September 18, 2014, was the date of one of the most memorable Atlanta Falcons games in history.
Atlanta started the 2014 season with a thrilling win in overtime against their biggest rivals – the New Orleans Saints – and then in week two, they fell to the Cincinnati Bengals 24-10.
Little would they know that the next game would be one of the most entertaining matchups ever.
On this day, seven years ago, the Atlanta Falcons took the field to destroy the Buccaneers in a game that set a special record for a special player.
A special game for the Atlanta Falcons that included a change to the NFL history book.
Before the game even started for the Falcons, Matt Ryan had appeared to have an issue with his eye. He was seen rubbing it and having issues with it. It seemed like the pyrotechnics when he ran out of the tunnel may have hit his eye, but it would not affect his game at all.
The Falcons opened up the game in the first quarter by taking a 21 point lead.
The first drive had a wild sequence of events. Ryan threw a pass to tight end Levine Toilolo, who had the ball hit out of his hands landing right in the arms of Bucs linebacker Mark Barron. He ran a few yards before Devin Hester slapped the ball right out of Barron’s arms and recovered it himself, this gave Atlanta a new set of downs.
Matt Ryan went on to toss a three-yard touchdown to receiver Harry Douglas, followed by an eight-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, and then the first quarter scoring was capped off by a 23-yard interception for a touchdown by Kemal Ishmael off of quarterback Mike Glennon.
Little would either team know, this was only the beginning.
Near the start of the second quarter, Atlanta drew up a designed run by Devin Hester. It would result in a 20-yard rush for a touchdown, where Hester would end up hugging an unsuspecting Georgia Dome security guard as part of his celebration.
The ensuing events would end up in the NFL record books.
The Buccaneer’s next possession would not last long, they sent their punt unit out onto the field. For some stupid reason, the punter – Michael Koenen – kicked the ball straight to the dangerous Devin Hester.
Hester took that punt and never looked back resulting in a 62-yard punt return to the house in what broke the NFL’s record for most return touchdowns in a career.
Ironically, Hester passed Deion Sanders to stand alone in the record books and Deion happened to be in the stadium for his coverage of Thursday Night Football.
It would set up for an absolutely special post-game interview between the two of them.
This truly was a special moment and a special game. If you watched it live then there is little doubt that you remember most of it to this day.
The embarrassment for the Buccaneers had just begun, Falcons continued to pile it on.
Past the record-setting moment, the Atlanta Falcons were done scoring in the first half, but not for the second half.
Halfway through the third quarter, Matt Ryan threw a dime to Julio Jones who made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch for a 40-yard touchdown – 42-0 for the Falcons.
The Buccaneers got the ball back for a few seconds before they lost it again. The first snap of their possession went straight over Mike Glennon’s head and Stansley Maponga for the Falcons recovered it on the two-yard line.
Next play, Steven Jackson scored on a two-yard run – 49-0 with eight minutes left in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay, very shockingly, ended up punting on the next drive and Atlanta followed that up with a 38-yard touchdown run by Antone Smith who always scored on long runs or catches in his career – 56-0 for Atlanta.
Through the first three quarters, this was the second-largest shutout margin by a team in NFL history. Another stat for the record books on the night.
Fortunately for the Bucs, the scoring for the Falcons was finished for the night and the Bucs ended up scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass by Mike Glennon to Vincent Jackson and an interception for a touchdown off of Atlanta’s backup quarterback, T.J. Yates.
The game ended 56-14 in what was simply embarrassing for Tampa Bay. It had no shortage of memorable moments – especially by Devin Hester.
Devin Hester ended with a forced fumble, fumble recovery, a twenty-yard rushing touchdown, a twenty-yard catch, and his record-setting punt return for a touchdown.
Matt Ryan finished the game with 21 completions on 24 attempts, 286 passing yards, and three touchdowns.
Julio Jones had one of his usual huge games against Tampa Bay, with nine catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
The present-day Buccaneers are no doubt a different team. They are finally a good team after being quite awful for over a decade.
We can only hope the Atlanta Falcons will provide more memorable moments tomorrow when they take on the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay.