Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons were down three points in the fourth quarter and had the ball. It all went bad from there.
A sequence of negative plays -- from Atlanta's perspective -- turned a 28-25 game into a 48-25 blowout in favor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Two of those plays were interceptions returned for touchdowns by Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards. The first pick-6 happened with 7:53 left in the fourth and the second occurred just over three minutes later.
Those mistakes soured what was an overall good day from Ryan and the Falcons offense. Ryan completed 35 of 46 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns, and had Atlanta in position for a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter against the defending Super Bowl champions.
"Yeah, it’s tough," Ryan said. "I’ve got to look at both of them. Obviously, I thought I could get both of them out. That’s part of playing. But, I’ll take a look at them and hopefully give you a better answer Wednesday."
Ryan threw three interceptions in the second half. Two of them were batted at the line of scrimmage. The third was thrown while under duress from Tampa Bay's pass rush.
"Yeah, that’s part of the game. It’s tough," Ryan said. "You’ve got to give them credit, they did a good job the entire night of continuing to pressure, getting their hands up. It’s tough to go against, but you got to learn from it, be better. Hopefully, we can do that across the board as we move forward."
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Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts led the team in receiving with five catches for 73 yards, showing flashes of the raw talent that makes him such a tantalizing prospect for the Falcons.
"I thought Kyle did a nice job for us," Ryan said. "Made a couple good, explosive plays for us, caught contested balls. I thought his effort was awesome. I thought his route running was really good. I really think as he moves forward during the year, he’s going to continue getting better and better the more comfortable and more experienced he gets."
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The Falcons have the New York Giants up next. They'll hope to protect Ryan better and get the running game going. Head coach Arthur Smith's offense is predicated on a power-running attack, but Atlanta has rushed for less than 100 yards in the last six quarters of football.
Atlanta only averaged 2.8 yards per carry against the Buccaneers, but the Giants' defense has been a little more forgiving up the middle. New York's defense is giving up 5.0 yards per carry in its first two games against Denver and Washington.