No defense for such a loss
Even when Tampa Bay's offense has taken the day off this season, the defense has found something that works to keep the Bucs in the game. But not Sunday. That's what made the 43-7 loss to Atlanta such a complete defeat. The Falcons scored 33 unanswered points in the second quarter, an enormous total even when the Bucs' offense plays giveaway.

Tampa Bay turned the ball over three times, which led directly to as many touchdowns. But the Bucs' defense allowed 358 yards, and failed to produce even a third-down situation in three consecutive scoring possessions for the Falcons. "We couldn't get anything going for ourselves," said Bucs safety Marty Carter. "It just snowballed and snowballed. Before you knew it, we were down 33-0."

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's offense did its part by gaining just 19 yards in 13 plays in the second quarter. During that stretch, Vinny Testaverde was intercepted twice, sacked once and fumbled for a Falcons safety. But what was alarming for the Bucs, who ranked sixth in the NFL in defense two weeks ago, was their failure to cover receivers in the secondary. Andre Rison was the Falcons' biggest weapon, catching three touchdown passes in as many possessions in the second-quarter barrage.

With the Bucs going mostly with zone coverage, Rison would find the soft spot and quarterback Chris Miller would hit him in stride. "We played a zone, and they were sitting in the soft spots and making big catches and throws," Carter said. "You really don't have time to react. Not in zone. Because they really were throwing the ball on the third step. We had some dropped coverages on them a couple times. Other than that, it was a great receiver. He had a lot of field to work with, because we were squeezing our zones, and he'd break back across the grain and run away from everybody. They'd run 15 yards and shut the route down, and we're 20 yards downfield. On two of the touchdowns, one was against a zone and one was man."

The three touchdown passes gives Rison eight for the season, tying him for the NFL lead. On Sunday, Rison thought everything he touched would turn to points. "That happened today," Rison said. "When you get the ball, you know you're going to run with it. I felt like Jerry Rice felt last year or (the Redskins') Gary Clark felt last week."

Miller, who completed 15-of-25 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns, said the Bucs' rookie safeties made things easier. "It's tough to play, being a rookie in this league," Miller said. "Especially with the three wideouts we have. They've got some people banged up, too. But I wasn't thinking about that. I was just finding open people and throwing to them."

Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times 1991