Falcons Slide Off Course Again, Lose to Bucs 29-25

The Atlanta Falcons are back on the struggle bus again.

Despite making one of the most notable last-minute plays of the season, the Falcons were unable to stitch together a win over NFC South conference mates Tampa Bay Buccaneers and wound up dropping the game 29-25. Another disquieting loss in an off-and-on season for the Falcons.

There is much blame to go around in this loss:  A growing injury list that has taken many of its starters off the field. What remained of the Falcons’ defense not being able to stop the Bucs’ run game. Kicker Younghoe Koo, who usually could be counted on to score points when others in a Falcons jersey can’t, missed two straight field goals. Turnovers, needless penalties, and inexplicable mistakes like giving the Bucs the gift of a 2-point safety.

All that is to say that the reason the Falcons lost today was…the Falcons.

The Falcons didn’t do everything wrong. They just found ways to lose when they had plenty of chances to win. Or as Falcons reporter Tori McElhaney observed in this X post:

But the play that could have turned it all around was a pivotal throw by Desmond Ridder to Drake London, who made many key plays for the Falcons in this game. But London was unable to catch a 28-yard pass in the last second of the game, and the Falcons sunk to 6-7, instead of sitting pretty atop the hapless NFC South at 7-6.

Both London and Ridder could have been revered for their collective performance today had that ball been caught. In a drive earlier in the fourth quarter, Ridder threw a 45-yard strike that London caught. Ridder would then go six yards himself to score a touchdown. A rare successful two-point attempt put the Falcons on top of the Bucs. Impressive? Yes. The plays of the day for the Falcons? You bet. The kill shot of the game? Unfortunately, no.

Because that play left 3 minutes on the clock, too much for a team like the Falcons that can’t stop the run. And sure enough, it didn’t take Bucs QB Baker Mayfield long to move his team down the field once again and score the decisive touchdown, leaving the Falcons barely a minute to respond.

Ridder went 26-40 for 347 yards. Numbers like that should put that QB’s team in the winning collum, but those bragging rights go to Mayfield, who was 14 or 29 for a much smaller 144 yards. He got two TD’s for Ridder’s one, and unlike Ridder, he doesn’t have a turnover in his day’s record.

London had an awesome day, gaining 172 receiving yards from 10 carries, but…”I’d rather have a W with zero catches than anything right now,” he told reporters after the game.

Tyler Allgeier had the most rushing yards, 40 out of nine carries.

In today’s NFL, all losses are costly. Especially when you are trying to compete for a playoff berth. (Sure it’s unlikely the Falcons could get much further than the first round if they do make the playoffs, but that’s a whole other article.) The Falcons are now tied with the Bucs and the Saints, who beat the Carolina Panthers, whom the Falcons can thank for ensuring they at least won’t see the basement of the NFC South this year. Since the Bucs defeated the Falcons today, they hold the tiebreaker and lead the NFC South. The Dirty Birds can still win this division, but the road gets harder with four games left in this season.

The Falcons have to hope that their starters get healthy and get off the injury list and stay off. No easy task late in the season when everyone in the NFL is banged up. They also have to find ways to win games rather than lose them. The playmaking and calling have to get better, together. There also needs to be consistency. The Falcons can’t be defensively stout in one game, and then mediocre the next.

“Our spirit is not broken, ” said Falcons head coach Arthur Smith after the game. “We do have opportunities. It will be a wild adventure toward the end of the NFL season.”

The Falcons can still finish on top of the NFC South and go to the playoffs. They just can’t have any more games like today’s.

by Brian Allen, founding editor, Sports In The ATL

BY THE NUMBERS Atlanta Falcons (6-7) 25  Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (6-7) 29
Score trend 3-7-0-15 3-9-7-10
Total Yards 434 290
Pass Yards 338 142
Rush Yards 96 148
First Downs 23 16
Third Down Conversions 5/13 6/16
Penalties/Yards 2/10 4/26
Turnovers 1 (int) 0
Time Possession 28:20 31:40