Blocked Punt Can't Grab Win
Brian Clark struggled to think of what could have been the other biggest play of his career. Atlanta lined up to punt from its 46-yard line with 2:37 remaining. Clark was on the left side of the Bucs' line and delivered what could have been a game-changing play, one that could have propelled Tampa Bay to an important NFC South victory.
Clark beat his defender and blocked Atlanta P Michael Koenen's kick with one hand. The ball popped into the air and was recovered by Bucs S Sabby Piscitelli, who returned it to the Falcons' 22-yard line. "I knew there was a possibility I could block it," Clark said. "I reached my hand out and tried to get contact, if possible."
However, Clark's game-changing play ended up being Tampa Bay's biggest disappointment during its 13-10 road loss. Tampa Bay advanced to Atlanta's 9-yard line with 1:56 remaining, but a sack and holding penalty ruined the Bucs' touchdown hopes. The Bucs settled for K Matt Bryant's field goal, which tied the game at 10, but were eventually defeated in overtime.
Clark, a former Chamberlain High standout, recorded his first blocked punt this season, but wished his play would have led to Tampa Bay's victory. "I thought we were in a winning situation, where we were on the field," Clark said. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to cash it in."
No answers from Galloway
Joey Galloway had three consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving, but those seem like scrapbook memories now. Galloway was declared inactive for Sunday's game against Atlanta, something the 14-year veteran did not see coming.
"When I say that you guys reporters know more than I know, I'm not joking this time," Galloway said. "Normally, I'm not joking. Normally, I'm not telling you guys anything. This time, it's football. There's been no blow up, been no confrontation. I don't have nothing else for you. There's no battle here. It's just like anything else. He decides who plays and who doesn't and it's that simple."
Jon Gruden said he benched Galloway because of the team's needs on special teams. Tampa Bay DT Greg Peterson was activated for this game to play on special teams. "Special teams has really taken a hit," Gruden said. "You forget about Geno Hayes and Byron Storer and all the guys when you lose a defensive lineman like Chris Hovan. We realized Jovan Haye would be limited. Some of the guys that are core guys, like Jimmy Wilkerson, have to start. So we need somebody to play those 18 to 25 snaps on the kicking game, especially against a good special teams unit like Atlanta."
Bryant continues to excel
Antonio Bryant has put up very impressive numbers the past two weeks. Bryant had eight receptions for 108 yards and one touchdown against Atlanta. Last week, Bryant had nine receptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina.
However, there is one statistic Bryant can not get past. "Yeah, and 0-2 right now," Bryant said.
Despite Bryant's performances, Tampa Bay has lost the past two games. Bryant has 74 receptions for 1,044 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season, setting single-season career highs in receptions and receiving yards, and tying his career high in touchdowns.
Respect but not impressed
Atlanta DE John Abraham turned in a dominating performance against Tampa Bay's offensive line, but the Bucs were far from impressed. Abraham had three sacks, including a crucial one against QB Brian Griese late in the fourth quarter, plus four quarterback hurries, but Bucs RT Jeremy Trueblood was not ready to pat his opponent's back.
"He's no different than any other defensive end we go against every week," Trueblood said. "Everyone has a premier pass rusher. He's been in the league for a long time. He's done it for a long time. He has the stats to back it up, but so does every other team. It's not like we have to game plan around him at defensive end. He's a great player and had a good day today. Kudos to him, but there are certain things that we need to take care of."
Warrick Dunn, who spent the previous six seasons in Atlanta, became the sixth NFL player to gain 10,000 rushing yards and add 500 career receptions. He joins Marcus Allen, Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson.
Ronde Barber has four interceptions in the past four games. Barber had two interceptions against Detroit, none against New Orleans and one against Carolina. He has 37 career interceptions, most in team history.
DT Chris Hovan missed Sunday's game due to a knee injury, the first time he did not play in a regular-season game with the Bucs. Hovan appeared in 45 consecutive games since joining Tampa Bay in 2005. Rookie OL Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) did not travel to Atlanta.
Anwar Richardson, The Tampa Tribune 15 December 2008