Bucs Offensive Line Was Too Mistake-Prone
Roy Cummings, The Tampa Tribune, published 15 November 2004

Not everything is what it seems to be. Take, for example, the performance by the Bucs' offensive line in Tampa Bay's 24-14 loss to the Falcons. It was sloppy and ultimately unsuccessful, but it wasn't so much the result of physical failings. ``It wasn't just a matter of guys getting their butts whooped,'' Kenyatta Walker said. ``I mean, there were a lot of times when it was just a guessing game for us out there.''

What left the Bucs guessing was the wide array of looks the Falcons defense threw at them. A steady stream of well- disguised blitzes and stunts simply proved too difficult for the Bucs to decipher. ``The guys up front played hard, but we just made too many mistakes,'' Brian Griese said. ``I mean, I know I should have called some protections at the line that would have put us in a better position.''

The result of the Bucs' inability to figure out the Atlanta pass rush scheme was a seven- sack effort by the Falcons in which some of their pass rushers didn't encounter a single blocker on the way to the quarterback. ``Those sacks should be credited to our scheme because we took advantage of the flaws in their protection,'' Falcons linebacker Matt Stewart said. ``I know I was unblocked twice. It was like making a layup.''

A crowd of more than 70,000 aided the Falcons' effort. They made it difficult for the Bucs to hear audibles and line calls and could take credit for at least a couple of the seven penalties the Bucs linemen committed. ``Yeah, it was very loud,'' said center Sean Mahan, one of two Bucs (left guard Matt Stinchcomb was the other) to commit a false start penalty on the first drive. On that penalty it was just a matter of miscommunication on my part. I'll have to look at the film, but I think [the penalties] were just a matter of us not communicating the way we should.''

While the penalties were often the result of poor communication and the sacks were often the result of poor recognition, there were some plays that were simply the result of poor execution. The fourth-and-1 play that the Falcons stuffed and used to set the stage for Michael Vick's game-clinching 49-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler was one of them. The Bucs ran a toss sweep to the right, and the right side of their offensive line simply got bowled over by a swarm of Falcons defenders who appeared to know what was coming. ``I don't know if they knew the toss was coming or what, but as soon as the ball was snapped they [defense] all just ran there,'' Michael Pittman said.

``Atlanta just did some great things against us,'' said Jon Gruden, whose line had been showing steady improvement before Sunday. ``They got off blocks and just defeated us as a team.''