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Otton hauls in 11-yard scoring pass with 31 seconds left. Bucs beat Falcons 29-25

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Otton hauls in 11-yard scoring pass with 31 seconds left. Bucs beat Falcons 29-25
AP
PAUL NEWBERRY
December 10, 2023

ATLANTA (AP) — Baker Mayfield knew the Falcons would be devoting plenty of attention to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

So, with a chance to pull out a victory the Tampa Bay Buccaneers absolutely had to have, Mayfield looked elsewhere.

Cade Otton hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds remaining, capping a wild fourth quarter that pushed the Buccaneers into a tie for first place in the wobbly NFC South with a 29-25 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

“We knew down there in the red zone, they were going to take Mike and Chris away,” Mayfield said. “So Cade had a one-on-one."

Otton slipped away from safety Richie Grant to make the winning catch in the back left corner of the end zone.

“Baker put up a perfect ball,” Otton said. "It's such a satisfying win. It didn't go great the whole game, but we believed and we fought.”

With a chance to put together their first three-game winning streak since 2019 and, more important, move a big step toward their first playoff appearance in six seasons, the Falcons (6-7) rallied for a 25-22 lead with a pair of TDs in the final period.

Bouncing back from two first-half turnovers, Desmond Ridder shrugged off Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to score on a 6-yard run with 3:23 remaining. A pass to Drake London for the 2-point conversion gave the Falcons a field-goal cushion.

It wasn't enough, even on a day when Mayfield completed just 14 of 29 for 144 yards. There's now a three-way tie atop the division, with the New Orleans Saints also at 6-7 after a victory over Carolina.

“We had plenty of opportunities in all three phases,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith. “We're frustrated losing like that."

The Buccaneers put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive that included Rachaad White plowing for 2 yards on fourth-and-1 and Mayfield hooking up with Chris Godwin on a 32-yard pass on third-and-10 to the Atlanta 15.

Two plays later, it was Mayfield-to-Otton for the win against an Atlanta defense that did not allow a touchdown in the two previous games.

The Falcons got one last shot from the Tampa Bay 31, but Drake London was smothered 3 yards shy of the end zone after hauling in Ridder's pass down the middle.

Mayfield ran for Tampa Bay's first touchdown and threw for two more scores, also connecting with White on a short pass that the running back took for a 31-yard score late in the third quarter to give Tampa Bay a 19-10 lead.

Tampa Bay's defense came up big in the first half. Carlton Davi s intercepted a pass at the Atlanta 8 to set up Mayfield's 1-yard scoring run, and Antoine Winfield Jr. forced a fumble by the Atlanta quarterback that resulted in a safety.

Winfield became only the second defensive back since 2000 with at least three sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in a single season. Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins compiled those lofty numbers in 2002.

“I'm always analyzing where the ball is,” Winfield said. “I'm always trying to play. That's my only job out there: make a play on the ball.”

Atlanta's lone touchdown of the first half came on the very next play after Tampa Bay safety Ryan Neal went out with an injury.

Kyle Pitts found a seam in the zone and broke free to grab a 36-yard scoring pass from Ridder, who finished 26 of 40 for 347 yards passing.

GODWIN'S CATCH

Coming off a game where he failed to make a catch for the first time since 2018, Godwin was on the receiving end of perhaps the biggest play of the day.

That 32-yard reception sure felt good.

“Everything that happened in the past, to me, is in the past now,” said Godwin, who had a team-high five receptions for 53 yards. "I'm excited to be able to contribute to a win, and it was a big win that we needed."

INJURY REPORT

The Falcons finished with just two regular starters on their offensive line.

Already missing center Drew Dalman (ankle) and right tackle Kaleb McGary (knee), they lost tackle Jake Matthews to a knee injury in the first half.

Matthews has made 156 consecutive starts, a franchise record, but that streak could be in jeopardy.

For the Bucs, Neal was knocked out early in the second quarter with hip and back injuries.

Three other three defensive starters — cornerback Jamel Dean (ankle/foot), inside linebacker Devin White (foot) and nose tackle Vita Vea (toe) — did not suit up.

KOO’S WOES

Younghoe Koo missed two field goals in the first half, more than he had missed all season. That came back to haunt the Falcons in the end.

Koo's 50-yard attempt ricocheted off the right upright, snapping a streak of 19 consecutive field goals since what had been his lone miss in Week 3 at Detroit.

Then, on the final play of the first half, Koo pulled a 52-yarder wide left of the upright. He did connect from 20 yards and is now 25 of 28 on the season.

“This is a team,” Ridder said. “We've got be able put him in better positions where he's not kicking important field goals every single time.”

UP NEXT

Buccaneers: Travel to Green Bay next Sunday for their second straight road game before closing the regular season with two of their final three games in Tampa.

Falcons: Play three of their last four on the road, beginning with the short trip to Carolina next Sunday.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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