ATLANTA — Five observations from the first half of the Bucs-Falcons game.
1. Chris Godwin could put together a personal highlight reel on Sunday’s first half alone.
The third-year receiver started with the longest reception of his career on a 71-yard pass down the middle. Godwin caught the ball around his hip and then absorbed a hit from a safety before running free into the end zone.
His second-quarter performance was even more theatrical. Godwin made a diving catch for a 22-yard gain on first down and later converted a second-and-21 with a 30 yard receptions. With the Bucs facing third-and-goal from the 1, Jameis Winston threw a pass that was tipped by Damontae Kazee. Godwin had to readjust and made a one-handed grab while taking a hit from Kendall Sheffield.
2. Mike Evans did not have a particularly impressive first half, but he did add his name to NFL record books.
Evans’ 17-yard reception late in the first half put him over 1,000 receiving yards for the season. Evans joins Randy Moss as the only receivers in NFL history to top 1,000 yards in each of their first six seasons.
3. Remember when Bruce Arians took a penalty in the Giants game because he said kicker Matt Gay seemed to do better when he wasn’t so close to the goal line?
Yeah, he may be right.
Gay missed two extra-point conversions in the first half, making him 26-of-30 on the season for 86.7 percent. Yet on field goals of 45 yards or longer Gay is 8-of-9 for 88.9 percent.
4. The Bucs defense may have had its best half of the season against the Falcons. The Bucs forced five Atlanta punts in the first half. Last week against the Saints, the Bucs forced only three punts the entire game.
Devin White, who had one-half sack through the first 10 games, caught Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan twice in the half.
5. You can blame Winston’s first interception on Evans who appeared to run a lazy route. The second interception was a ridiculously poor decision by Winston, who tried to leap and throw the ball across the middle to Dare Ogunbowale.
No matter where you point the blame, the impact is undeniable.
Opponents have turned Winston’s first 20 interceptions of the season into nine touchdowns and two field goals. And Tampa Bay’s defense was hardly at fault for any of those touchdowns. Four were returned for TDs and four came on drives of 20 yards or less.
Sunday’s second pick gave the Falcons the ball on the 19 and they reached the end zone in six plays.