Jameis Winston threw for 281 yards and four touchdowns, linebacker Kwon Alexander had 17 total tackles (15 solo), the Buccaneers built an 31-13 lead and survived the Atlanta Falcons comeback attempt 31-24 Sunday at the Georgia Dome. The Atlanta Falcons offense struggled to run the football as running back Devonta Freeman had 11 carries for 20 yards and his backup Tevin Coleman had eight carries for 22 yards. The inability to run the ball coupled with the Bucs’ offense penchant for the big plays got Atlanta behind the eight-ball from a balance standpoint.
The Falcons got the ball rolling when Desmond Trufant intercepted a Winston pass intended for wide receiver Vincent Jackson with 2:41 to go in the first quarter. Four plays later, Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan hooked up with Mohamed Sanu on a five yard touchdown strike, giving Atlanta a 10-3 lead with :11 to go in the first quarter.
At that point, the offense began to click for Winston and the Buccaneers.
“We just turned the page,” said Winston. “That’s how we are. When we’re clicking, we’re a hard team to stop. Coach Koetter kept pressing and pressing and let us do what we do.”
Winston threw short on a dump off pass to Brandon Myers and he scored from five yards out. Then Winston was the beneficiary of an outstanding desire by Charles Sims to get into the endzone from 23 yards out. Next, Winston found Austin Seferian-Jenkins on an over-the-shoulder catch while Falcons linebacker Sean Witherspoon was covering him, extending their lead to 24-13. Finally, Winston hooked up with wide receiver Mike Evans on a 45 yard touchdown strike extending their lead to 31-13.
While the Bucs offense clicked, the defense largely held the Falcons offense in check.
Matt Ryan went 27-of-39 for 334 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions compiling a passer rating of 112.6. However, the Falcons were 3-of-13 on third down (conversion rate of 23%).
“We’re disappointed with how it went today but we’ve got to get back to work and find a way to be better next week,” Ryan said. “I’m sure everybody in our building is going to work really hard to do that. We got ourselves off schedule a little bit, had some penalties down there, which we control those. When you have procedural penalties, those are things we have to eliminate. That’s something we control and something that we can do better. As far as some of the other drives, we’ll have to take a look and see why we didn’t execute as well we would like. At this point, it’s just third downs and red zone, we’ve got to be good there offensively and we weren’t there today.”
However, All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones caught four balls for 66 yards including a 25 yard touchdown pass. Jones injured his ankle during the game and said he’ll be good.
“You’re never going to be 100 percent anymore, Jones said after the game. “I’ve played through things. It’s nothing that’s going to hold me back from going out there and producing or doing what I do.”
Tevin Coleman had 95 receiving yards on 5 targets. Sanu had five receptions for 80 yards. Sanu also suffered an ankle injury during the game.
The Falcons’ next opponent is the Oakland Raiders. They will play next Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Kickoff will be 4:25pm EDT.