Bucs done in by kickoff return by Weems
The Buccaneers backed Atlanta into a corner during an important NFC South game.
Tampa Bay led by 10 points, 24-14, after tight end John Gilmore caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from fullback Earnest Graham with 10:30 remaining. The Bucs had momentum. The defense had played well to that point and appeared ready for Atlanta.
Then Atlanta kick returner Eric Weems came out swinging. Weems returned the subsequent kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown, contributing to Tampa Bay's fourth-quarter collapse and sparking Atlanta's 28-24 victory. It marked Atlanta's fifth consecutive win against Tampa Bay.
"Obviously, we missed a couple of tackles," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "They ran that thing back to get the momentum back and that was a swinging part of the game. But it certainly won't be an excuse, and certainly won't be the reason we lost. We had a three-point lead and we have to win those games."
The lackluster tackling by Tampa Bay's special teams unit contributed to Atlanta's comeback.
Weems took the kickoff in the end zone and ran toward the right sideline, where receivers Sammie Stroughter and Maurice Stovall missed tackles. Weems eventually broke free for the touchdown, and although Morris challenged the play thinking Weems had stepped out of bounds, the score was upheld by replay review.
"It's one of those plays where an inch over here or an inch here," Stroughter said. "It's an area where we have to get better in every phase. It's football and you've got to understand that you can never relax. You got to finish the play."
The Bucs' inability to finish that play cost it a double-digit lead as the Falcons pulled to within 24-21. Atlanta took the lead on a 9-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Michael Jenkins with 4:31 left. But momentum changed on the return.
"I thought he stepped out of bounds," Bucs safety Corey Lynch said of Weems, who appeared pinned on the sideline but somehow escaped. "The last time we played Atlanta, (Bucs receiver) Micheal Spurlock ran one back and swung the momentum. (Weem's return) definitely was big for them."
|About the writer|
Anwar Richardson has been writing Buccaneer stories for The Tampa Tribune for several seasons and adds additional depth on the players and coaches on the roster.