Turnovers Tough For Falcons To Swallow
The Atlanta Falcons entered Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one victory away from clinching the NFC South division. Atlanta exited Raymond James Stadium still seeking that win. Tampa Bay (5-7) played like a team fighting for survival, while Atlanta (9-3) performed like it was conserving energy for Michael Vick's postgame party at Tampa's Club XS after a 27-0 loss. ``We are going to try to find something positive from this if we can. I do not know if we will be able to,'' Atlanta coach Jim Mora said. ``I did not see a lot of positives, but we will try to find something positive and we will go on from there. I think Tampa played inspired football. They played Buccaneer defense.''

The Falcons looked like the same team that has typically struggled against the Bucs. Vick was limited to 13 completions on 27 attempts for 115 yards, and had two interceptions and two fumbles. Although Vick rushed eight times for 81 yards, Atlanta's running backs were limited to 82 yards combined. ``They were able to maintain a good pass rush, get their ends up the field and force us into the pocket. I've got to take my hat off to them. They played a great game,'' Vick said. ``They had a great scheme and we didn't do enough offensively to win.''

What the Falcons did was have turnovers at the most inopportune moments. Atlanta trailed 7-0 when it took over on the 50-yard line. Vick threw a 22-yard pass to Peerless Price and followed with a 16-yard run. Two plays later, Atlanta had first-and- goal on Tampa's 1-yard line less than one minute into the second quarter. Bypassing the run, Vick instead threw toward receiver Dez White, but the ball was tipped by Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks and intercepted by Dwight Smith, ending Atlanta's scoring chance.

``We thought our best chance to score was a play- action right at them. If you recall the first time we played them, we just pounded it right in on them and had great success,'' Mora said. ``We ran for 200 something yards and knowing [Bucs defensive coordinator] Monte Kiffin as well as I do, I thought they would have them geared up for the run. You make about 60 offensive, 60 defensive and about 30 special teams plays. That is about 150 decisions a day and that was not a very good one.''

It was also a decision many players tried to downplay. ``I'm not surprised when the back does not get the ball on every play. I can't question the play calling,'' Falcons running back Warrick Dunn said. ``I think the coach is doing a great job, just that situation we threw an interception. Had we scored a touchdown, no one would talk about it or care about it.''

However, since the Falcons squandered their best scoring opportunity, people will talk about it. Atlanta knows the only way for that to cease is by defeating Oakland next week to clinch the division. ``We just have to go back, make corrections and be ready to play next week because if we let this linger, we will not get the job done,'' Falcons guard Steve Herndon said.

Anwar Richardson The Tampa Tribune 6 December 2004