The Atlanta Falcons defeat the Tampa Buccaneers on Monday Night Football in Week 15, 24-21.
The final game in Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season did not disappoint. A pair of NFC South rivals clash in Tampa and the better of the two teams came out on top. The Atlanta Falcons improve to 9-5 with a narrow 24-21 road victory, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sink to 4-10 on the season.
Atlanta completed the season sweep of Tampa Bay and looks to be in excellent position to make the NFC playoffs. This latest win for the Falcons eliminates the Green Bay Packers from playoff contention.
Keep in mind that the Falcons have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dallas Cowboys, the Detroit Lions and the Seattle Seahawks, all a game back of Atlanta at 8-6, fighting for the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture. If Atlanta wins one of its next two games, the Falcons are in. Should they beat both the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons will repeat as NFC South champions.
This was one of the better games on the Week 15 slate, as a pair of former National Championship winners of the Florida State Seminoles shined magnificently. I’m talking about Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. Freeman had nearly 200 all-purpose yards. Winston just played the best game of this third NFL season, completely outdueling Falcons signal-caller Matt Ryan, who struggled with his accuracy all night.
What ultimately swung this game was Tampa Bay’s depleted defense. The Buccaneers were without their three stars on that side of the ball in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Freeman and running back Terron Ward are able to decimate the Buccaneers’ front-seven en route to victory.
We knew that Atlanta would get Tampa Bay’s best fight. Keep in mind that head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith used to coach the Falcons as offensive coordinator and head coach, respectively. Many of the Buccaneers’ players used to play for the Dirty Birds only a few years ago.
It was not a pretty game for the Falcons, but a win is a win. They have set themselves up marvelously to make a return trip to the playoffs. Atlanta can thank Freeman and continued field goal kicking woes in Tampa for their latest victory. Tampa Bay gave it their all, but it was just not enough to knock off the division rival Falcons.
- Devonta Freeman: Freeman had 22 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown. As a pass catcher, he also had five receptions for 68 yards.
- Jameis Winston: Winston completed 27 of 35 passes for 299 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also had three carries for 18 yards.
- Keanu Neal: Neal had five tackles, four solo, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The Falcons will have to play another NFC South rival on the road in Week 16. This time, Atlanta will have to go to its arch nemesis on the road and play the Saints. Kickoff from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans will be at 1:00 p.m. ET on Dec. 24. FOX will have that early afternoon telecast on Christmas Eve.
The Buccaneers will too play a tough NFC South rival on the road in Week 16. Tampa Bay will have to travel to the Queen City to take on the playoff-contending Panthers. Kickoff from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte will be at 1:00 p.m. ET on Dec. 24. FOX will have that early afternoon telecast on Christmas Eve.