Bucs Have Contracted Yellow Fever
Rookie G Jeb Terry, who played a handful of snaps on special teams, saw his first regular-season action. Terry had been inactive for each of the Bucs’ first eight games, but the season-ending injury to C John Wade last week pushed Sean Mahan into the starting lineup and Terry into an active reserve role.
The Bucs’ kickoff return game was strong despite playing against the league’s fourth-ranked kickoff coverage unit. With CB Torrie Cox leading the way, the Bucs averaged 23.6 yards per runback on five kickoffs. In addition, a long return into Atlanta territory by RB Earnest Graham was erased by a penalty.
CB Ronde Barber’s third-quarter interception was his second in the last two games and the 22nd of his career. He moved within one pick of fourth place on the team’s all-time list, currently occupied by S John Lynch (23).
FB Greg Comella, who suffered a lower back strain in the second half, was the Bucs’ only reported injury during the game.
Shelton Quarles led the defense with 12 tackles and two sacks - the first multi-sack game of his eight-year career.
Torrie Cox replaced Mario Edwards as the nickel back in the third quarter. Cox has been playing some nickel back since the Oct. 24 Chicago game. In addition to his most significant playing time on defense, Cox finished with four kickoff returns for 101 yards.
The Bucs special teams, led by Corey Ivy and Keith Burns, who each had two tackles, held the NFC's leading punt returner, Allen Rossum, to 0 return yards and three fair catches.
The eight inactives: WR Bill Schroeder, RB Jamel White, FB Mike Alstott, LB Marquis Cooper, T Anthony Davis, DT Anthony McFarland, DE Josh Savage and designated third quarterback Chris Simms.
After seemingly curbing the penalty problems that plagued them consistently last season, Tampa Bay's penchant for yellow has been creeping back up. In each of the past three games, the Bucs have been penalized at least 10 times. Sunday was a season-high with 13 penalties for 83 yards. Of those 13, five were false starts and three were holding, including one on S Will Allen that negated a 48- yard kickoff return by Earnest Graham. ``It's disappointing that we had as many penalties as we did,'' CB Ronde Barber said. ``It's not hard to be a good football player if you play smart. We definitely didn't do that.''
During the Falcons' third offensive series, facing third-and-7, Bucs LB Derrick Brooks sacked QB Michael Vick for a 7- yard loss. But the play was negated by a personal foul penalty against DE Simeon Rice, who was flagged for grabbing former Bucs RB Warrick Dunn's face mask. Instead of forcing the Falcons into punting, it gave them first-and-10 from their own 39. The series ended with RB T.J. Duckett's 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Falcons a 17-0 lead. ``We play these guys again in less than a month, and things will be different,'' Rice said. ``It will be in our favor next time. Next time we will be working together instead of against each other, playing smarter.''
Griese battered and bruised
Brian Griese emerged from Tampa Bay's training room with red spots all over his torso, courtesy of a post-game ice treatment, and moved gingerly toward his locker. Seven sacks and a bunch of residual hits will do that to a NFL quarterback. In the aftermath of Sunday's 24-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, Griese was asked if he'd ever been roughed like he'd just been by the Falcons. "Yes, unfortunately," he said.
Griese completed 19-of-26 passes (73 percent) for 174 yards and two touchdowns. An interception he threw late in the game was under duress -- trying to force a play -- and with the outcome all but decided. All told, it was a solid performance amid a pounding. And Griese took some of the blame. "We were all fighting hard," he said. "We made some mistakes that cost us. I made some mistakes. I should have gotten us into some more secure protections at the line of scrimmage. It's on all of us."
Falcons hot and then not
Vick helped the Falcons jump out to that quick 17-0 lead early in the second quarter, but then the Atlanta offense stalled until the fourth quarter. From 10:25 remaining in the first half through the third quarter, the Falcons did not pick up a first down. The Bucs defense held them to 3 offensive yards in the third quarter. "We got off to a great start in the first half, then they started to gain momentum,'' Vick said. ``In the second half, we were able to come away with some big plays, and then they got away from their game plan. We kept fighting and fighting on offense.'' Vick finished with nine rushes for 73 yards and was 8-for-16 passing for 147 yards and one touchdown. The Falcons are 10-1 when he rushes for 50 or more yards.
One week ago, Chidi Ahanotu was an unemployed football player tooling around Tampa waiting for a chance to play again. The Bucs gave him that opportunity when they signed him to a one-year deal Tuesday, and Sunday he started at defensive tackle in place of the injured Anthony McFarland. With McFarland inactive with a triceps injury, players such as Ahanotu, Jon Bradley and Corey Smith were pressed into action. Bradley and Smith each had one tackle, and Ahanotu finished with two tackles and one sack. ``They know me,'' said Ahanotu, who was first with the Bucs from 1993-2000. ``They know that I'm a soldier, a warrior. I can do this defense in my sleep pretty much. I was just running to the ball, trying to make plays.''