Saturday, November 20, 2010
The game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on November 20, 2005 featured two teams with 6-3 records that were jockeying for position in the hot NFC South race.
The visiting Buccaneers, under the guidance of Head Coach Jon Gruden, had gone undefeated in their first four games and then endured a 1-3 slump before narrowly defeating the Redskins the week before. Rookie RB Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (pictured above) had been a big part of the fast start, rushing for 434 yards in his first three games, but he had run into injury problems, and QB Brian Griese was lost for the season in Week 6.
Atlanta, coached by Jim Mora, Jr., featured run-oriented QB Michael Vick; 30-year-old RB Warrick Dunn, still highly effective running the ball; and TE Alge Crumpler on offense. The defense was vulnerable, particularly against the run.
Tampa Bay took the early lead as Matt Bryant kicked a 31-yard field goal to cap the first possession of the game (Williams burst up the middle for 30 yards on the initial play from scrimmage). Shortly thereafter, with Vick on the sideline after being hit hard on a sack at his own one-yard line, DT Anthony McFarland fell on a fumble by backup QB Matt Schaub in the end zone for a touchdown and the Buccaneers led by 10-0 after one quarter.
Bryant kicked another field goal, of 45 yards, to extend the lead to 13-0 in the second quarter, but the Falcons came back with a 10-play drive, highlighted by a 35-yard pass completion from Vick to WR Roddy White, that concluded with a 31-yard field goal by Todd Peterson.
Atlanta’s next possession, following a 49-yard Josh Bidwell punt, covered 83 yards in 10 plays. Vick hit White for a 54-yard gain just prior to the two-minute warning and, on a third-and-seven play at the Tampa Bay 15, Vick connected with Crumpler for 14 yards to the one. From there, RB T.J. Duckett ran for a touchdown and the Bucs’ lead was cut to 13-10 at the half.
On the first possession of the third quarter, the Falcons put together another sustained 10-play drive with Vick throwing for back-to-back 20 yard gains to WR Brian Finneran and Crumpler. With third-and-goal at the Tampa Bay four yard line, Vick tossed a touchdown pass to Crumpler and Atlanta took the lead at 17-13.
The Bucs came right back, however, with a drive highlighted by a 27-yard pass completion from QB Chris Simms to WR Michael Clayton and a 16-yard run by Williams. FB Mike Alstott put Tampa Bay back in front with a one-yard run for a TD.
Atlanta’s Peterson kicked a 20-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 20-20. On Tampa Bay’s second play following the field goal, Simms was intercepted by Falcons LB Keith Brooking near midfield. Atlanta capitalized, converting two third-and-nine plays and scoring on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Vick to WR Michael Jenkins to re-take the lead at 27-20.
With time winding down, the Buccaneers drove from their own 29 yard line following the kickoff. Simms was successful on three of four passes, including an eight-yard pass to Williams on third-and-six to the Atlanta nine, and Williams ran five times for 32 yards, including the nine-yard touchdown run that, combined with Bryant’s extra point, tied the score at 27-27 with just under two minutes left to play.
Atlanta had another shot, but the biggest defensive play of the game occurred when blitzing LB Derrick Brooks forced Vick to fumble and LB Shelton Quarles recovered for the Bucs at the Atlanta 34. Four plays later Bryant kicked a 45-yard field goal. While the Falcons made a last-ditch effort in the final seconds, Michael Koenen’s 55-yard field goal attempt on the final play was wide to the right and Tampa Bay came away with the hard-fought 30-27 win.
Atlanta led in total yards (443 to 258) and first downs (26 to 15). The Falcons converted 11 of 17 third downs along the way. However, their two turnovers resulted in 10 points for Tampa Bay, while the lone turnover by the Bucs led to seven.
Cadillac Williams ran for 116 yards on 19 carries with a TD, and also had the key eight-yard reception as one of his three catches for 13 yards. Chris Simms, improving as Griese’s replacement, completed 11 of 19 passes for 118 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Michael Clayton was the most productive receiver for the Bucs with 48 yards on his three catches.
Michael Vick (pictured at bottom) completed 21 of 38 passes for 306 yards with two TDs and none intercepted. It was the second 300-yard passing performance of his career, and a change from his usual pattern as his rushing total was light, with 17 yards on four carries. Roddy White caught four passes for 108 yards while Michael Jenkins had 5 receptions for 69 yards and a TD and Alge Crumpler contributed 5 catches for 49 yards and a score. Warrick Dunn led the club with 82 yards on 18 carries.
The win put Tampa Bay in a tie for first in the division with Carolina, while the Falcons fell a game back. The Buccaneers, with the league’s best defense to complement the conservative offense, won four of their last six games for an 11-5 record that still matched the Panthers, but they won the NFC South title thanks to a better division record than Carolina’s. The Bucs lost to Washington in the Wild Card playoff round. Atlanta lost its last three games to drop out of the running and ended up third in the division at 8-8.
Cadillac Williams ended up with 1178 yards on 290 carries (4.1 avg.) and six touchdowns. He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.
Michael Vick’s passing statistics were fairly average, as he threw for 2412 yards with 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but he led the NFL in average gain-per-carry rushing (5.9) for the second straight season with 597 yards on 102 attempts and was named to the Pro Bowl for the third time. However, his frustration with the offensive system and overall failure to progress as a passer (despite the performance against Tampa Bay) were considered significant factors in the team’s letdown at the end of the season.