1. Bucs

Bucs-Falcons report card: Why did Bucs pass three times in four-down territory?

Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) looks to pass during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Nov. 26, 2017

ATLANTA — This might be the nicest stadium in the NFL. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium — not to be confused with the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans — is as swanky as it gets. The coolest feature is the circular scoreboard that seems to hang from the sky.

But as pretty as this stadium is, it was a house of horrors for the Bucs on Sunday, especially the defense. That fancy scoreboard showed replay after replay of Falcons receiver Julio Jones torching the Bucs. That was the worst part of a day that didn't go well for Tampa Bay. With that in mind, Times columnist Tom Jones hands out his grades from the Falcons' 34-20 victory.


A critical call came with just over seven minutes left and the Bucs trailing 27-20. They faced a fourth-and-1 (after having second-and-2) from the Atlanta 18. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter decided to go for it, but a medium-range pass over the middle intended for tight end Cameron Brate fell incomplete.

First, the decision to go for it when a field goal would have cut the lead to 27-23.

"We had momentum at that time,'' Koetter said. "Getting a field goal and being down by four, are we going to stop them? Not stop them? We were playing pretty good on offense. We were moving the football. We made a decision that if we didn't get it on third down, we'd go for it on fourth.''

Which leads to this question: If the Bucs knew it was four-down territory when it was second-and-2, why throw three consecutive passes? That's what happened. A pass into the end zone for DeSean Jackson was incomplete. Then Adam Humphries caught a 1-yard pass.

That set up the fourth-down play. Now about that play call.

"I thought it was a really good play call,'' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "I wish I would have been able to execute it better. That's a play as a quarterback you love to hear a coach has some confidence in you to go out and do it. Just didn't get it done.''

Koetter took the heat for the play.

"I told the players I should have given them a better play,'' Koetter said. "It didn't work, so that's on me.''

The Bucs didn't stop Atlanta on the ensuing drive, so maybe it's a moot point. But going for it and not getting it was a low point. GRADE: D.


Look out, Julio Jones just caught another pass. Even Bucs fans had to respect the day the Falcons receiver had: 12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns. At one point in the third quarter, Jones had more total yards (176) than the Bucs (173). GRADE: A+


Mike Evans is a heck of a receiver for the Bucs. Pound-for-pound, he might be the best football player on the team. But do you ever notice how few yards he gets after the catch? He now has 51 catches, but his yards after catch is a mere 108, according to The Football Database. Maybe it's not all his doing, but should that number be higher? Like way higher? GRADE: C.


A shoutout to Atlanta receiver Mohamed Sanu. His 51-yard touchdown pass to Jones out of the wildcat was the play of the day. And check this out: Sanu has a perfect QB rating of 158.3. In his career as a passer, he is 6-for-6 for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Want more? He's the first player to have 50 yards receiving and 50 yards passing in the same game since he did it three years go. Then, he was playing for the Bengals and he did it against the Falcons. How about that? GRADE: A.

Sign up for our daily Bucs Red Zone email newsletter here


  1. A 2018 file photo of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant coach Skyler Fulton. AP
    Former Bucs assistants Paul Spicer and Skyler Fulton faced accusations of violence against women before coaching in Tampa Bay under Dirk Koetter, according to a USA Today investigation.
  2. Kevin Minter played linebacker for Todd Bowles in Arizona, was released by Bowles last year when Bowles coached the Jets and is starting Sunday for the Bucs' defensive coordinator when Tampa Bay plays host to the New York Giants. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    When rookie linebacker Devin White went down, the Bucs turned to a player who keeps showing up in Todd Bowles’ defenses.
  3. Cameron Brate (84) tries to get some extra yards during the Bucs' 38-35 loss to the Giants on Nov. 18, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. JULIO CORTEZ  |  AP
    Tampa Bay Times staff picks: What the Bucs have in common this week with the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys.
  4. New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) looks up at the jumbotron as head coach Pat Shurmur and starting quarterback Eli Manning huddle before an August preseason game. ANDREW MILLS | NJ ADVANCE MEDIA/ANDREW MILLS | NJ ADVANCE MEDIA  |
    The Bucs have lost six of their last seven against the Giants and are have lost 12 of their last 15 meetings against rookie quarterbacks.
  5. The Bucs will get their first look at rookie Daniel Jones Sunday when he starts for the New York Giants in a 4:25 p.m. game against Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium. FRANK VICTORES  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Exploring quarterback changes for the New York Giants, Florida Gators and USF Bulls.
  6. Giants quarterback Eli Manning speaks to the media in East Rutherford, N.J., on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. Coach Pat Shurmur announced Tuesday that Daniel Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, is replacing the two-time Super Bowl MVP as the starter, beginning Sunday at Tampa Bay. TOM CANAVAN  |  AP
    The veteran says he hasn’t thought about asking the team to waive his no-trade clause.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) sacks Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) MIKE MCCARN  |  AP
    The outside linebacker recorded three sacks in the the Bucs’ 20-14 win at Carolina.
  8. Linebacker Kevin Minter and the Bucs defense have played well. Can they keep it up? MIKE MCCARN  |  AP
    After two games, the unit has allowed only one touchdown. How do they keep it going?
  9. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco) BRIAN BLANCO  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Why things are looking up for the Bucs, UCF and USF football, and maybe not for the Gators and Rays.
  10. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl titles with the Giants. ADAM HUNGER  |  AP
    His legacy is intact as rookie Daniel Jones will start against Tampa Bay.