It was a tale of two halves for both the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons led 17-0 at half but were outscored 31-10 in the final two frames to drop their 10th game of the season, 31-27.
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Starting off slow has been a problem that has plagued the Buccaneers most of the season. Tampa Bay ranks 14th in expected points per play (EPA) in the first half but is the fifth-best in the same metric during the second half of games. Atlanta is the polar opposite, ranking 25th in the third and fourth quarters and 10th in the first half of games.
Matt Ryan was dominant in the first half, passing for 235 yards and two touchdowns with an 85.7 adjusted completion percentage. Tom Brady did not have similar success to begin the game, walking into the locker room at half with only one completed pass of 10-plus yards. Brady flipped the switch in the second half, throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns with eight 10-plus yard passes.
Without wide receiver Julio Jones, Ryan turned to another former Alabama product, Calvin Ridley. The third-year star caught double-digit passes for the first time in his career (10) with eight of those gaining 10-plus yards. Russell Gage also stepped up in Jones’ absence, catching five of his 10 targets, including a touchdown.
The trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown caught 15 passes combined, including touchdowns from Godwin and Brown in the comeback effort. Leonard Fournette added two touchdowns on just 3.5 yards per carry and one rush of 10-plus yards.
The lone rookie to see any notable playing time was lineman Tristan Wirfs, who has continued to impress as the season goes on. He did not allow a pressure against the Falcons — he hasn't allowed a pressure since Week 11.
On the defensive side of the ball, rookie A.J. Terrell was overwhelmed by the Buccaneers' talent at wide receiver. He was targeted 12 times and allowed nine receptions and eight first downs.
Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield was targeted just once and broke up a crucial would-be touchdown pass in the back of the end zone late in the game.
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