By Leo Haggerty


In a contest that was a whole lot closer than the final score, Tampa Bay pulled away in the final four minutes to post a 44-27 victory over visiting Atlanta at Raymond James Stadium.  The Bucs finished the regular season with an 11-5 mark while the Falcons fell to 4-12 on the 2020 campaign.

The Pewter Pirates dented the scoreboard first just 3:54 into the contest.  After taking the opening kickoff, Tampa Bay went 68 yards in seven plays with QB Tom Brady (26-of-41 for 399 yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT) found WR Chris Godwin (5 grabs for 133 and 2 scores) with a 29 yard bomb down the left sideline.  K Ryan Succop was true with the PAT and the Buccaneers led 7-0 at the 11:06 mark of the opening period.

The Dirty Birds answered immediately with points of their own at 3:36 of the first quarter.  K Younghoe Koo split the uprights from 22 yards out to finish off a 70 yard drive that took 13 plays and 7:33 cutting the Bucs lead to 7-3.

Tampa Bay matched that three pointer with one of their own with just seven ticks left in the first period.  Succop culminated a 9 play drive that traversed 62 yards in 3:26 with a 29 yard boot that extended the Bucs lead to 10-3.

TB added to their margin just 2:30 into the second stanza.  Brady hooked up with WR Antonio Brown (11 catches for 138 yards and 2 TDs) for another 29 yard scoring pass.  That drive took 2:14 to go 57 yards in six plays and stretched the Buccaneers advantage to 17-3.

The Pewter Pirates changed the scoreboard again at 8:44 of the second period.  It was Succop doing the honors with a 38 yard kick when the drive stalled after 2:27 of clock time that went 19 yards in six plays.  That pushed the lead to 20-3 and it looked like the rout was on.

Atlanta was far from dead and marched right down the field to post points with 1:56 left in the second quarter. It took the Falcons 9 plays to go 55 yards in 6:48 with QB Matt Ryan (29-of-44 for 265 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs) sneaking in from a yard away.  That trimmed the Tampa Bay lead to 20-10.

The Bucs weren’t finished in the first 30 minutes and padded their lead as time expired in the first half. Succop’s third field goal, this one a 25 yarder, concluded a 45 yard drive that took nine plays and all of the 1:56 left before intermission. So, as the teams headed to their locker room, TB enjoyed a 23-10 advantage.

It would only take 6:11 for the Falcons to get back into the contest.  After taking the second half kickoff, Ryan connected with WR Russell Gage with a 19 yard aerial at the 8:49 mark that capped a drive that travelled 75 yards in 11 plays.  That made the score 23-17 in favor of the Bucs.

ATL inched closer with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.  After a 15 play drive that went went 76 yards and took 6:43 stalled, Koo split the uprights from 21 yards out.  That pulled the Dirty Birds to within three at 23-20 with an entire 15 minutes of football to be played.

The Bucs took the challenge and scored at 11:13 of the final period.  RB Ronald Jones (12 rushes for 78 and a TD) burrowed in from the 3 yard line that took 4:17 to go 65 yards in nine plays.  That made the arithmetic 30-20 in favor of the home team.

There was no quit in The Dirty Birds as they punched in a score at 8:19 of the fourth quarter.  Ryan found TE Hayden Hurst from a yard out that finished off a six play drive that took 2:54 of clock time to go 75 yards.  Koo hit the extra point and that cut the Bucs lead to 30-27 and it was anyone game especially if the Atlanta defense could come up with a stop.

The Pewter Pirates were not to be denied and found the end zone with 3:54 left in the fourth period.  Brady capped a 4:25 drive that took 8 plays to go 75 yards with a four yard strike to Godwin for his second TD reception.  Succop was good with the PAT and Tampa Bay moved out to a 37-27 advantage.

After the Falcons turned it over on downs, the Bucs finished off the scoring with 2:52 left in regulation.  Again it was through the air and, again, it was Brady to Brown for a 30 yard score.  That finished off a short three play drive that went 38 yards in only 19 seconds.  Succop’s conversion made the final score 44-27 in favor of the Buccaneers.

Due to Covid restrictions, we have not been able to have a photo-journalist at any of the Bucs games this year.  A big thank you to Bucs phot staff for providing some of the shot used today

The Bucs now get ready to enter the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.  Tampa Bay will travel to Washington for a Saturday night clash in the NFC Wild Card round.  Kickoff is scheduled for 8:15.

Because of the late Saturday tilt, look for Rob Kriete Buc Up column either late Friday or early Saturday.  Then, let’s all gather at the TV to see how far Brady and Company can go in the NFL’s second season.  We’ll save you a seat.