions and along the offensive line haven’t helped, but there comes a point where we need to accept that Ryan simply isn’t playing well at this stage.
While Ryan’s struggles have been well documented in recent weeks, he wasn’t alone on Sunday with both Tony Gonzalez (-3.0) and Roddy White (-3.6) also failing to impress. Gonzalez had eight receptions for 65 yards but there was nothing to really get excited about. Factor in a dropped pass and a false start penalty and it won’t go down as one of the better performances in his Hall of Fame career.
White added a late consolation touchdown on 2nd-and-6 with 1:48 left in the game, but he too was guilty of a drop and a penalty. What solidified his poor day however was his fumble on 2nd-and-15 with 5:14 left in the first half. White may still be suffering the effects of his injury earlier in the season but, like Gonzalez, Sunday wasn’t one of the high points of his career.
Though the Falcons Yards Per Carry Average of 7.3 looks impressive, it’s skewed by two long runs late in the game by Antone Smith which accounted for 88 of their 138 yards. However, it’s a shame they found themselves in a hole by half time, as Steven Jackson (+1.9), had shown impressive flashes in the first half.
On just 13 touches on offense he managed to force seven missed tackles which, coupled with averaging 3 yards per carry after contact, gave him an Elusive Rating of 161.5. 33 of his 41 yards came after contact, including carrying safety Mark Barron for six yards on 1st-and-10 with 12:39 left in the first half. It was the level of play the Falcons envisioned when they signed Jackson, but with the way the game played out they just weren’t able to get him enough touches.
Tampa Bay – Three Performances of Note
Evidently there is a tree somewhere in Tampa Bay where the Buccaneers grow running backs, with Bobby Rainey (+6.9) following in the footsteps of Doug Martin and Mike James to dazzle at the position. That’s doing a disservice to Rainey however as, to put it simply, he played so well that it’s the highest grade we’ve ever given to a running back.
In just his second game in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers handed the ball off to Rainey 30 times, and he didn’t disappoint, forcing six missed tackles and racking up 118 yards after contact. He beat defenders in every way imaginable, using his speed to blow by them, quick cuts to get himself out of trouble and stiff arms to keep them at bay. His Elusive Rating of 86.0 highlights how well he played but it was a performance for the ages, not bad for a player playing for his third team this year.
With another big performance, Gerald McCoy (+5.8) strengthened his lead atop our defensive tackle rankings, showcasing again that he is the best pass rusher at the position this year by some distance. Disruptive against Atlanta from start to finish, he registered three sacks, six hurries and a batted pass from 43 pass rushes. That doesn’t include the two hits he managed on the Atlanta quarterbacks, with both resulting in personal foul penalties and putting a less positive spin on the end of his day.
That doesn’t take away from his performance however, with McCoy causing some form of disruption once every 4.3 drop backs he was on the field for. It’s reflected in his Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 19.2, which currently leads all at the position in Week 11. Two of his three sacks came on back to back plays at the 10:40 mark in the first quarter with McCoy beating the out of position Peter Konz on both occasions.
Special Teams Come Up Big
With Tampa Bay riding the emotion of their first win of the season on Monday night, head coach Greg Schiano opted to take some risks on special teams in this one. His first gamble came with 10:14 left in the first half, with punter Michael Koenen executing the surprise on side kick to perfection, allowing receiver Russell Shepard to go up and get the ball. He followed that up by letting Koenen attempt a pass on 4th-and-9 with 7:28 to go in the second quarter in the drive that followed the onside kick. This one wasn’t as successful, with the punter lucky to see the pass fall incomplete.
Even when he wasn’t using any form of trickery things still went well for the special teams unit, with Dekota Watson coming up with a blocked punt on 4th-and-9 with 5:52 to go in the third quarter, and a pair of successful attempted onside kick recoveries quelling any hope of an Atlanta revival late in the game. There will be those who claim these are the sort of things which should be saved for big games but it often comes down to something they’ve seen on film and, if we’re being honest, any divisional game is about as big as it gets for Tampa Bay for the remainder of this year. Regardless, the combination of gutsy decision making and good execution gave them the extra edge in this one.
– On throws 10 yards or more downfield, Mike Glennon went 6-for-7 for 154 yards.
– Tampa Bay safety Dashon Goldson leads all players with four missed tackles on the day.
– Linebacker Paul Worrilow lead Atlanta with seven defensive stops.
PFF Game Ball
On many a day Gerald McCoy’s stunning performance as a pass rusher would have seen him clear here. This wasn’t any other day however, and nobody was going to stop Bobby Rainey picking up his first PFF Game Ball.