The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have enjoyed a series where the all-time lead has changed hands seven times and the two teams have been tied on twelve different occasions. The rivalry dates back to 1977, when the two teams first met in Tampa Bay. The Falcons currently hold a close series lead at 27-24, but there have definitely been periods of dominance by one franchise over the other.
History of Falcons vs. Buccaneers Rivalry
The rivalry between these two teams was pretty mellow during the first decade or so after they first played in 1977. However, that all changed in 1992, with some bad blood beginning to boil even before that. In 1992, there was long-standing tension between Bucs Head Coach Sam Wyche and Falcons Head Coach Jerry Glanville from their days with the Bengals and the Oilers, respectively.
The Falcons rang up 413 yards of offense, with their quarterback throwing five touchdowns. What separates this game from other lopsided affairs in the series is that Glanville got a chance to rub it in to Wyche and took full advantage. Not only did he have Wilson throw a touchdown pass to cornerback Deion Sanders at the end, but he also let Jesse Solomon carry the ball twice on the last drive. Solomon had been cut by Wyche and the Bucs in the preseason.
Later in 2003, similar inter-team connections were brought to the forefront. Just five days before a match up, the Falcons introduced Rich McKay as their new general manager—the same Rich McKay who had been the Buccaneers’ general manager from 1995 through the prior week. It was 30-7 in the fourth quarter when quarterback Brad Johnson and the Bucs launched a furious rally, getting within two with a chance to tie the game with a conversion. The conversion fell incomplete and the Bucs missed the playoffs with that loss. McKay and the Falcons rejoiced, while the Bucs and their fan base fumed.
As of late, the Falcons have taken the lead in the rivalry as their overall success has surpassed that of the Bucs. They finished the 2016 season with an 11-5 record, and after blowing out the Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game the Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years. The ultimately lost to a New England Patriots team led by Tom Brady. The Falcons dominated the first half by 21 unanswered points, but in the second half, they could not hold on to a 28-3 lead and the Patriots bounced back to eventually win the game in overtime, 34-28. Matt Ryan was named league MVP for the season.
Head to Head Analysis of Falcons vs. Buccaneers
The series started in 1977 with a 17-0 win over the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. The series between the two franchises was pretty much back and forth until the late 1990s, when Tampa Bay rattled off six straight wins until 2003. From 2008 until 2015, the Falcons came roaring back in the series by winning 10 of 13 against the Bucs. Tampa Bay has now not beaten the Falcons in every game since November of 2016.
Tampa Bay owns the longest run of being in the series lead, holding onto it from November 5, 2000 through January 1, 2012, but the Falcons have actually won 14 of the last 20 meetings. Atlanta is 14-10 at home, while Tampa Bay owns a narrow 14-13 lead in Florida. The regular season point total between the two teams is a ridiculously close 1,081 to 1,061 in favor of the Bucs. A mere 20 points separate the two franchises over 40 years of playing each other.
One important note in this head to head rivalry is what Bucs fans refer to as “Tampa Bay December” for the Falcons. The Buccaneers and Falcons have met 15 times in the month of December, and Tampa Bay has a 9-6 record in that span. That includes some very important victories in Tampa Bay franchise history, including two in the 2002 and 2005 playoff seasons.
A Glance at Postseason Success in Falcons vs. Buccaneers
Other important wins by the Bucs over the Falcons in December include a 24-23 squeaker in 1981 that was part of a successful late-season playoff push; a 37-3 blowout in 2007 that clinched the Bucs’ most recent division title; and a 23-19 decision in 2015 that got the Bucs back to .500 as the playoff stretch run was beginning.
Falcons vs. Buccaneers Rivalry Outlook
The Falcons are currently in a Super Bowl window, though they failed to make the playoffs in the 2018-2019 season. Much of this was due to the massive decline in defensive play we saw from the Falcons, but also because they play in a really tough division—perhaps the toughest in the NFL. Right now, there seems to be a race between the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, and Atlanta Falcons for the top spot in the NFC South each year, so the margin for error is really small. None of these teams can afford to drop games against the Bucs, which makes each game against Tampa a high-pressure task.
Tampa Bay is in a no-mans land. They have (maybe) their franchise quarterback after they drafted Jameis Winston, but he has certainly not lived up to expectations on or off the field. Now the Bucs have a new head coach who will take one last shot with Winston and the current core of Bucs players. If this coach fails, it will be rebuild time in Tampa Bay.