When it’s all said and done no one truly cares if a win is pretty or ugly. This isn’t college football. There is no BCS computer algorithm weighing style points to separate teams with 2-3 wins over powder puff mid-majors. No this is the NFL where only W’s count. Atlanta got one Sunday afternoon surviving the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a 31-23 victory in the Georgia Dome.
When things are going bad, and at 0-6 they are going really bad for Tampa Bay, every mistake is magnified tenfold. There was no more evidence than the Buccaneers first offensive series. After successfully holding the Falcons injury depleted offense to just three downs, Mike Glennon spotted the Falcons a half dozen points. On third and ten, Atlanta safety William Moore sacked Glennon and caused a fumble that Thomas DeCoud scooped up for a run to the endzone.
Atlanta Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan called the blitz from the sideline instead of his usual perch in the coaches box. “Number 1, it was a great play call by Coach Nolan”, said Safety William Moore. “He called it and we executed it perfectly and got a big turnover.”
Momentum gained? Not really. For the next ten minutes, neither team produced anything remotely
memorable interesting. Finally, with a little over 2 minutes remaining in the first quarter the Falcons mounted their second scoring drive.
Starting from inside their own 20, quarterback Matt Ryan found seldom used slot receiver Harry Douglas for a 26 yard gain. Douglas had been asked to do more since injuries have ended Julio Jones' season and sidelined Roddy White. “Ask and ye shall receive” says the Good Book. Douglas delivered in a big way catching 7 passes for 149 yards and 1 touchdown.
The play of Douglas offset the punch-less Falcons running attack. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling combined for 18 carries and 18 yards.
Rodgers made up for his lack of rushing yards by following up Douglas’ big catch with a 19 yard touchdown reception that gave the Falcons a 14-0 lead.
Just as the lipstick was about to go on, the Falcons defense turned very pig-like in appearance. Often injured Asante Samuel was burned by Bucs receiver Victor Jackson for a 59 yard touchdown. It’s not clear if Jackson’s one-handed catch was that spectacular or if Samuel’s effort was subpar. It was a bit of both. After making the catch, Jackson back-pedaled turning to run only after realizing Samuel was not in the mood to chase him.
Douglas gave the Falcons a 17 point lead a bit later turning an underthrown pass from Ryan into a 37 yard score.
Atlanta almost returned Tampa Bay’s earlier gift on the Bucs first punt of the second half. Rookie returner Robert Alford had the ball punched out by Brian Leonard at the Falcons 27 yard line. A hustling Dekoda Watson recovered the loose ball for Tampa Bay.
The blessing in disguise turned out to contain a curse. Glennon’s simple flare pass to Doug Martin turned ugly as the powerful 5-9 running back made a leaping twisting catch. On his way down Falcons safety William Moore delivered a big hit stopping a potential touchdown. Moore got up but Martin did not…at least not right away and a visit from the trainers. The squatty back left the game with a shoulder injury never to return. As if the game wasn’t ugly enough for the Bucs.
Tampa eventually scored on the drive thanks to a 1 yard reception by Jackson in the corner but Martin’s absence would prove too big to overcome down the stretch.
Trailing by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Tampa completely misfired inside the redzone twice coming away with field goals instead. Penalties cut short the first of the two drives turning a first and goal at the 5 into first and goal at the 30.
The penalties didn’t resonate well with Tampa Bay Head Coach Greg Schiano. “Unfortunately, penalties were a big issue again,” said Schiano. “Certainly, we are very frustrated about that.”
Tampa Bay has a short week to correct the mistakes of the first six games. “When you look at it and you lose, all that matters is we lost and we have to find a way to win,” said Schiano. Getting a win could go a long way towards turning the season around for the Bucs.
Atlanta’s win was just that-- a win. At 2 up and 4 down, the Falcons will gladly accept wins anyway they can get them.
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