January 22, 2021

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Week 17- The Falcons

9 min read

THE BUCCANEERS ARE PLAYOFF BOUND!

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished their regular season off with a BOOM by completing a 2020 sweep of the Atlanta Falcons, beating them 44-27 at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.

The offense was clicking. The defense held strong, despite missing multiple key pieces. Records were broken. Bonuses were earned. That elusive 11th win was achieved. And the fifth seed of the NFC playoffs was clinched. The home fans couldn’t have asked for a much better outcome. There was a ton of GOOD in this game, but there was also some BAD stuff that needs to be addressed before the Bucs postseason begins. As for the UGLY part of this game, well that should be obvious to everyone that was watching. So without any further adieux, here’s what I came up with for the Bucs vs Falcons Part II.

 

THE GOOD

Tom FREAKING Brady

Old man” Brady finished this game 26 of 41 for 399 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception that wasn’t his fault. The four scores gives him 40 passing touchdowns for the season, which is a new Buccaneers record breaking Jameis Winston’s 33 touchdowns set just last year. It’s also the second most he’s thrown in a season since he had 50 in 2007 AND it’s just the 15th time a quarterback has thrown for 40+ TD’s in a season with Brady being the oldest to EVER do it at 43 years old. It also breaks Peyton Manning’s record of passing touchdowns in the first year with a new team (37) from 2012 in Denver.

He ends the regular season completing 66% (ties for fourth highest of his career) of his passes for 4,633 yards (fifth most of his career), 40 touchdowns (second most of his career) and 12 interceptions (ties for third most of his career). He also added 3 rushing touchdowns (ties for second most of his career) just because he can.

Over his last eight quarters, Tom Brady has thrown for 1,126 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception (that wasn’t his fault). That would average out to 563 yards and 5 touchdowns per game.

The Offense

From halftime of their first meeting to halftime of this game, the Bucs outscored the Falcons 54-20 and scored 75 points total against Atlanta. In just 64 plays, the Buccaneers offense totaled 485 yards, including 391 passing and 94 rushing. Tom Brady threw for 399 yards and 4 touchdowns. Ronald Jones ran for 78 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Brown had 138 yards and 2 touchdowns while Chris Godwin had 133 yards and 2 touchdowns. And the Bucs NEVER punted.

The Records

There were some NFL and franchise records broken in this game. The biggest of them all was set by Mike Evans who capped off his NFL record seventh straight 1,000 yard season to start his career breaking the previous record held by Randy Moss. There’s only five receivers in NFL history with longer streaks of 1,000 yards and it’s an impressive list: Jerry Rice (11), Tim Brown (9), Cris Carter (8), Marvin Harrison (8) and Torry Holt (8).

Tom Brady’s 4,633 passing yards is the second most in a single season in team history behind Jameis Winston’s 5,109 yards last year. His 40 touchdowns extended the franchise record that he set last week, breaking Winston’s record of 33 TD’s from last year. He also set a number of team records for Buccaneers QB’s that started all 16 games: most wins (11), highest completion percentage (65%), highest TD% (6.6), lowest INT% (1.9), highest QB rating (102.2), highest QBR (72.4), lowest sack percentage since 1979 (3.4).

Ryan Succop set a new franchise record of 136 points by a single player, breaking Matt Bryant’s 131 points in the 2008 season. He also finished the season making 90.3% of his field goals, which is the first time a Bucs kicker has ever kicked more than 30 field goals and made more than 90% of them.

Ronald Jones II came into this game needing 100 rushing yards to reach the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career. He finished with 12 carries for 78 yards, giving him 978 yards this season. However he did score a touchdown in this game, which gave him a career best 7 touchdowns for the year. Even though he just missed out on his 1,000 yard season, RoJo did set a new franchise record by averaging 5.09 yards per carry for the season.

Chris Godwin finished this game with 5 catches for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was his first and only 100-yard game of the season. In just 12 games this season, he finished with 84 catches for 840 yards and 7 touchdowns. He now has 3,482 career receiving yards, moving him up to 9th all time for the Bucs.

This year, the Bucs offense scored 492 points breaking the team single season record of 458 points set just last year. No other Bucs team has ever had more than 400 points in a season. The 44-27 win over the Falcons, combined with their 47-7 win over the Lions last week, was the first time a Bucs team has ever scored 40+ points in back to back games. Scoring 44+ points in back to back games has only happened one other time in the NFL since 2017. They’ve hit that 40 point mark four times this season and five times total in two years under Arians, after doing it just four times from 2002 to 2018. They scored 24+ points in each of their last seven games, which is the longest streak in franchise history.

With this win against Atlanta, the Bucs finished the season with four straight wins for the first time in team history. They’ve gone 3-1 over their final four games 8 times, but never went 4-0 until now. The Bucs won those four games with a plus-73 point differential. From 2015-19, only two teams in the NFL have done that or better, the 2016 Patriots and Falcons who met in the Super Bowl that year.

Antonio Brown

When Mike Evans went out with the knee injury early on in this game, somebody had to step up. That guy was Antonio Brown who finished with 11 catches for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the 8 games that he played with Tampa, he finished with 45 catches for 483 yards and 4 touchdowns. An interesting thing happened at the end of this game. With the Bucs in the lead and Ronald Jones needing just 22 yards to reach his 1,000 yard season, the Bucs chose to run three straight pass plays to Brown so that he would reach 45 catches and trigger a $250,000 performance bonus.

The Sweep

By beating the Falcons on Sunday, the Bucs completed a season sweep of two division teams for the first time since 2007, the last time they made the playoffs. They’ve only done that three times in franchise history: 2007 (won the division), 2005 (won the division) and 2002 (won the Super Bowl).

 

THE BAD

The Third & Fourth Down Defense

The Bucs defense had a tough time getting off the field on Sunday. It didn’t help that they were missing three of their best players in Devin White, Shaq Barrett and Carlton Davis. They had an especially hard time on third and fourth down. The Falcons were 7 of 14 in third down efficiency and 2 of 3 in fourth down efficiency. Atlanta ran 71 offensive plays and had 33:12 in time of possession, both more than the Bucs. Hopefully getting two of the three missing pieces back will help them when they play Washington on Saturday.

The Scheduling

The NFL has once again found a way to screw the Buccaneers. They scheduled the Bucs wildcard playoff game against the Redskins for Saturday instead of Sunday. Why is that important? Because Devin White could’ve been available to play on Sunday IF he had two negative COVID-19 tests this week. Now since the Bucs play on Saturday, there’s no chance for him to play at all in the wildcard game.

 

THE UGLY

The Injury

It’s safe to say that when we all saw Mike Evans go down clinching his knee after slipping on the turf, we were all holding our breath. Luckily for Mike and all of us, the MRI showed no structural damage to his knee and he only suffered a hyperextension. If all goes well, he should be on the field Saturday for his first career playoff game.

 

THE SEASON

The Bucs went from a league leading 41 turnovers last year to just 17 turnovers this year. That’s the third best improvement by ANY team in the Super Bowl era.

Over the last two years under Bruce Arians, the Bucs offense has scored 23 or more points in a half 12 times. They did that just 7 times in the previous five seasons.

The Bucs finished fourth in the NFL with a +137 point differential. Only the Ravens (+165), Saints (+145) and Packers (+140) were better.

Rob Gronkowski played all 16 games for the first time since his 2011 season.

The Bucs and Colts were the ONLY teams in the NFL to finish in the top ten in total offense, total defense, scoring offense and scoring defense this season.

The Bucs led the league in penalties last year with 134 total for 1,111 yards. They finished this year with just 84 (13th fewest in the league) for 715 yards. That’s 50 less flags this season for an improvement of 396 yards.

Offensive rankings: #3 in scoring, #7 in total offense, #28 in rushing, #2 in passing, #2 in sack percentage, #7 in redzone

Defensive rankings: #8 in scoring, #6 in total defense, #1 in rushing, #21 in passing, #7 in sack percentage, #20 in redzone

Rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs had one of the most impressive rookie seasons in Buccaneers history. He was the ONLY player on the team to play every snap on offense or defense this season. He didn’t give up a sack in his final 11 games. He’s the only right tackle in the NFL who played more than 900 snaps and gave up one or less sacks and less than ten QB hits. He finished this season allowing just 1 sack, 7 QB hits and 21 pressures in 1,073 snaps.

The secret to the Bucs success this season was continuity. They had 11 players start all 16 games this season, which tied for most in the NFL with Seattle.

 

THE PLAYOFF PICTURE

With the playoff seeds set, the Bucs will travel to Washington DC to play their wildcard game on Saturday night. The Redskins won the NFC East with a 7-9 record. Washington has just one win over a team with more than six wins while the Bucs have four such wins. The Bucs and Redskins had four common opponents this season (Rams, Giants, Lions, Panthers). Tampa was 4-1 in those games with a +77 point differential, while Washington was 0-5 against those teams with a -34 point differential. Washington hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in six straight games. Tampa Bay has scored more than 24 points in seven straight games, including 31 or more points in their last 3 games. Something has to give in this one.

The Bucs players shouldn’t be looking past Washington, but we sure can. So here are the scenarios for Tampa Bay IF they win on Saturday:

Saints AND Seahawks WIN, Bucs play at Green Bay

Bears AND Seahawks WIN, Bucs play at Seattle

Saints AND Rams WIN, Bucs play at New Orleans

Bears AND Rams WIN, Bucs would host Rams

Got it? Good.

 

THE CONCLUSION

The Buccaneers completed their season sweep of the Falcons to finish 4-2 in the division. Ending this season with four straight wins for the first time in franchise history is just what they needed. Clinching their 11th win AND that fifth seed in the playoffs was important. They handled their business…and now they’re in the playoffs.

Playoff football is back in Tampa Bay, Bucs fans! Enjoy it. Soak it all in because it can be gone in the blink of an eye. The Bucs haven’t made it past the wildcard round since they won the Super Bowl. In fact, four of the last five times they’ve made the playoffs, they lost to an NFC East team in the wildcard round. Washington’s defense is no joke, especially their front four. The Bucs offensive line will have their hands full, but IF they can do their jobs and keep Tom Brady upright, they should be okay in this game.

The magic number for the offense is 25 points. They’re 11-0 when they score 25+ points and 0-5 when they score 24 points or less. For the defense, it’s 26 points. They’re 8-1 when holding opponents to 26 points or less and 3-4 when they give up 27 points or more. Sounds easy, right? We’ll see on Saturday night.

Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!

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