Bucs Fall to Falcons, 31-23
The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all even after nearly four decades of play. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay’s 2013 record is still as lopsided as ever. A 31-23 Atlanta victory in the Georgia Dome on Sunday put the all-time series between the two teams at 20 wins apiece and at the same time kept the Buccaneers winless on the season. Despite a strong outing by rookie QB Mike Glennon in his first NFL road start, the Buccaneers (0-6) couldn’t keep up with the Matt Ryan-led Falcons (2-4), who got a near perfect performance (152.0 passer rating) from their red-hot quarterback.
Glennon threw a pair of touchdown passes to WR Vincent Jackson to keep the Bucs in the game, eventually completing 26 of 44 passes for 256 yards and a 90.7 passer rating. The Bucs’ offense lost starting tailback Doug Martin, who had been averaging 4.3 yards per carry, to a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Ryan, who completed 24 of 26 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns, was forced to carry the Falcons’ offense because Tampa Bay’s defense completely shut down the Atlanta rushing attack. Led by rangy linebacker Lavonte David and his 10 tackles, the Bucs held the Falcons to 22 yards on the ground.
Mistakes plagued the Bucs early: An underthrown deep ball on their first offensive play; dropped passes by Jackson and Crabtree a false start on third-and-six and another one third-and-four; a roughing the passer penalty on DE Trevor Scott that erased a third-down incompletion. Worst of all, of course, was the Glennon fumble on Tampa Bay’s third play from scrimmage that turned into a 30-yard touchdown for DeCoud.
The Bucs, who were plagued by penalty problems early in the season, drew 11 flags for 103 yards on Sunday against the Falcons. “Unfortunately, penalties were a big issue again,” said Head Coach Greg Schiano. “Certainly, we’re frustrated about that. It’s been a long time since a team that I’ve coached has had this kind of issue. Put it on me. We’ve got to figure out a way to get that fixed because we had 11 penalties today, six of them in Atlanta territory and four of them in the red zone.”
Still, it was only 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. That changed quickly in the second period, when Ryan found RB Jacquizz Rodgers on a third-down swing pass that turned into a 19-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Atlanta advantage. The Bucs answered with Glennon’s 59-yard touchdown pass to WR Vincent Jackson, but Atlanta responded with 10 quick points on a 23-yard Matt Bryant field goal and a 37-yard Ryan-to-WR Harry Douglas TD pass. Glennon led one more extended drive just before halftime to set up Rian Lindell’s 36-yard field goal.
The Bucs pulled to within a touchdown in the third quarter thanks to their first takeaway of the game. CB Robert Alford’s fumble on a punt return was recovered by LB Dekoda Watson to set up a 23-yard scoring drive. Coming in for an injured Doug Martin, rookie RB Mike James converted a fourth-and-one with a two-yard dive to the one-yard line and Glennon followed with a fade pass to Jackson for the receiver’s second score. Atlanta restored their two-TD lead early in the fourth period, however, on another touchdown catch by Rodgers.
LB Lavonte David knifed right through the line on the first play from scrimmage to drop Rodgers for a loss of four. Two plays later, on third-and-10, the Bucs double-covered Gonzalez and Ryan settled for an underneath throw to Douglas that came up three yards short, leading to a punt. A 41-yard punt and a good 13-yard return by Eric Page allowed the Bucs to start their first drive at their own 45. The Bucs brought in a jumbo set on the first play of scrimmage, with T Gabe Carimi in as an extra tight end, but ran a play-action and tried to go deep. Jackson attempted to come back for an underthrown ball but couldn’t quite haul it in. Two plays later, the Falcons brought a huge blitz and succeeded in getting to Glennon, who lost the football. DeCoud picked it up on a hop and ran untouched 30 yards for the game’s first score just three minutes in.
The Bucs’ second possession faced an early third-and-11 situation but Glennon stayed patient in a collapsing pocket and eventually found TE Tom Crabtree cutting over the middle for a 14-yard completion. However, a subsequent third-and-five came up short when Jackson was tackled a yard short by CB Asante Samuel, and the Bucs had to punt. The Falcons’ offense got its initial first down of the game on the next drive when a big Buc blitz failed to get to Ryan before he could get off a 12-yard completion to Douglas. A holding penalty erased a nine-yard run by Snelling and led to a third-and-20 from the Atlanta 24 and Ryan settled for a short pass over the middle to WR Darius Johnson that came up well short. WR Eric Page was hit hard as he fielded Matt Bosher’s 50-yard punt but held on to give the Bucs a first down at their own 14.
A pass interference call drawn by Williams against Samuel gave the Bucs a quick 18 yards to start the next drive, and a fine reaching catch by Jackson for 12 yards converted a third-and-four and put the ball right on the midfield stripe. However, a second false start created a third-and-nine moments later and Jackson did well to prevent a near-interception by CB Robert Alford. Two outstanding chase-down plays by David set up a quick third-and-11 on Atlanta’s next drive but an incompletion was erased by a roughing-the-passer penalty on DE Trevor Scott. Ryan then hit on strikes of 26 yards to Douglas and 20 to Gonzalez to put the ball at the Bucs’ 24 as the first quarter came to an end. The Bucs’ defense forced a third-and-five at the 19 but Ryan converted that and added seven points with a pass to Rodgers that the diminutive back turned up the left sideline and into the end zone.
The Bucs needed only three plays to answer. After two strong runs by Martin put the ball at the Bucs’ 41, Glennon went deep down the right seam to Jackson, who got just one hand free around Samuel but was still able to haul in the pass, shove off the defender and walk into the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown. Douglas made a dazzling catch of his own around CB Leonard Johnson a few minutes later to pick up 54 yards down to the Bucs’ 14. The Falcons gained a first down at the three but had to settle for a field goal after pass deflections by Goldson and David.
An unnecessary roughness flag on C Ted Larsen backed the Bucs up on their next possession, though Larsen got a measure of redemption moments later when he recovered a Jackson fumble. However, the ensuing punt came off the side of Michael Koenen’s foot and traveled only 20 yards, going out of bounds at the Bus’ 37. Ryan capitalized immediately, hitting Douglas for a 37-yard score on what appeared to be a broken play by the Bucs’ defense. Tampa Bay’s next drive started with a holding penalty on the Buccaneers but two consecutive catches by WR Chris Owusu moved the chains.
Moments later, Jackson landed out of bounds after another impressive catch but drew a pass interference call on Alford in the process, making it first-and-10 at the Atlanta 37 as the two-minute warning approached. A third-and-one pass to Jackson picked up six yards and made it first down at the 22 as the clock ticked down under a minute, and the Bucs used their first time out with 28 seconds left a six-yard Owusu grab. A nine-yard catch by Williams took it to the seven and drew a second timeout with 22 seconds left. Two incompletions made it third down with 14 seconds to play and Glennon eventually took a sack on third down after finding no one open. With three seconds left after a timeout, Lindell came on to kick a 36-yard field goal that closed Atlanta’s lead to 14 points at the half.
The Bucs got the ball first to start the second half on a touchback, but the Falcons defense was all over a running play up the middle, hitting Martin from both sides before he could get back to the line of scrimmage. Martin got six on his next carry but a third-down pass to Jackson was broken up by Samuel. On the ensuing punt, RB Brian Leonard forced a fumble by Alford, with LB Dekoda Watson recovering at the Atlanta 23.
Martin got five yards on a run up the middle but was then shaken up trying to make a spectacular catch on a wheel route near the goal line. On third-and-five, Glennon hung in long enough to wait for Jackson to clear on a crossing route, hitting him for a gain of six and a first down at the Atlanta 12. With Martin on the sideline, James ran for eight yards to make it third-and-two, but got just one more on the next play. The Bucs elected to go for it on fourth-and-one and James burrowed up the middle to the one to earn a new set of downs. Two plays later, Glennon threw a perfect fade pass to Jackson that the receiver easily plucked out of the air over the defender’s head.
The defense came right back with a three-and-out and the resulting punt was fair caught by Page at the Bucs’ 35. A late-hit flag on DE Malliciah Goodman for roughing the passer gave the Bucs 15 free yards and Glennon kept the drive alive with a heady 13-yards scramble on third-and-12 into Atlanta territory. The Bucs ended up punting from the 39, however, and CB Michael Adams had a chance to down it at the one before the ball slipped from his hands and rolled into the end zone for a touchback.
WR Drew Davis made a stunning one-handed catch on the sideline to get 24 yards and get the ball into Buccaneer territory. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Gonzalez got 10 yards on a short pass and another 12 was tacked on by an unnecessary roughness call on S Kelcie McCray. Two plays later, Ryan tossed a short pass over the middle to Rodgers and the lightning-quick back scooted into the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown.
The Bucs crossed the 50 on their next drive but appeared to stall on a third-down incompletion before a defensive holding call on DeCoud rescued the drive. After misfiring on a third-and-two at the Atlanta 33, the Bucs went for it on fourth down with 11 minutes left in the game. Glennon’s short pass to WR Tiquan Underwood on a quick out moved the chains. James then made it first-and-10 at the 16 with a sharp 11-yard run around right end, but moments later the Bucs were going for it again on fourth down. This time they were at the eight, needing two yards, and they got it again on a draw play to Leonard.
That made it first-and-goal at the five, but a holding call on Donald Penn backed it up 10 yards. The Bucs drew several other penalties on the ensuing plays, eventually putting them into a fourth-and-goal from the 23. A hands-to-the-face call on G Davin Joseph negated a potential touchdown pass and prompted the Bucs to send out Lindell for a 41-yard field goal. That made it 31-20 with exactly five minutes to play.