NFL Football

30
Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
Tampa Bay 13 7 7 3 30
Atlanta 7 10 0 0 17
17
10:00 AM PT11:00 AM MT12:00 PM CT1:00 PM ET18:00 GMT2:00 11:00 AM MST1:00 PM EST12:00 PM CT22:00 UAE13:00 ET16:00 , December 5, 2021
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia  Attendance: 69,366

Falcons look to put some heat on Brady, Bucs in NFC South

According to STATS
According to STATS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

  1. The Buccaneers and Falcons met earlier this season in Week 2, a 48-25 win for Tampa Bay. Their 23-point victory was their largest over the Falcons since they won 37-3 in Week 15 of 2007.
  2. The Buccaneers beat the Colts, 38-31, in Week 12. They threw 34 times and have 30 or more passes in every game this season. Only two other teams in the NFL have also had 30 or more passing attempts in every game this season, the Chiefs and Chargers.
  3. Leonard Fournette ran for 100 yards in Week 12 against the Colts, his first game with 100 or more rushing yards since he ran for 103 against the Panthers in 2020. His three rushing touchdowns on Sunday were the most in a single game in his career.
  4. The Falcons are coming off a 21-14 win over the Jaguars. Each of the Falcons' five wins have come by single digits this season with only the Ravens having more such games this season with six single-digit wins.
  5. Cordarrelle Patterson had two rushing touchdowns in last week's win against the Jaguars, a career high. He also set career highs in rushing yards with 108 and rushing attempts with 16.
  6. Tom Brady completed 25 of his 34 passing attempts and had one passing touchdown last week against the Colts. He leads the league this season in passing attempts (457), completions (309) and touchdowns (30).
Team Comparison

Tampa Bay
 
Atlanta
31.5 Points 18.1
315.5 Pass Yds 239.6
95.8 Rush Yds 85.0
23 Takeaways 11

ATLANTA (AP) - Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are cruising in the NFC South.

The Atlanta Falcons would like to put a little pressure on the defending Super Bowl champions.

After losing at Tampa Bay in Week 2, the Falcons get another crack at their division rival on Sunday.

Tampa Bay (8-3) has a commanding three-game lead over Atlanta (5-6) and New Orleans (5-6) in the NFC South, with Carolina (5-7) another half-game behind.

But Falcons coach Arthur Smith said his team has shown significant improvement since that 48-25 loss to the Buccaneers back in September.

"We're finding ways to win games," he said. "We're 5-2 in one-possession games. That was a big thing here. You're trying to build a winning culture. Again, the ultimate goal is to build a sustainable football team that wins football games. So that's what we're trying to accomplish short term and long term."

The Buccaneers, of course, have more immediate goals. With the division title seemingly a foregone conclusion, Tampa Bay needs to keep winning to lock up a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Bucs are battling with Arizona (9-2) and Green Bay (9-3) for the top spot in the NFC.

"There's still a long way to go," Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. "The Saints are a hell of a football team. That defense – I'll never cross them out. Carolina has played good and bad, and Atlanta is a game out of the playoffs. Three-game lead right now, (but) we've got a long way to go."

With two straight victories, the Bucs have shaken off a two-game losing streak that seemed even longer because it was sandwiched around a bye week.

Last week, Tampa Bay rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit for a 38-31 win at Indianapolis.

"On to the next," said running back Leonard Fournette, who was named NFC offensive player of the week. "We know this is a division game and December football. Every win counts, so we need every game."

FOURNETTE'S IMPACT

Known as a punishing runner, Fournette has a bigger role in the passing game in his second year playing with Brady.

Fournette has rushed for 621 yards and seven touchdowns. He's second on the team with 51 receptions for another 354 yards and one TD.

"The main focus is December football," he said. "We know how important this is as far as playoffs and having home-field advantage, so we're trying to figure that out."

Fournette was in beast mode vs. the Colts. He rushed for 100 yards and three TDs, including the clinching score with 20 seconds remaining. He also caught Brady's only TD pass.

VERSATILE PATTERSON

In his first season with the Falcons, Cordarrelle Patterson has clearly emerged as their most valuable player.

The hybrid back can pretty much do it all - run the ball, catch passes, return kicks. Now, he's also listed as a backup safety on the depth chart after lining up at that position for one play in last week's victory over Jacksonville.

While the Falcons have no plans to make Patterson a regular part of the defensive rotation, he hopes to play enough on that side of the line to get an interception.

Tampa Bay is more concerned with his offensive repertoire.

"Stop Cordarrelle Patterson, for sure, in the kicking and the running game, and as a receiver," Arians said. "He's an explosive player."

RUN AT YOUR OWN RISK

Tampa Bay leads the NFL in run defense, allowing just 81 yards per game.

But the Bucs have been so good against the rushing game that opponents rarely even attempt to test them.

That puts an added burden on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who doesn't have a whole lot of weapons in the passing game beyond Patterson and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts.

"We just haven't been in a rhythm that much in the pass game and I think a lot of it comes down to early just getting some momentum," Ryan said. "I can do a better job than I've done the last couple of weeks."

HOME WOES

The Falcons have yet to win in Atlanta this season, losing all four games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Overall, the Falcons have lost six in a row at their retractable-roof stadium since their last home victory, a 43-6 triumph over the Raiders on Nov. 29, 2020.

"We want to win at home," Smith said. "We appreciate our fans. Our fans did a great job. It was really cool to see down in Jacksonville a lot of our fans there. That was awesome. So, we got to do our part at home."

ROAD WARRIORS

The Bucs are unbeaten in five home games, which makes their 3-3 record on the road seem a bit underwhelming.

But Arians pointed out that teams are getting reacquainted with just how difficult it is to win road games road now that fans are back in the stands after being barred much of last season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Everybody talks about our road woes," Arians said. "We're .500 on the road right now, and that's pretty damn good in the old days. When there are fans in the stands and you go and win in a place like Philly and you go win in a place like Indy, those are hard stadiums to win in."

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AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa contributed to this report.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and find his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Updated December 2, 2021

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