The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) came into this week's matchup with the Atlanta Falcons (0-2) looking for a chance to get a head start on its division rival.
Tom Brady and Co. did just that. Brady threw for five touchdowns and the Bucs defense -specifically Mike Edwards- scored two touchdowns en route to a 48-25 victory that was actually much closer than the score let on.
The win represents the Bucs' ninth straight game scoring 30+ points, which is an NFL record. But what's most important is the Bucs are now 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in division play.
Brady immediately found Mike Evans for a 20-yard gain on the first play of the game and Ronald Jones II followed it up with an eight-yard run to set up 2nd and 2. Brady hit Evans on the next play -this time for 25 yards- and the Bucs were in scoring range just three plays into the game.
But the Bucs faced a 3rd and 8 from the Falcon 20 soon after Evans' reception. It didn't matter, though. Brady found a wide-open Rob Gronkowski for a 20-yard touchdown. Ryan Succop nailed the PAT and the Buccaneers led, 7-0, with 12:22 left in the first quarter.
The Falcons went three-and-out on their subsequent drive. Everything was looking good for the Buccaneers in terms of another touchdown as it took just five plays to get into Atlanta's red zone thanks to chunk plays from Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette.
But things went South when the refs hit Ryan Jensen with a personal foul that turned a 3rd and 5 from the Atlanta 8 into a 3rd and 20 from the Atlanta 23. Dante Fowler Jr. sacked Brady on the following play and Mycah Walker recovered the ball and returned it six yards to the Falcon 29.
The Bucs defense came up with a big stop on 3rd and 1, which led to the Falcons lining up to go for it on 4th and 1 from the Tampa Bay 49, but a false start on Russell Gage kept the Falcons from attempting the fourth down conversion.
Both offenses traded three-and-outs, but the Bucs wisely punted whereas the Falcons decided to go for it on 4th and 2 from close to midfield. Tampa Bay's defense held strong and stopped Ryan on a quarterback sneak. Brady and the Bucs offense took over at the Falcon 46 looking to take advantage of the poor decision.
Godwin hauled in an eight-yard reception on 3rd and 2 which highlighted the Bucs' five-play, 46-yard scoring drive that finished with Gronk hauling in his second touchdown catch of the first half. Succop's subsequent PAT went through the uprights and the Bucs led, 14-0, with 14:07 left in the first half.
It was the Cordarrelle Patterson Show on the Falcons next drive. The wide receiver/running back/kick returner put the Falcons offense on his back, recording 37 yards on three total touches that included a 10-yard scamper into the end zone on 2nd and 6 to cut Tampa Bay's lead to 14-6. Younghoe Koo's PAT was good and the Bucs led, 14-7, with 11:48 left in the first half.
Jones converted a 3rd and 1 via 10-yard run, but the Bucs offense stalled a few plays later and had to punt the ball. A false start on Calvin Ridley forced the Falcons into a 3rd and 7, but Pitts bailed his offense out with an impressive 24-yard catch-on-the-run to move the ball to the Atlanta 38.
Atlanta faced a 3rd and 3 just two plays later. Ryan bought time with his legs and found Hayden Hurst on the right sideline for a six-yard completion to midfield.
But hope quickly faded once the duo of Ndamukong Suh and Shaquil Barrett broke through the line to sack Ryan on third down. Cameron Nizialek's punt dropped at the Tampa Bay 15, which is where their next drive would begin.
It took the Bucs eight plays to drive 85 yards down the field for their next touchdown. Brady completed all four of his passes for 65-yards, which included his three-yard touchdown pass to Evans to make it a 21-7 game.
The Falcons caught some major breaks on their next drive. For starters, Barrett was called for offside on a play in which Devin White returned a Ryan fumble for a touchdown. Slow-motion replay showed that Barrett was actually not offside and the play should've been a fumble return for a touchdown. Davis was then flagged on the next play for a debatable unnecessary roughness call that moved the ball to the Tampa Bay 23 and Jason Pierre-Paul was hit with a questionable offside call that brought the ball down to the Bucs 18. Koo eventually attempted a 36-yard field goal which sailed through the uprights to make it a 21-10 game at halftime.
Atlanta received the ball to start the second half, but their first drive ended quickly when Vita Vea deflected a Ryan pass that landed into the arms of Barrett for an interception.
Tampa Bay stared its first drive of the second half at the Falcon 18. Brady's first pass fell incomplete, but he proceeded to hit Cameron Brate for an eight-yard gain, scramble for six yards (yes, you read that right), and then he found Evans in the end zone after Godwin drew a defensive pass interference call for Evans' second receiving touchdown of the game. Succop's PAT went through and the Bucs now led, 28-10, with 12:43 left in the third quarter.
But Atlanta wasn't going away quietly. A 14-yard pass to Ridley set the Falcons up at midfield and then Ryan found Patterson down the right sideline a couple plays later for a 23-yard catch-and-run to the Tampa Bay 23.
Ryan stood tall in the pocket, avoided a White blitz, and delivered a 12-yard strike to Olamide Zaccheaus on 3rd and 8, which set up a 1st and goal at the Tampa Bay 9. A botched snap almost ruined the Falcons chances at points, but Patterson was able to fall on the ball before any Buccaneer defenders could.
The Falcons offense soon faced a 4th and goal from the Bucs' 3-yard line. Ryan came through once again, this time connecting with Ridley, who ran a slant pattern into the middle of the end zone. The touchdown was put an exclamation point on the 13-play, 68-yard drive that took over six minutes off the clock. The subsequent PAT went through and the Bucs' lead was cut to 28-17 with 6:35 left in the third quarter.
The Bucs' response was not as nearly impressive -or effective- as the Falcons' previous response. Brady and Co. soon faced a 3rd and 12 which led to a Falcons sack. Tampa Bay was then called for a delay of game, which pushed the ball back to its own 8. Bradley Pinion punted the ball to the Falcon 49 and Avery Williams returned the punt six yards to the Tampa Bay 45.
Atlanta made the Bucs pay yet again and continued to fight. Ryan completed passes of 22-, five-, and seven-yards -the seven-yarder being a touchdown pass to Patterson- and then converted the two-point conversion off a quarterback keeper to make it a 28-25 game with 1:53 left in the first quarter.
It didn't take long for the Bucs to face a critical moment. Jones prematurely hopped out of bounds, which eventually led to a 4th and 1 from the Bucs' own 41. Bruce Arians decided to go for it and Jones pounded the ball up the middle for a six-yard gain.
It didn't matter, however, because Gronkowski was called for holding on first down and then Jones missed his block on Deion Jones, which led to a sack and a 4th and 17 for the Bucs offense.
Pinion bailed the unit out with a beautiful, 57-yard punt that pinned the Falcons at their own 4.
The Bucs defense came through and forced a three-and-out. Nizialek's punt sailed out of bounds at the Falcon 43, which was the antithesis of Pinion's prior punt. Brady hit Evans on a dig route on the very first play of the drive for a 26-yard pass down to the Atlanta 17.
He then found Godwin on a corner route two plays later for a 12-yard touchdown to put the Bucs up, 35-25, with 9:18 left in the game. The score marked Brady's fifth passing touchdown of the game.
The Falcons tried to respond, but Edwards said, "No" as he picked off Ryan's pass and returned it 34-yards for a touchdown to push Tampa Bay's lead to 41-25. Succop missed the PAT, but it didn't change the fact that the Bucs now led by 16 points with under 8:00 to go.
Tampa Bay's defense prevented the Falcons from converting a 4th and 1, but couldn't convert its own 4th and 1 on offense during the following drive. The Falcons chances at coming back were slimmer than ever, but there was still a chance. Therefore, Ryan trotted out onto the field for what would likely be his last shot at a comeback.
The Bucs defense quickly shut any hopes and dreams of a comeback down. Davis batted Ryan's pass at the line of scrimmage and the ball landed back into Edwards' arms as he raced back into the end zone for his second defensive touchdown of the game. Succop's PAT went through this time around and the Bucs led, 48-25, with 4:08 left in the game.
Josh Rosen came in for Ryan after this play, which signaled the waving of the white flag for the Falcons. The Bucs would go on to win, 48-25, and move to 2-0 on the season.
The Bucs will head to Los Angeles to take on Matthew Stafford and the Rams (2-0) next week. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25PM EST on Sunday, September 26.