By Terrance Turner
Sept. 19, 2021
Today the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the Atlanta Falcons at home at Raymond James Stadium. It was a wildly unpredictable game, a high-scoring affair that became razor-close late and then turned into a blowout.
Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady scored midway through the first quarter, launching a laser beam to tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk’s end-zone catch gave the Buccaneers an early 7-0 lead. The Atlanta defense kept Brady from scoring any more points, forcing a strip-sack later in the first quarter and later causing a three-and-out. But the Falcons offense wasn’t as successful. After failing to go for it on 4th and 1 during one drive, they decided to go for it on 4th and 2 on a subsequent drive. They elected to run a quarterback sneak, but Falcons QB Matt Ryan was ruled short of the first down.
A minute into the second quarter, Brady flung a pass to Chris Godwin but it was incomplete. Falcons corner A.J. Terrell was flagged for pass interference. The ball was placed at the one-yard line. Brady tossed another touchdown, throwing to Gronk — again! (Gronkowski has caught two touchdowns in each of his last three games, including the Super Bowl.) Gronk’s latest grab made it 14-0.
The Falcons rebounded when RB Cordarrelle Patterson rushed through tackles to score a touchdown. The score was 14-7 with 11:48 left in the second quarter. The Bucs took up 3:31 of that quarter with another scoring drive. They went for 8 plays and 85 yards, with Brady throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Evans.
In the second half, Ryan’s pass got picked off. The ball was tipped by defensive lineman Vita Vea and intercepted by edge rusher Shaq Barrett. After the Falcons got flagged for defensive pass interference, Brady found Mike Evans for a 1-yard touchdown — his second of the day.
The Falcons responded with 14 unanswered points. Matt Ryan completed a 3-yard, fourth-down pass to Calvin Ridley for a touchdown. That cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 28-17 with 6:35 left in the third quarter. Then, after a Bucs drive that went nowhere, Ryan scored again, scrambling free of the Bucs defense and throwing the ball to Patterson. Cordarrelle Patterson somehow made a one-handed grab in mid-air, then rushed into the end zone for the score.
The falcons went for a two-point conversion , and Ryan did it himself, rushing and flipping into the end zone for the try. The score was 28-25, with just 1:45 remaining in the third quarter. Suddenly it was a three-point game. But it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Brady and the Bucs put together a scoring drive in just three plays and 43 yards. Brady lobbed a 12-yard pass to Chris Godwin for the touchdown. Ryan Succop’s extra-point attempt was good. That gave the Bucs some breathing room, with a 35-25 lead. 9:18 left in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons tried to battle back. But Matt Ryan’s pass was picked off by Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards, who returned the ball 31 yards for the touchdown. Edwards’s pick-six lifted Tampa Bay back to a double-digit advantage as they led by 16 with 7:53 on the clock. Neither the Falcons nor the Bucs were able to convert on their following drives. Tampa Bay actually turned it over on downs, after RB Leonard Fournette got stopped on 4th and 1. Atlanta regained ball possession.
But nobody could’ve predicted what happened next. With just 4:05 left, the Falcons had to score. Ryan’s pass got batted in the air and landed in the hands of the safety. Mike Edwards ran into the end zone for a touchdown — gain! — his second in a row. Edwards’s second pick-six was followed by a successful extra-point kick from Succop. Tampa Bay now led 48-25.
The lead was so commanding that Fox decided to cut away from the game altogether. “We;’re going to take you to a little more competitive contest,” said NFL broadcaster James Brown. That contest was the Vikings-Cardinals game. (Arizona won.) Thankfully, Twitter users provided details on the Bucs’ win: