Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda In Atlanta
Tom McEwen, The Tampa Tribune, published 15 December 2008

Put simply, the Falcons should have won Sunday in Atlanta, because they did. The Buccaneers deserved not to win in Atlanta because they did not. But, wait, the Falcons did not deserve to win because their promising young quarterback Matt Ryan was three times intercepted and his teammate fumbled once. But win they did, 13-10, in a nervous overtime game.

And, the Buccaneers deserved to win because they did not fumble and quarterback Brian Griese was not intercepted in this old-fashioned head-butter in Atlanta. Matt Bryant made two of three field goal attempts while Atlanta’s Jason Elam kicked two of two, but Atlanta punter Michael Koenen had a kick blocked by Brian Clark in a game that Tampa never led but had tied it at 10-10 before Elam kicked the winning field goal.

Atlanta could have won by a larger margin — the Falcon faithful, players and fans will surely agree on that. But then the Buckeroos will say victory should have been repeated. Both are right. The game ebbed and flowed in different directions often, flowing towards Atlanta in the final minutes of the overtime.

Both clubs played long and hard and into that overtime that was about to expire when Michael Turner’s running and the superb passing of the rookie Ryan produced the drive close enough for the 34-yard Elam field goal that was solid.

Atlanta’s Ryan had a resourceful day. He is going to be solid. Griese had a fine day after Coach Jon Gruden said projected veteran starter Jeff Garcia’s lame leg disallowed his planned start. Bet here now is Griese will not soon mothball his No. 8. Should not. The knock on him — they say — is lack of mobility even of that of an aging, balding usual starter. Griese also is smart, academically and football-wise. His daddy is former Miami Dolphin Bob, who works in television and works well.

Griese in Atlanta was not intercepted nor did he fumble the ball away. Gruden said all he needs is more work behind the center. He may get it immediately. The Buckos travel no more this regular season. The games remaining with San Diego and Oakland are both at Raymond James Stadium, where the Bucs would surely have beat the Falcons Sunday. NFC South teams do not win away games. And, San Diego and Oakland are not playoff teams. The Bucs may be. The Atlanta loss did not help, and at 9-5 they will need the help of the other clubs.

And, no, Super Bowl planners should see no need to be concerned with the complications of having the Bucs in the Super Bowl just ahead at RJS, the fourth to be hosted by Tampa.

Not Coach Gruden nor any of his Buccaneer associates are likely to declare next year now foremost in their plans. Heck no, he’ll say, who knows what will happen next. Got to get our hurt guys ready for the next two games at RJS. And, there were certainly some hurt Buckos at Atlanta, but, the staff had a great chance to see those under uncustomary fire, oh, like Griese, like receiver Antonio Bryant, surely the find of the year here, and Brian Clark, the special teams talent who blocked that punt that could have, maybe should have led to victory.

But, that was not the way it was to be. Did I mention all the penalties — blocking in the back, holding, llegal motion, etc. - were the Buc favorites Sunday in Atlanta. They were flagged early, late and in the middle, far more than were the Falcons.

Still, this Buc team surely needs to find more offense. The defense continues to be sound — no, better than that. Special may be the word. It has always been that way around One Buc Place, all the way back to the Bucs’ only Hall of Famer, Lee Roy Selmon.

“We had an answer for Lee Roy,” University of Texas Head Coach Darrell Royal once said to me. “We never, ever ran to his side of the field. If Lee Roy was going to get our man, he’d have to catch him from behind.”

Things haven’t changed much with the Bucs. It still starts with the defense. No, the offense never caught completely up. We still start with linebacker Derrick Brooks and cornerback Ronde Barber and maybe Barrett Ruud out there on the horizon. Give me a D ...