But you blink on a Brady-led team — one that just a few months ago was throwing around the Lombardi Trophy from boat to boat — and you find yourself caught up in a landslide.
The Falcons got stuffed on their next possession, unable to keep even a small drive alive by converting on 3rd-and-1, and then compounded the sin by shanking a punt. Oh, sure, he’s already got seven Super Bowl rings and a super model wife, so why not give Brady favorable field position, too?. A mere three Brady passes later the Bucs had scored from 46 yards out and the first rumblings of an avalanche could be heard.
Now ever more desperate to get something going, the Falcons Matt Ryan threw a pair of interceptions that Tampa Bay returned for scores, bloating the Bucs lead and enriching all who had this defense on their fantasy team. You have to go back to 2014 to find the last game in which Ryan threw two pick-sixes. In the matter of just 5:23, the Bucs had added 20 points to the scoreboard and left the Falcons numb.
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
Falcons' Cordarrelle Patterson scored two touchdowns in the loss to the Bucs.
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
“Teams like that they’re going to capitalize on everything you do wrong,” said Falcons back Cordarrelle Patterson, who had both a rushing and receiving touchdown Sunday.
The new Falcons coach will tell you the final score was a tad deceptive, kind of like all that blood that comes from a scalp wound. “Yeah, it looks ugly in the boxscore on the surface of it, (but) in the context of the game, we had a chance in the fourth quarter,” Smith said. And, yes, that is a step forward.
“We got to convert (on third-and-short),” he said. “We didn’t convert. They did. That was the difference.”
It was a game for the Falcons that started ugly, got interesting and ended real ugly. The last perception is often the lasting one. But let it be known the coach sounded a hopeful tone. “(Coming back on the Bucs) was a good sign but obviously we got to find a way to win these games and not have what happened in the fourth quarter,” Smith said.
There were positive omens Sunday. Having devoted the preseason to open tryouts for various backup positions, the Falcons starters – especially those on offense – came into last week’s Philly home opener looking unprepared for the real thing. But they appeared to be working out some of the kinks here in Preseason Part II, otherwise known as the start of the regular season.
Where a week ago two early trips into the red zone went largely unrewarded — the Falcons settling for the consolation of a pair of field goals — this Sunday they finished three drives in the end zone. For what it’s worth, they outgained the Bucs 348-341. And to 10 different receivers, Ryan threw for 300 yards, more even than Brady (276). He also had three more interceptions (including one that came on his first throw of the second half).
Falcons top draft pick, tight end Kyle Pitts, an afterthought in Game One, led the team in receiving yards — 73, on 5 catches. “It’s a sign of his growth,” Smith said. “It’s a hard position to play in the NFL, asking him to be a receiver asking him to block a tackle at times. We move him all over the place. A lot of rookies can’t handle that. Kyle clearly can.”
But Brady, of course, had the far more satisfying day. Why, before these fans had finished applying their sunscreen, their quarterback had ripped off a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive to stake the Bucs to a lead they never relinquished.
The Falcons offered what resistance they could. In the first quarter, the somewhat rusty sack specialist Dante Fowler reached Brady and dislodged the ball for a strip sack. Working on an incentive-heavy deal where he gets paid a commission for sacks as if he were a siding salesman, Fowler has four more to go for his first $1 million bump. The Falcons D, in fact, sacked Brady three times while Ryan was sacked but once. Another encouraging sign, although there is no column for that in the NFL standings.
And for the second straight week, Falcons backup QB Josh Rosen picked up the shovel and finished the sad duty of cleaning up at the wrong end of a rout.
And, as always, Tom Brady stood there so irritatingly unbeaten.