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Falcons foiled by another Brady-led rally

by The Associated Press | December 21, 2020 at 2:00 a.m.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) works in the pocket as Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Tyeler Davison (96) gives pressure during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA -- Tom Brady took a knee, then headed toward the Atlanta Falcons sideline to exchange a few words with Matt Ryan.

It all looked so familiar.

Yep, Brady did it again to Ryan and the Falcons.

Rallying Tampa Bay from a pair of 17-point deficits, Brady re-created his Super Bowl miracle by leading the Buccaneers on five consecutive scoring drives in the second half Sunday for a 31-27 victory over Atlanta.

The stakes weren't nearly as high and the deficit wasn't quite as daunting, but Brady's latest blow to Atlanta took the Bucs (9-5) to the brink of their first playoff berth since 2007.

It sure didn't look that way when Atlanta raced to a 17-0 lead by halftime, or when the Falcons (4-10) restored their margin to 24-7 after Brady finally guided the Bucs to a touchdown on the first possession of the second half.

Turns out, the 43-year-old was just getting warmed up.

"He's just a winner," Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians said. "He knows how to do it."

Brady certainly had plenty of experience to fall back on when it comes to breaking Atlanta's heart.

In the 2017 Super Bowl, Brady famously led the greatest comeback in championship game history, rallying New England from a 28-3 deficit late in the third quarter to a 34-28 overtime victory that secured his fifth of six titles with the Patriots.

Now, it looks like he'll get a shot at another ring with his new team. The Bucs are on the cusp of wrapping up a wild-card berth, which is just what Brady had in mind when he left snowy Massachusetts for sunny Florida.

"A lot of it is his track record, the belief he inspires in all of us," tight end Cameron Brate said. "He's done it on the biggest stage. That 28-3 game. We've seen him do it."

Brady sought out Ryan as soon as the clock expired. He had no trouble finding the Atlanta quarterback, who was headed his way wearing a mask.

"He's a great player, has been a great player for a long time," Ryan said. "I was just telling him that he played well."

Brady capped his latest rally with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with 6:19 remaining. The league's oldest player finished 31 of 45 for 390 yards and 2 TDs.

"Great poise by everybody," Brady said. "Everybody hung in there. We got off to a tough start, but we found a way to win."

Brown, once considered the game's greatest receiver but struggling to put his career back together after extensive off-the-field troubles, scored his first TD since joining the Bucs and his first with anyone since Week 2 of the 2019 season with Brady in New England.

He fell to his knees and raised both arms toward the stadium roof after hauling in the scoring pass.

"It's been a long journey for me," Brown said.

Tampa Bay scored on five consecutive possessions after halftime -- four touchdowns and a field goal.

Tampa Bay002110--31

Atlanta71073--27

First Quarter

Atl--Gage 5 pass from Ryan (Koo kick), 10:34.

Second Quarter

Atl--Ridley 12 pass from Ryan (Koo kick), 7:48.

Atl--FG Koo 32, :15.

Third Quarter

TB--Fournette 1 run (Succop kick), 11:28.

Atl--Hurst 7 pass from Ryan (Koo kick), 7:34.

TB--Godwin 4 pass from Brady (Succop kick), 3:44.

TB--Fournette 1 run (Succop kick), :05.

Fourth Quarter

TB--FG Succop 27, 11:10.

Atl--FG Koo 52, 8:22.

TB--Brown 46 pass from Brady (Succop kick), 6:19.

A--10,703.

TBAtl

First downs2723

Total Net Yards416369

Rushes-yards18-5113-37

Passing365332

Punt Returns4-321-4

Kickoff Returns3-670-0

Interceptions Ret.0-00-0

Comp-Att-Int31-45-034-49-0

Sacked-Yards Lost3-253-24

Punts5-41.85-48.4

Fumbles-Lost1-00-0

Penalties-Yards1-103-28

Time of Possession31:4728:13

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING--Tampa Bay, Fournette 14-49, Vaughn 2-4, Brady 2-(minus 2). Atlanta, I.Smith 6-24, Ryan 1-16, Gurley 1-(minus 1), Hill 5-(minus 2).

PASSING--Tampa Bay, Brady 31-45-0-390. Atlanta, Ryan 34-49-0-356.

RECEIVING--Tampa Bay, Evans 6-110, Brown 5-93, Brate 4-54, Godwin 4-36, McCoy 3-32, Gronkowski 3-29, Miller 3-20, Fournette 3-16. Atlanta, Ridley 10-163, Gage 5-68, Hurst 4-21, K.Smith 3-32, Stocker 2-21, Gurley 2-15, Hill 2-9, I.Smith 2-9, Powell 2-5, Treadwell 1-14, Blake 1-(minus 1).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts after a Tampa Bay Buccaneers touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts after a Tampa Bay Buccaneers touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, left, and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan greet each other after an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, left, and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan greet each other after an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) works in the posket against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) works in the posket against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (24) breaks up a pass intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage (83) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (24) breaks up a pass intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage (83) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) runs against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) runs against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill (23) is hit by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill (23) is hit by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Falcons Julio Jones, right, speaks with Atlanta Falcons running back Ito Smith (25) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Falcons Julio Jones, right, speaks with Atlanta Falcons running back Ito Smith (25) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (24) breaks a pass in the end zone intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage (83) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (24) breaks a pass in the end zone intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage (83) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) runs against Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) runs against Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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