If you are viewing this story via our mobile app and are unable to see videos and tweets, click here.
Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert each threw a touchdown pass and Kyle Trask made his NFL debut, but the Bucs lost to the Falcons 30-17 in their regular-season finale Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder threw his first two NFL touchdown passes, and Atlanta (7-10) scored on its first four second-half possessions to battle back from a seven-point halftime deficit.
As NFC South champions, the Bucs (8-9) already were locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC and will host the Cowboys or Eagles in a wild-card game next week at Raymond James Stadium.
It marked the first time since Brady became a starting quarterback in 2001 that his team finished the regular season with a losing record.
After a Devin White fumble recovery in Falcons territory gave the Bucs possession late in the first half, Gabbert threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Russell Gage to give Tampa Bay a 17-10 lead. Gage appeared to injure his lower back on the play.
Brady connected with tight end Kyle Rudolph on an 8-yard scoring pass on Tampa Bay’s opening possession. Ryan Succop added a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Trask, a former Florida Gator and second-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2021, made his regular-season debut with about eight minutes remaining in the game. He completed 3 of 9 passes for 23 yards.
Brady was 13 of 17 for 84 yards and a touchdown and broke his own NFL single-season record for completions, reaching 490 before being replaced by Gabbert with about four minutes remaining in the first half. Gabbert went 6 of 8 for 29 yards and a touchdown.
Ridder threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to MyCole Pruitt late in the first quarter and a 3-yarder to Olamide Zaccheaus to put the Falcons ahead 20-17 late in the third.
Cordarrelle Patterson added a 2-yard scoring run for Atlanta, and Younghoe Koo kicked field goals of 49, 24 and 51 yards.
Bucs center Robert Hainsey left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Wide receiver Mike Evans, who was ill, made an early exit.
Here’s how it happened:
Trask makes his debut
Bucs quarterback Kyle Trask got his first NFL regular-season snap with just over eight minutes remaining in the game, handing off to Ke’Shawn Vaughn for a 4-yard gain.
The former Florida Gator and second-round draft pick then twice threw incomplete for Deven Thompkins, including once deep downfield, before Tampa Bay was forced to punt.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Trask picked up his first NFL completion on an 8-yard pass to Scotty Miller over the middle on the Bucs’ next possession. He had completions of 9 yards to Breshad Perriman and 6 yards to Giovani Bernard later in the drive.
Trask again threw deep on the possession, but his pass down the right sideline for Perriman was broken up. The drive ended with a turnover on downs.
Extending their lead
Falcons rookies Desmond Ridder and Blake London continued to connect in the fourth quarter, hooking up for a 40-yard gain to the Bucs 39 that was the longest catch of London’s short NFL career.
After a 4-yard run by Tyler Allgeier, Ridder found Frank Darby for 15 yards to the 20. A run and reception by Cordarrelle Patterson netted just 4 yards, and Atlanta faced third and 6 from the 16.
Ridder went back to London over the middle, good for 14 yards and a first down at the 2.
One play later, Patterson ran untouched into the end zone, capping a nine-play, 83-yard drive that put the Falcons ahead 27-17 with 8:07 to play in the game.
Falcons move ahead
Desmond Ridder picked up where he left off on the Falcons’ second possession of the second half, driving Atlanta 80 yards for a touchdown to take a three-point lead.
Ridder started the drive by hitting Blake London for a 17-yard gain to the Atlanta 37-yard line. Tyler Allgeier ran for 13 yards on the next play to move the ball to midfield. Ridder went back to London over the middle for 7 yards and Allgeier carried for 1, making it third and 2 from the Bucs 42.
Atlanta tried a fake reverse, but Joe Tryon-Shoyinka snuffed it out, dropping Allgeier for a 1-yard loss to make it fourth and 3. Ridder kept the drive alive by scrambling out of trouble before hitting tight end Anthony Firkser for 11 yards and a first down at the 32.
A 6-yard pass to tight end Parker Hesse and 8-yard run around left end by Cordarrelle Patterson gave the Falcons another first down at the 18. A 3-yard completion to Pruitt and 4-yard run by Allgeier then made it third and 3 from the 11.
Allgeier picked up the first down with a 5-yard run around left end. After a Ridder incompletion and 3-yard run by Patterson, Atlanta faced third and goal from the 3.
But Ridder beat the blitz with a pass over the middle to a wide-open Olamide Zaccheaus, giving the Falcons a 20-17 lead with 51 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Desmond Ridder completed two of three passes for 45 yards, and Tyler Allgeier ran five times for 32 yards as the Falcons opened the second half with a nine-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a field goal.
Allgeier started the drive with two carries for 11 yards and a first down at the Atlanta 36-yard line.
After a 16-yard pass from Ridder to Drake London picked up 16 more yards to the Tampa Bay 48, Ridder hit MyCole Pruitt deep down the middle for 29 yards to the 19.
Two Allgeier runs moved the ball to the 5 before an option play that resulted in a 1-yard loss and a Ridder incompletion made it fourth and goal from the 6.
Younghoe Koo’s 24-yard field goal closed the Falcons deficit to 17-13 with 10:27 remaining in the third quarter.
A blitzing Devin White was in the right place at the right time when Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder lost control of the ball before attempting a pass late in the first half. The Bucs linebacker scooped up the ball at the Atlanta 31 and returned it 9 yards to the 22.
Blaine Gabbert replaced Tom Brady under center when Tampa Bay’s offense took the field with about four minutes remaining in the second quarter.
A 13-yard pass from Gabbert to Deven Thompkins quickly moved the ball to the Atlanta 9. Giovani Bernard picked up 4 more yards to the 5.
After an illegal shift penalty against Breshad Perriman pushed the Bucs back to the 10, a 7-yard pass to Russell Gage set up third and goal from the 3.
Gabbert threw a back-shoulder fade to Gage for a touchdown, but the receiver appeared to injure his lower back on the play.
Ryan Succop’s extra-point kick put the Bucs ahead 17-10 with 1:46 to play in the half.
A matter of trust
Despite Chris Godwin’s fumble on the previous possession, Tom Brady repeatedly went back to the Bucs receiver on a late first-quarter/early second-quarter drive that resulted in a tying field goal.
Brady threw to Godwin three times for 24 yards on the drive, including a 9-yard completion to the Tampa Bay 43 on third and 1.
Giovani Bernard also got some working on the drive, carrying four times for 19 yards. Ke’Shawn Vaughn rushed for 12 yards on a pitch around left end, and Russell Gage and Deven Thompkins each had 5-yard receptions.
A holding penalty against Luke Goedeke nullified an 8-yard run by Bernard on fourth on 1 that would have given the Bucs a first down at the Falcons 6. Tampa Bay had to settle for Ryan Succop’s tying 41-yard field goal with 8:15 remaining in the second quarter.
Change of fortune
The Bucs suffered back-to-back blows late in the first quarter.
First, center Robert Hainsey was ruled out for the game with a hamstring injury. Left guard Nick Leverett moved to center, and John Molchon went into the game to replace Leverett at guard.
Then, receiver Chris Godwin fumbled after a 6-yard reception, giving the Falcons the ball at the Tampa Bay 34-yard line.
But the Bucs defense held, yielding just 3 yards in three plays, and the Falcons were forced to settle for a 49-yard Younghoe Koo field goal and a 10-7 lead with just under a minute remaining in the first quarter.
Bucs receiver Mike Evans also was ruled out for the game with an illness.
On the board
Desmond Ridder led the Falcons on a 91-yard drive on the Falcons’ second possession that ended with the rookie quarterback’s first NFL touchdown pass.
Facing third and 5 from the Atlanta 14, Ridder found Drake London for 26 yards and a first down at the Falcons 40.
A personal foul against Bucs cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting on the next play gave the Falcons 15 more yards to the Tampa Bay 40.
Tyler Allgeier carried twice over the right side for a combined 34 yards, moving the ball to the 6. After Ridder threw out of the end zone, Allgeier bounced his way to the 2.
Ridder then scrambled to his right and threw to a leaping MyCole Pruitt for a tying touchdown with 3:22 to play in the first quarter.
Can’t take advantage
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks got his first sack with Tampa Bay as the Bucs defense forced a three-and-out on the Falcons’ first opportunity with the ball.
After an Atlanta punt, Tampa Bay had great field position, starting its second drive at its 45-yard line.
But after Tom Brady threw to Leonard Fournette for 4 yards, he twice overthrew Russell Gage, resulting in a Tampa Bay punt.
The Bucs drove 70 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown on their opening possession.
With Tampa Bay starting at its 30-yard line, Rachaad White carried for 2 yards before Tom Brady found Chris Godwin, who made a toe-topping catch, along the right sideline for a 17-yard gain to the 49.
Brady went back to Godwin for 8 more yards to the Atlanta 43. After White picked up the first down with a 3-yard run off right tackle, Deven Thompkins gained 17 on a reverse around right end to the 23.
A Brady incompletion and 6-yard White run brought up third and 4 from the 17. Brady threw over the middle to tight end Cade Otton for 5 yards and a first down at the 12.
White ran up the middle for 4 yards before Brady lofted a pass into the right corner of the end zone to Kyle Rudolph for an 8-yard touchdown, the 50th of Rudolph’s career.
Brady completed four of five passes on the drive for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan Succop’s extra-point kick gave the Bucs a 7-0 lead with 9:47 remaining in the first quarter.
Needs vs. wants
The Bucs want a lot of things from today’s regular-season finale.
Additional game reps. Momentum entering the playoffs. A healthy exit.
What they don’t need: a win.
Because they are locked in to the No. 4 seed in the NFC, the Bucs (8-8) can’t improve their positioning.
In fact, the only thing left to play for is a winning record, and that will matter for, what, hours, days? before the records are reset (0-0) for the single-game elimination tournament that is the NFL postseason.
That is the quandary facing coach Todd Bowles as he prepares his team for its final dress rehearsal before the playoffs: Does he rest his starters and risk a rusty performance in the wild-card game against the Cowboys or Eagles? Or does he play them and chance losing a key player for the more important games to follow?
There are arguments to be made for both.
But Bowles has one other thing to consider: What does Tom Brady want?
The quarterback has been vocal over the past week about his desire to play in the game. It’s football season, he has said, and players are paid to play. More to the point, a player acutely aware of his legacy wants to avoid a losing regular-season record for the first time since he became a starting quarterback in 2001.
Does it matter? Not really.
Does it matter to Brady? Absolutely.
And everything else flows from there.
So, the Bucs will try to find a balance somewhere between approaching the game like an exhibition and playing the Falcons (6-10) as if the NFC South were on the line, though they sewed up the division title and home field for the wild-card game a week ago with a 30-24 victory over the Panthers.
Best-case scenario, they jump out to an early lead, find some answers on offense, build some confidence and get their starters out of the game before anyone gets hurt.
The Bucs are holding back some injured players. Tackle Donovan Smith, cornerback Carlton Davis, defensive tackle Vita Vea, wide receiver Julio Jones, safeties Logan Ryan and Mike Edwards, and linebacker Carl Nassib are inactive for the game.
They’ll have to hope that list doesn’t grow any longer before the end of the day.
Who’s in/who’s out
More ways to follow us
Follow our Bucs Instagram account at @TampaBayTimesBucs
Follow our writers covering the game on Twitter at @NFLStroud, @TBTimes_Bulls, and @Romano_TBTimes.
A little light reading
Here’s some of our content leading up to today’s game:
Bucs’ Tristan Wirfs is blocking out the noise
Will patience pay off for Kyle Trask and the Bucs?
After extended drought, takeaway total on the rise for Bucs defense
Donovan Smith, Carlton Davis, Vita Vea out for Bucs
Sit this one out? Not Tom Brady. ‘I’m ready to play’
Byron Leftwich gets defensive: ‘Everybody wants to throw dirt on the Bucs’
Ronde Barber a finalist again for the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Several incentives linger for Bucs in regular-season finale vs. Falcons
3-touchdown effort earns Mike Evans NFC Offensive Player of the Week honor
Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask could follow Tom Brady into game at Atlanta
As playoffs loom, do Bucs match up better against Cowboys or Eagles?
Without the no-huddle, the Bucs will be a no-hope playoff team
Tom Brady says he ignored critics who claimed he should have stayed retired
Bucs punter Jake Camarda says he doesn’t feel like a hero
Bucs’ Todd Bowles: ‘We don’t need to take our foot off the gas’
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.
Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.