TAMPA, Fla. – Tom Brady has never lost to the Atlanta Falcons. He hasn't lost three straight games in over two decades. Those streaks stayed intact Sunday with timely assistance from a disputed roughing-the-passer penalty.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat their NFC South rivals 21-15, running out the clock after the flag thrown against defensive lineman Grady Jarrett kept Brady and the Bucs offense on the field to close out the victory.
"I don’t throw flags,” Brady said when asked about the play in which he was sacked for a 10-yard loss on third down with just under three minutes left.
"I’m not talking today,” Jarrett said.
The 6-foot, 305-pound Jarrett spun Brady to the ground, drawing the flag and prompting Brady to pop up angrily. Officials conferred briefly to confirm the ruling before announcing it.
“From my vantage point it looked like it was a bad call, but that’s why you put the refs out there to make these calls. They pay these guys to make those calls," Falcons cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. said. “It looked bad on my standpoint, but I was in the back end.”
Brady, coming off losses at home the previous two weeks to Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, threw for 351 yards and a touchdown. He improved to 11-0 vs. Atlanta, including one of his seven Super Bowl victories.
“Obviously, it’s tough to lose two straight at home. You have to earn it in the league. There are no easy games, You’ve got to play good," said Brady, who hasn't lost three straight starts since 2002 with the Patriots.
“Five games in and we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Brady added. "We’re not nearly at the point of where we’re capable of being.”
Brady completed 35 of 52 passes without an interception. Leonard Fournette scored two TDs for the Bucs (3-2) on a 1-yard run and a 1-yard reception.
A boy ran onto the field after Fournette’s first TD and was tackled hard by a security guard at the opposite end of the field. Police said there would be no charges and no arrest was made.
The Falcons (2-3) trimmed a 21-0 deficit to six on Marcus Mariota's 19-yard TD throw to Olamide Zaccheaus and subsequent 2-point conversion pass to KhaDarel Hodge with 4:38 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta did not get the ball back as Brady, aided by the penalty against Jarrett on a third-down sack, led a clinching drive deep into Falcons territory.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles was asked if quarterbacks of lesser stature than Brady would have gotten the same call.
“I saw that one being called. I saw it against Tua (Tagovailoa). I saw it in the London game this morning," Bowles said. "I think they are starting to crack down on some of the things like slinging quarterbacks. Right now, the way they are calling it, I think a lot of people would have gotten that call.”
Atlanta has one of the NFL’s most productive running games but did not have much success on the ground early without leading rusher Cordarrelle Patterson, who was placed on injured reserve last week.
A week after rushing for over 200 yards in a three-point victory over Cleveland, the Falcons were outgained 297 yards to 89 overall in the opening half. They remained committed to the run, though, and wound up with 151 yards rushing on 31 attempts.
Mariota was Atlanta's most effective runner, gaining 61 yards on seven attempts. He was 14-of-25 passing for 147 yards and one TD without an interception, but he was also sacked five times for 37 yards in losses.
Brady led a pair of 13-play drives — one covering 88 yards and the other 84 — to build a 10-0 lead on Fournette’s TD run and Ryan Succop’s 21-yard field.
Succop added a 44-yarder as time expired in the first half to make it 13-0, with Fournette’s 21-yard reception setting up the kick after Atlanta's Younghoe Koo missed a 52-yard field goal with 20 seconds left.
BOY ON THE FIELD
A woman who identified herself as the mother of the child who ran on the field told The Associated Press the boy was 10 years old. A police officer later told the AP the boy is older than 10, but he couldn’t release his information because he’s a juvenile. The officer said the mother has several children and was confused about which one jumped onto the field.
The Falcons played without TE Kyle Pitts (hamstring), who was inactive. ... Falcons LB Mykal Walker left with a groin injury in the second quarter. ... WRs Julio Jones (knee) and Breshad Perriman (knee, hamstring), S Logan Ryan (foot), TE Cameron Brate (concussion) and DL Akiem Hicks (foot) were inactive for Tampa Bay due to injury. ... Bucs CBs Carlton Davis (hip) and Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad) departed in in the second half.
Falcons: Return home to host San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.
Buccaneers: Play at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
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