Peyton Barber fumbled at the Atlanta 5-yard and the Falcons recovered. But if Tampa Bay's young squad wanted to "rise up" and take out the Falcons for embattled head coach Dirk Koetter, that would suit Detroit just fine.
Freeman provided the Falcons with offense all night. The crowd in Tampa will likely be more focused on Gruden's return than the game itself.
The Falcons beat the Bucs 34-20 on November 26 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Winston played one of his best games of the season despite the Bucs coming up short on the scoreboard. They lost their third game in a row last week to the Lions by a score of 24-21, effectively sealing their fate at the bottom of the NFC South.
If the Bucs didn't have bad luck, they had no luck.
The teams have split the last 12 meetings. However, the defense couldn't hold late and allowed a field goal with under a minute left to extend the losing streak. Inspired, but sloppy, Bucs give Atlanta what it needs in must-win game. Deion Jones then clinched the victory by picking off Drew Brees in the end zone with 1:25 to go.
If the Falcons win their remaining games, they will repeat as NFC South division champs. Injuries have also been an issue. All-Pro defensive tackle and team sack leader Gerald McCoy (biceps) is out as well, as is linebacker Lavonte David (hamstring).
Running back Tevin Coleman (concussion) and guard Andy Levitre (triceps) are inactive for the Falcons. Defensively, the Falcons are yielding 20.1 points and 319.8 total yards (211.5 in passing and 108.3 in rushing) per game. That spells trouble for Tampa Bay. In the end, the Bucs offense keeps it tight but the defense fails to show up. Playing without not only their best pass rusher but their key man to man corner will make it incredibly hard for Tampa Bay to slow down the Falcons top 10 passing attack led by 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
The last time these two teams met was back on November 26 in Atlanta.
Jones has more receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns against Tampa Bay than against any other team in his National Football League career. The all-time series between the two teams is tied 24-24.
It wasn't easy, but the Falcons (9-5) eventually wore down the short-handed Bucs on their home turf.
Monday's game will be televised by ESPN. It'll be close, but no cigar - except for Ring of Honor inductee Jon Gruden. Regardless, the Tampa Bay passing attack represents the Bucs' best chance for success against the Falcons tonight. T.J. Rives will have reports from the sideline. I've seen Julio have a couple other games like that when I was there.
Satellite radio subscribers can hear the Tampa Bay broadcast on XM 83.