The Buccaneers inducted former safety John Lynch into their Ring of Honor on Thursday night. Too bad they couldn’t have somehow incorporated him back into their secondary.
A Bucs defense that gave up 626 yards, including 513 passing, during a loss to the Raiders last Sunday was no match for Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Falcons on Thursday at Raymond James Stadium.
The NFL’s second-leading passer, Ryan threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns, one of which went to Jones, as the Falcons handed the Bucs what may have been a truly costly 43-28 loss.
As if the setback wasn’t enough, the Bucs had to pull quarterback Jameis Winston from the game because of a knee injury late in the fourth quarter and were also evaluating wide receiver Mike Evans for a concussion.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter had no news on Evans status, but he said Winston told him he felt fine. Winston later reiterated that sentiment while speaking to reporters.
“I take a lot of shots every week,’’ he said. “I feel great.’’
Winston and Evans were both hurt on a 2-point conversion play that failed late in the fourth quarter when Winston’s run for the end zone was stopped a yard short, Winston taking a hard hit from behind.
The setback for the Bucs, meanwhile, was the first they’ve suffered against Atlanta during the Winston era and it dropped the Bucs to 3-5 overall and 2.5 games behind Atlanta in the NFC South title race.
Ryan completed 25 of the 34 passes he threw, connecting with Jones on eight of those throws for 111 yards, but the Bucs issues stretched well beyond that duo.
The Bucs were penalized 11 times for 85 yards and also struggled to get off the field on third down, allowing the Falcons to convert six of the nine third down situations they faced.
The Bucs defense came into the game ranked fifth overall in third-down efficiency, but in the last six quarters they have allowed their opponents to convert 12 of 21 third downs overall.
While Ryan turned in his fifth 300-yard passing day of the season, Winston countered by completing 23 of 37 throws for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
Two of those TD throws by Winton went to Mike Evans, who had another big day, catching 11 passes for 150 yards and two scores, both of which came in the first half before Atlanta pulled away.
As Winston’s numbers suggest, moving the ball wasn’t a problem for the Bucs, at least not early on. Holding on to it was.
After recording just one giveaway in their previous three games the Bucs gave it away twice in the first quarter alone against the Falcons, both times on fumbles, both giveaways leading to Atlanta field goals.
Those two field goals allowed the Falcons to build a 13-7 lead and erase the 7-0 lead the Bucs took when Winston completed the team’s first drive by hitting Mike Evans with a three-yard touchdown pass.
The Bucs got the lead back, though, the same way they gave it up, by using the recovery of a Matt Ryan fumble to spark a drive that ended with Winston again hitting Evans, this time with a 24-yard touchdown pass.
It was pretty much all Falcons after that as Atlanta produced touchdowns on four of its next five possessions to take a 26-14 lead midway through the third quarter and never was threatened, again.