Bucs squeak by Falcons despite another slow start

2020 has been a weird year. For the Buccaneers, it has been one of the strangest years in the team’s history.

Oh, sure, the Bucs are 9-5 and still have a slight chance to win the NFC South should the New Orleans Saints lose their final two games.

What is perplexing is the way this team starts games. There is no fire, no emotion, no sense of urgency as they seem to like getting in a hole early in the game and having to fight like hell in the second half to win the game.

It seems repetitive, but I am writing the same thing every week after watching another Buccaneer football game.

The Bucs once again played one of the worst halves of football that this team has played this season.

The Bucs need to win these games to secure a playoff berth. You would think that would be enough motivation to get this team to come out of the locker room ready to take care of business.

Quite the opposite. The Bucs managed five first downs in the first half and had 60 yards of offense as they trailed the Atlanta Falcons 17-0.

There is no excuse for this apathy and lack of sense of urgency to start the game. The good news is the Bucs did play lights out in the second half and outscored the Falcons 31-10 to get the win 31-27.

The concern is that this kind of performance will make sure that you are one and done in the playoffs. There will be no Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers waiting in the playoffs.

Another slow start plagued the Bucs on both sides of the ball. The defense allowed the Falcons to convert 60 percent on third down. The offense converted 1/5 third-down conversions in the first half.

Third down again was the Achilles heel for the Buccaneers as the defense couldn’t get off the field.

There was no pressure on Matt Ryan in the first half as he was 6/6 on the first drive as the Falcons took a quick 7-0 lead.

The Bucs were without their starting running back Ronald Jones, and it was painful to watch the Bucs run the ball in the first half. They could get nothing going on the ground as the duo of Leonard Fournette and Ke’Shawn Vaughan ran for seven yards.

The tide turned in the second half, and the team came out of the locker room and torched the Falcons. The Bucs outscored the dirty birds 31-10 in the second half and held the Falcons to 108 yards of total offense.

Mike Evans had another 100-yard receiving game. The 27th of his NFL career. Evans has 769 receiving yards on the season, and it looks like his streak of six consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons will come to an end.

The Bucs defense was outstanding in the fourth quarter. Antoine Winfield Jr. made a game-saving play in the end zone to take a touchdown pass away from Calvin Ridley.

Devin White had a monster game with 12 tackles and three sacks of Matt Ryan.

Arians was not happy with the start but loved the comeback in the second half. “That’s the way we’re capable of playing. That’s the way we should be playing. After the game, my comments to the team were, ‘If we can play 30 minutes like that, why the hell can’t we play 60?’ It’s frustrating. I couldn’t be prouder of our guys; we talked about it at halftime. We’ve got the ball; go make something happen. I was not happy that they scored, but then we were able to score every time we touched it in the second half until the end and finish strong. The defense came alive. We figured it out, and the pass rush got home.”

Tom Brady had the perfect quote to sum up the feeling of Buccaneer fans everywhere. “We’re going to have to figure out how to play our best for 60 minutes as opposed to 30. It was a good win for us. Everyone loves winning, but we also want to play better; we want to play our best.”

The Bucs had no turnovers in the game today and had one penalty for 10 yards.

The Bucs will play in Detroit on Saturday, the day after Christmas. A win and the Bucs will clinch their first playoff berth in 13 years.

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