In a must win game for the Bucs, they certainly gave the fans something to raise their blood pressure. They started off the game by going down 17-0 in the first half and the defense of Atlanta was flying around. This could have been a game that possibly put Bruce Arians on the hot seat (if he wasn’t already on it) but Tom Brady saved that conversation. Atlanta has turned it around since firing Dan Quinn, however, nobody had them winning this week.
For starters, Rojo was out for the game with a broken finger and Fournette was given the bulk of the running back carries. Usually this means good things for the running game, as Fournette is still a Pro Bowl caliber back; however, the Falcons did not allow them to run the ball to start. Their defense was getting to Tom early, and they were forcing punts early on in the game. The Bucs found no momentum all throughout the game, until the defense started to step up at the end of the first half.
Antoine Winfield Jr. has been my pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year all season. He has been solid in coverage and seemingly makes the big plays whenever this secondary needs it. Calvin Ridley was having his way all game up until Winfield broke up what would have been a touchdown in the back of the endzone. That would have made it 21-0 but instead they held them to a field goal and made it 17-0.
For the second half, the team seemed to kick it up a notch. Overall, the offense started moving the ball and scoring. Then the defense got a few stops after the first drive that helped the momentum swing back in their favor. The fact that the linebacking core of Devin White and Lavonte David may be the best duo in the league is one thing, but in the second half they proved this once again. They were getting pressure on Matt Ryan, and they were not allowing the run to beat them either. The secondary played better as well, not giving up as many big plays as they have been accustomed to all season. If the offense is clicking and defense is getting stops, I’ll say it again: This is a Super Bowl football team.
The addition of Tom Brady has not been understated, but in a game like this it made me think. If that were Jameis Winston quarterbacking the team, would they have come back and won? Would they be able to keep their composure and stick to the game plan for the full 60 minutes? I do not believe they would have, and even with the weapons that were provided to Tom, he has been playing at an elite level still. He won’t get any MVP considerations due to the nature of some of the team’s losses, but he still seems far from retirement. If they can figure out a way to put together two halves of good football, they can beat any team in the NFL on any given Sunday.