Week 15 Tale Of The Tape: Atlanta Falcons At Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- QuarterbackThe Falcons are fighting for their postseason lives, and they need to be focused if they are going to handle their business in this game. Matt Ryan was able to do his part in Atlanta’s Thursday night victory over the New Orleans Saints, and he may have to step it up here. Ryan has a 17-11 TD-interception ratio at this point, and he needs to avoid turnovers in this Monday night game.The Bucs had high expectations as the 2017 started, and they figured to compete for the NFC South title or at least a wild-card position. They have failed miserably, and much of this is on quarterback Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter. This game won’t change the outcome, but Winston needs to show he can stay calm and focused when the game is on the line.
- OffenseThe Falcons are getting healthy at the most important time of the year, and that means that they get to unleash the powerful running tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on the 31st-ranked defense in the league. Julio Jones is the No. 2 receiver in the league behind Antonio Brown of the Steelers, while Mohamed Sanu is an explosive playmaker.The Bucs have been a largely one-dimensional offensive team this season, and that has caused problems. They expected Doug Martin to be an effective running back, but he has been held to 402 yards and 3.1 yards per carry. Mike Evans is one of the top receivers in the game and DeSean Jackson has explosive speed. However, the Bucs rarely come through when the game is on the line.
- DefenseThe Falcons have had a very solid year from a statistical point of view as they rank seventh in yards allowed. However, if the defense had done everything it was supposed to, the Falcons would be in a much better position at this point. The Falcons need Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley to put consistent pressure on Winston. Linebacker Deion Jones has 109 tackles and has had a sensational year.The Bucs have not performed on the defensive side of the ball, and that has been a huge problem. The Bucs have a game-changing player in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (shoulder/biceps), but the Bucs have rarely followed his lead and they have given up yards and point by the bushel basket. Former Falcons head coach Mike Smith has struggled mightily as the Bucs’ defensive coordinator.
- Special TeamsThe Falcons have the weapons to turn any game around with their special teams, although they have not always played up to that level this season. Andre Roberts has speed and courage in the return game, while Matt Bryant remains one of the top placekickers in the game.The Bucs rarely get the job done effectively on fourth-down plays, and that has cost the team quite a bit in recent years. Bernard Reedy is a decent return specialist, but he is not likely to break a long return. Patrick Murray has done fairly well (14-of-16) since replacing Nick Folk.
The Falcons have an opportunity to get into the playoffs if they win out, so they can’t let this winnable game slip away.