WATCH: Early missed opportunities, lack of running game cost Falcons against Buccaneers

Dave Holcomb

ATLANTA -- The Falcons lost their fifth game by double digits Sunday, 35-22, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

After winning their last two games, it felt as though the Falcons may have turned the corner, but that wasn't the case in Week 12, as so many of the team's problems from the first half of the season resurfaced again versus the Buccaneers.

While most will point to the defensive issues, the missed opportunities on offense and lack of running game may have been the biggest culprits to Atlanta's eighth loss of the season.

As they did the last two weeks, the Falcons started Sunday with a strong first drive. Quarterback Matt Ryan found tight end Jaeden Graham wide open for a 53-yard strike on the second play from scrimmage.

But inside the Buccaneers 10-yard line, Ryan threw three incompletions, and the drive ended with a field goal. 

On the second play of their first defensive series, the Falcons intercepted a pass from Jameis Winston. The takeaway set up Ryan at the Atlanta 47-yard line. 

But the Falcons only gained 13 yards on their drive, failing to even move into field-goal range. 

"To come away with those first two drives with three points was disappointing," Ryan said during his postgame press conference. "In this league, you have to capitalize on your opportunities. We didn't do a good enough job of that today. 

"First drive of the game stalled out when we got to the red zone, and on the second drive after the short field opportunity, we just weren't able to put anything together."

The offense didn't reach the end zone in the first quarter the last two weeks either, but the defense didn't let the missed opportunities in those games became a problem by yielding an early touchdown in those wins. Against the Buccaneers, the Falcons allowed Tampa Bay receiver Chris Godwin to post a 71-yard touchdown on the next drive after Atlanta did nothing off the takeaway.

The Falcons defense picked off another pass in the first half, which led to an Atlanta touchdown and a 13-10 Falcons lead at the end of the first quarter. But in the second quarter, the Buccaneers realized Atlanta was going to feature a heavy passing game plan without running back Devonta Freeman. 

With Freeman sidelined the last two weeks, the Falcons have averaged 2.5 yards per carry.

The lack of offensive balanced enabled the Tampa Bay pass rush to take over the game in the second quarter. Then in the second half with the Buccaneers leading, the problem increased, as the Falcons shifted even further away from their running game.

The result was Atlanta allowing a season-high six sacks. 

The Falcons had many issues again Sunday, but a poor offensive start and another lackluster running game were some of the biggest issues. 

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