The Atlanta Falcons put on a clinic in Thursday night’s 56-14 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. From the outset, Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense completely befuddled their NFC South foe. Ryan, bounced back from a sub par game to complete 21/24 passes for 286 yards and three touchdown passes.
During the opening series, Atlanta went right down the field for a 6-play 70 yard drive that culminated with a 3-yard Harry Douglas touchdown reception. In under 3:00 minutes the stage was set for a memorable beat down.
Soon after, Atlanta had the ball again. This time the Falcons used the short field for a 37 yard scoring drive. Julio Jones was on the receiving end of an 8-yard touchdown reception from Matt Ryan. That was the first of two touchdowns for Julio Jones. Without Roddy White in the lineup he really stepped up his level of play.
With a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Falcons were not done. On the ensuing possession, Kemal Ishmael intercepted a Josh McCown pass and returned it for a 23-yard touchdown. The score was 21-0 before Tampa Bay ever had a chance to settle into a game plan.
The second quarter did not fare well for the (0-3) Buccaneers either. Devin Hester got into the act for Falcons. First, he scored on a 20 yard run, then he dazzled the home crowd with 62 yard punt return touchdown. His first punt return touchdown for the Falcons broke Deion Sanders’ return record with 20. In three games, Hester has become a playmaker that the Falcons desperately needed.
Hester even made the play of the day when he stripped the Bucs defender, and recovered the fumble, after a turnover. If you’re counting, Devin Hester had one rushing touchdown, one punt return touchdown, and forced a fumble in one half of play.
Matt Ryan had the passing game working so well, it overshadowed what the offensive line did to the Bucs front seven. Steven Jackson contributed 14 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown, while Antoine Smith ran the ball four times for 50 yards. It could have been worse, but Smith fumbled the ball as he approaching the goal line for the Falcons.
Julio Jones caught nine passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Harry Douglas caught the other touchdown pass, but his night was cut short due to a foot injury. Eric Weems caught four passes for 69 yards.
As for the Bucs, they finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. Vincent Jackson caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Mike Glennon. Then Danny Lansanah intercepted T.J. Yates for a 27 yard touchdown return.
Josh McCown left the game with a thumb injury and he was only 5/12 passing for 58 yards and that one interception. Glennon completed 17/24 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
The win pushed the Falcons to (2-1) in the NFC South. They already have a win over New Orleans, so they are holding serve at home. It’s been a great start for Atlanta within the division, but three out of the next four games are on the road.