ATLANTA – Desmond Ridder had almost a full season to plan how he would celebrate his first touchdown pass.
After finally throwing the long-awaited TD in the final game of the regular season, Ridder forgot all those plans. Luckily, veteran running back Cordarrelle Patterson had Ridder's back and remembered to grab the ball for the Atlanta Falcons’ rookie.
Ridder's first two touchdown passes powered the Falcons to a 30-17 win over the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday after Tom Brady added to his imposing list of records.
Ridder completed a four-game audition to close the season. Before Sunday, he had impressed coach Arthur Smith with his poise but had no TD passes in his first three starts.
Ridder ended the drought by rolling to his right and lobbing a 2-yard scoring pass to tight end MyCole Pruitt in the first quarter. When asked if he remembered the plan he had made to celebrate his first TD pass, Ridder smiled and shook his head.
“No, it was just pure emotion,” Ridder said. “Me and Pruitt were just screaming in each other's face and I was looking for the ball and I saw CP run over and go grab it for me. He knew I was waiting on that, too.”
On a day the Buccaneers had little to play for other than staying sharp for the playoffs, Brady left the game in the second quarter and had to watch the remainder of his first career loss to the Falcons from the sideline.
Brady was in the game long enough to break his own NFL record for most completions in a season.
Brady had been 11-0 in his career against Atlanta, including New England's 34-28 win over the Falcons in the Super Bowl following the 2016 season. Led by Brady, the Patriots rallied from a 28-3 deficit.
The Falcons haven't been allowed to forget the epic Super Bowl collapse, but they can now claim to be responsible for Brady's first losing final record in a regular season.
Brady and Tampa Bay’s other healthy regulars started even though the Buccaneers (8-9) clinched the NFC South title by beating Carolina 30-24 last week and were locked in as the NFC’s No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Tampa Bay will host Dallas next Monday night.
Brady said “It’s a big challenge” to take a losing record into the playoffs.
“It’s going to be hard, but we’re battle tested,” Brady said. “We’ve had some tough games. Some we came back from. Some we haven’t. But like I said, close won’t be good enough for going forward for anybody.”
Brady had winning records in 21 consecutive regular seasons with New England and Tampa Bay before this season.
Rookie Tyler Allgeier rushed for 135 yards on 24 carries to end the fifth consecutive losing season for Atlanta (7-10) under second-year coach Arthur Smith.
Brady began the day needing nine completions to top his 2021 single-season record of 485. He set the mark on a 5-yard pass to Russell Gage, the former Falcons receiver, early in the second quarter.
“These are all team records in my opinion," Brady said. "I’ve always said that.”
Brady already holds many NFL career passing records, including for yards, completions and touchdowns.
Brady completed 13 of 17 passes for 84 yards with a touchdown, giving him 490 completions for the season. Brady capped Tampa Bay's opening drive with an 8-yard scoring pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Ridder threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Olamide Zaccheaus late in the third quarter for a 20-17 lead. Patterson added a 2-yard scoring run.
Gabbert's 3-yard scoring pass to Gage gave the Bucs a 17-10 halftime lead.
FALCONS ROOKIE MILESTONES
Allgeier finished his season with 1,035 rushing yards, a team record for rookies. Drake London passed the Falcons' record for receptions in a season for a rookie. Kyle Pitts had 68 receptions in 2021. London had six catches for 120 yards and finished the season with 72 receptions.
Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles used backup Blaine Gabbert behind Brady before second-year quarterback Kyle Trask made his NFL debut in the fourth quarter. Gabbert completed 6 of 8 passes for 29 yards with a TD. Trask completed 3 of 9 passes for 23 yards.
LOVE FOR LAMAR
Falcons and Buccaneers officials and coaches, including Smith and Bowles, paid tribute to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin by wearing “ Love for Damar ” shirts with Hamlin's No. 3. Hamlin remained hospitalized on Sunday but continued making progress in his recovery after having to be resuscitated on the field in a game at Cincinnati on Monday.
The Buccaneers' offense lost two starters in the first quarter. Center Robert Hainsey left the game with a hamstring injury. Wide receiver Mike Evans was ruled out with an illness. Rudolph was ruled out with a knee injury in the third quarter. Safety Keanu Neal suffered a hip injury in the third quarter.
Falcons left guard Matt Hennessey left with a knee injury in the third quarter.
Buccaneers: Will host the Dallas Cowboys in an NFC wild-card game next Monday night.
Falcons: Will shift focus to making roster decisions and preparing for the NFL draft before opening their 2023 season at home against the Carolina Panthers.
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