ATLANTA – Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski teamed up for more history on Sunday.
Rarely do two guys have such a connection.
Brady threw 368 yards and made four touches – two of them to his longtime favorite target — and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came close to claiming the NFC South title with a 30-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
44-year-old Brady completed 38 of 51, including 27 touchdowns and 11 yards to Gronkowski – their first scoring pass since Week 2 against the Falcons.
The duo have combined for 90 regular TDs during the season, edging past Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates for 2nd place in NFL history. Only Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison have more, scoring 112 assists.
Counting the playoffs, Brady threw 104 TD passes to Gronk.
“Tom knows what he’s thinking before he does,” said coach Bruce Arians. “Tom threw a few balls before Gronk was ready, because he knew where he was going. There are great chemistry out there. “
Gronkowski has missed four games this season after a horrific strike against the Rams left him with a broken rib and punctured lung.
But he will keep catching passes from Brady for as long as he can.
“We continue to give each other,” said Gronkowski.
Brady added, “He makes it easy for the quarterback.”
Brady shakes off a big mistake In the final minutes of the first half, 278-pound defensive midfielder Marlon Davidson picked up a pass and slid 3 yards into the bottom area for a touch that gave Tampa Bay a 20-17 lead at the break.
The Bucs (9-3) won their third game in a row and pushed their division into a four-game lead against Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans (5-7 in all) with five games remaining.
Brady has improved to 10-0 in his career against the Falcons, including four straight wins in the past two seasons since moving from New England to Tampa Bay.
Arians frankly said: “He has been in a better team for a long time.
Bucs throws. For the first time since 2004, they passed the ball in the first 13 plays of a game – taking the entire 75-yard touchdown in their first possession.
Chris Godwin had five catches in the opening lane and finished with 15 franchise-record receptions in 143 yards.
Leonard Fournette limits his first drive to 3 yards hit the ground grasp, make a ball catch with one hand. Tampa Bay’s second possession also ended with a 3-yard TD pass, which was taken by Cameron Brate.
The Falcons scored what would be their only offensive touch in opening possession, dealing most of their damage on the ground.
Cordarrelle Patterson broke a 39-meter breaker before Mike Davis ran for a 17-yard score.
Down 13-7, Atlanta squandered the opportunity to take the lead after scoring their first and first-half goal.
Matt Ryan lost several yards when he fell in an undulating moment, sandwiched around an incomplete pair that left the Falcons to settle for Younghoe Koo’s 21-yard on-court goal.
Brady’s first TD to Gronkowski put the Bucs on the brink of a game. But Tampa Bay was greedy near the end of the half, putting the Falcons in the locker room in a pretty high position after Davidson’s pick-6.
It did not continue. The Falcons were held to a goalless draw in the second half.
Ryan has fired five times and call for grounding purposefully. Russell Gage failed in a fumbling attempt in Tampa Bay territory when it looked like the Falcons might be leading the way for the third quarter.
Ryan groans about missed opportunities.
“When you play against a really good team… you know you have to get rid of the touches,” he said. “That is certainly disappointing.”
The Bucs receiver didn’t realize he was breaking the team’s record for catches until someone told him to leave the field afterwards.
“I think I had 10 or so,” he said with a smile.
In fact, he eclipsed the record of 13 shared by James Wilder and Earnest Graham.
“This is the most important time of the year,” Godwin said. “I’m trying to do whatever I can to help my team win.”
Tampa Bay full-back Carlton Davis had a fantastic run in his first game back from a reserve injury.
Davis, playing for the first time since he sustained a calf injury in Week 4, restored Gage’s tumble at Bucs 37 after Pierre Desir punched the ball out of the Falcons receiver.
“When you see the ball move, you have to go get it,” Davis said. “I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Buccaneers: CB Jamel Dean was ruled out of the match due to a concussion. RB Ronald Jones had to play because of illness.
Falcons: Richie Grant and LB Adetokunbo Ogundeji both limped off with ankle injuries.
Buccaneers: Heading home next Sunday to face the AFC Buffalo powerhouse.
The Falcon: Head to Charlotte next Sunday to face the Carolina Panthers in another NFC South game.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and find his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. Copyright Registered. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
https://www.ksat.com/sports/2021/12/05/brady-throws-for-368-yards-4-tds-bucs-beat-falcons-30-17/ Brady, Gronk lead Bucs to Falcons 30-17