Falcons’ defense could not stifle Brady for whole game

Credit: AJC

Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett on the loss to Tom Brady and the Bucs after leading 17-0 at halftime.

The Falcons’ defense kept Tom Brady under control for the first half.

But the Tampa Bay quarterback erupted in the second half to lead the Bucs to a 31-27 come-from-behind victory Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After holding the Bucs to 60 yards and no points in the first half, the Falcons defense was torched for 356 yards and 31 points in the second half.

The Bucs had the ball to start the third quarter and went right to work.

“The one thing that I can think of was that pass to (Bucs wide receiver) Mike Evans down the middle of the field, it was an absolute laser beam,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said of what ignited the Brady and the Bucs. “He threw a couple of good balls in that drive and got them on the board. He got those guys rolling. That was part of the problem.”

The Buccaneers scored on the drive. The Falcons answered with a touchdown, but Brady kept coming.

“They got the ball to (Mike Evans) and he did a nice job of using his body,” Morris said. “He did a nice job on third down. He’s a big man and he’s allowed to push off. He made some plays based on our man coverages.”

After the Falcons went up 24-7, the offense stalled. The Bucs scored two more touchdowns and Brady set up a field goal to tie the game, 24-24.

The Falcons answered with a 52-yard field goal to make it 27-24. Then Brady struck again with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.

Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown gets past Falcons cornerback Tyler Hall for what was the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. The Bucs won 31-27. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

“He got it down the field,” Morris said. “He got a nice call along the sideline on us. He had couple of different plays that made it really head to deal with when (Evans) really got it going.”

Evans finished with six catches for 110 yards.

Rookie A.J. Terrell was in coverage on Evans for most of the game.

“I just play my opponent,” Terrell said. “I respect Tom Brady of course, but they just made more plays than we did.”

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett felt the explosive plays in the second half by Brady hurt the Falcons.

“Giving up explosive plays, that was the biggest thing,” Jarrett said. “Playing Tampa, they like to live off making those big plays. We limited it in the first half, but they came to life in the second.”

The Falcons used to blitzes to help them stop two of the Bucs’ four first-half possessions.

“We could not get off the field (at crucial) times,” Jarrett said. “The play where I forced the ball out, the knee was down. Just some things did not go our way. At the end of the day we got to be able to respond and make the necessary adjustments.”

The Falcons were searching for more answers.

“We got to come out hot and cannot give up touchdowns on the first opening drive of the half,” Jarrett said. “It is a big momentum thing. Offense, defense, and special teams, we all got to work together to be better.”

Jarrett, who played in Super Bowl LI and had three sacks, was not in awe of playing against Brady, the six-time Super Bowl winner.

“At the end of the day it is about us handling our business,” Jarrett said. “Nothing else was on my mind versus beating Brady. All of this other stuff, we want to win. The Atlanta Falcons want to win.

“We want to beat the Buccaneers because they are on our schedule. All of that in between stuff is fluff and I am not thinking about it.”

With the defense reeling and the offense unable to sustain touchdown drives, the Falcons dropped the fourth game of the season after holding a fourth-quarter lead. The also blew leads against Dallas, Chicago and Detroit.

“That is just something we have been struggling with this year,” Terrell said. “We have to execute and play a whole game of four quarters and just win.”

Free safety Sharrod Neasman, who had his first career sack in the first half, thought the Falcons were ready for the second half.

“We came out and talked over some adjustments to make,” Neasman said. “It’s nothing that we really changed. We just kept playing ball. They just found him a way to get (Evans) the ball. They started throwing it to him.

“I think he might have had a pass interference where he got some yards on that. They just started targeting him regardless of if he was covered or not.” Backups were on the field when Brown got loose.

“After they came out and made their adjustments, we came out and said we can play this like this,” Neasman said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t play well enough on defense to get the job done, myself included.”

Falcons’ final two games

Falcons at Chiefs at 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 27

Falcons at Buccaneers at 1 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 3

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