Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Studs and duds vs. Falcons in Week 17

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Studs and duds from a heartbreaking Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss to the rival Falcons in the regular-season finale on Sunday.

Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could lose their regular-season finale in the manner they did on Sunday. After a back-and-forth contest in which the Atlanta Falcons tied the game on a field goal as time expired in regulation, the Bucs won the toss to start overtime.

They started at their own 25-yard line. Then Jameis Winston dropped back, threw and was intercepted for the 30th time this season, this one by Falcons linebacker Deion Jones. The rest is history as Jones returned the pick for the game-winning touchdown, 28-22 Atlanta, the final score.

The Bucs finished at 7-9 on the year, good enough for third place in the NFC South in Bruce Arians’ first season at the helm. Let’s break down the studs and duds from the 2019 season finale.

Stud: Ronald Jones II (11 carries for 106 yards)

To put this game in perspective, Ronald Jones’ performance was the first 100-yard game a Bucs running back has had since November 2018. He was essentially the only offense for the team in the second half, breaking multiple gains of over 10 yards. As the year progressed, it’s been clear that Arians and his staff have gained more trust in Jones and he has rewarded that trust by continuing to improve.

Although the Bucs’ rushing attack could use more help (after all, this was the only game in which they ran over 100 yards all year), Jones should be the lead back heading into 2020. His continued development is something all Bucs fans should strive to watch for in the back’s third year in red and pewter.

Dud: Matt Gay (0-for-3 FGs, 2-for-2 PATs)

I’m going to put this as simply as I can: the Bucs would not have lost Sunday’s game if Gay had made even one of the three kicks he missed. His performance ruined what had been a solid rookie season up to this point. Is he the kicker to break the Bucs’ curse? Honestly, after the performance today, who knows.

He finishes the season 27-of-35 on his field goal attempts. Not a bad number, but at the same time, it might not be good enough for a potential playoff contender in 2020. Don’t be surprised if Arians and general manager Jason Licht bring in some competition for the second year kicker out of Utah come next spring.

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