TAMPA — After scoring the game's first 17 points on Sunday afternoon against the Falcons — needing just one defensive stop to preserve a one-point fourth-quarter lead — the Bucs ended their season with a second straight last-place division finish following a 34-32 loss to Atlanta at Raymond James Stadium.
Former Bucs kicker Matt Bryant sent Tampa Bay to its fourth straight loss, hitting a 35-yard field goal to end the game. The Bucs finished the season 5-11, losing 11 of their last 14 games.
And now the waiting begins regarding how the team moves forward with head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht.
After falling behind 31-20, the Bucs scored on back-to-back fourth quarter drives on a pair of touchdown passes by Jameis Winston.
A 19-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin, his second of the day, gave the Bucs the lead. Before that, Winston connected with Mike Evans on a 10-yard touchdown pass, his second touchdown catch of the afternoon.
The day started off well, with the Bucs outplaying Atlanta in the first half to the tune of 270 yards of total offense after Winston threw for two touchdown passes.
But after the Bucs went up 17-0 with 51 seconds left in the first half, Atlanta scored on its next five possessions to take a 31-20 lead.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 229 of is 378 yards in the second half, threw for two scores and was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from Muhammad Sanu.
When the Falcons took their first lead of the game on a Tevin Coleman 23-yard touchdown run with 44 seconds left in the third quarter, a score that came after Atlanta was given a short field following a Winston interception, the seating bowl at Raymond James Stadium began clearing out.
Atlanta's comeback came quickly. The Falcons drove down the field with ease by getting big chucks of yardage and the Bucs' offense sputtered.
Leading 20-17, Winston threw a pass to Evans that deflected off him and intercepted by Damontae Kazee, giving the Falcons the ball at the Tampa Bay 43-yard line. Coleman's touchdown run came three plays and one Tampa Bay penalty later.
Winston threw for three touchdowns , including two to receiver Mike Evans. But his interception was the one mistake the Falcons needed to break through.
He connected with Chris Godwin down the right sideline for a 30-yard touchdown pass, giving the Bucs a 17-0 lead with just 51 seconds left in the half. Godwin has five catches for a team-high 95 yards in the first half.
It didn't seem as critical at the time, but the Falcons most important drive might have been their quick-strike touchdown just before the half to cut the Bucs' lead to 10. After Godwin's touchdown, Atlanta went 75 yards on five plays, all of them gains of 19 yards or more, ending with a 19-yard touchdown completion to a wide-open Jones from Ryan.
The Bucs orchestrated their longest touchdown drive of the season, going 93 yards on 12 plays over 6:28 on a drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Evans. Earlier in the drive, Evans set a franchise new single-season receiving mark with a 19-yard reception that passed Mark Carrier's 1,422-yard season in 1989.