Where do you start with a game this one sided? I confess I only made it through three quarters of coaching tape, but by then this game was well and truly done.
My things to watch for the Buccanneers were Josh McCown at quarterback and their Pro Bowl linebacker Lavonte David, whilst for the Falcons it was how rookie Jake Matthews plays at left tackle and whether they could generate the a pass rush this year. After watching the broadcast of the game, I also decided I would take a look at the Falcons fullback Patrick DiMarco and the left side of the Bucs line with Logan Mankins and Anthony Collins.
This game got out of hand so quickly for the Bucs, my first note of the game was woeful defence as the Falcons drove the ball for an opening drive touchdown. They would give up twenty-one unanswered points in the first quarter alone, and fifty-six before finally getting on the score board themselves in the fourth quarter. They were beaten so soundly, but I shall do my best to go through what happened.
The reason I wanted to take a look at the left side of the Bucs’ line was that Logan Mankins is a six time Pro Bowl guard and Anthony Collins was a backup tackle who was so good for the Bengals last season that when their left guard went down, the Bengals own Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth moved inside and Collins played at left tackle. In this game they actually held up pretty well, although it did look to me like there might have been some communication issues with Mankins who arrived very late in preseason, but the only time I saw them flat out beat was on an overload blitz. However, the Bucs gave up three sacks in this game, including one where Jonathan Massaquoi came untouched from left end due to a protection break down and another when tackle Corey Peters came through Patrick Omameh at right guard. Add to this, thirty yards of penalties from two unnecessary roughness calls against Evan Dietrich-Smith and overall you can see the start of the problems on offence.
So where else did it go wrong? Well neither team held onto the ball that well, and whilst Bobby Rainey’s two fumbles stood out, the Bucs fumbled the ball five times, losing it four times. Still, the Falcons fumbled it four times themselves and lost three. What I’m not sure of is how these stats account for one play where the Falcons’ Levine Toilolo fumbled the ball after a catch, only for Devin Hester to force a fumble from Mark Barron and then recover it himself. This was the pattern of the game, whenever the Bucs did do something right, they shot themselves in the foot shortly after, plus Devin Hester doing good things. These combined when the Bucs punted the ball fifty-six yards to Hester, who with one move seemed to run past most of the coverage team and then break away to score his twentieth punt return touchdown, the most in NFL history.
In fact, Devin Hester had a great game. As well as causing his usual problems in the return game, he also caught a twenty-five yard pass and ran in a twenty yard touchdown. His so fast and shifty, and at thirty-two is still having a big impact on games.
The other Falcons players I was specifically focussing on were Jake Mathews and Patrick DiMarco. I thought that Jake Mathews held up well, and if not always dominating. I didn’t see him beaten badly either and could often see him steering his rusher past Matt Ryan, but I’d like to see him develop his run blocking. Fullback Patrick DiMarco caught my eye catching a couple of pass out of play-action passes, and watching him the whole game he really impressed me. He wasn’t exactly flattening people, but he was athletic enough to get out where he needed and open holes for the Falcons in the running game, and made some nice catches. In a league where the fullback is slowing dying out in favour of three receiver or two tight end sets, it was nice to see one being used so effectively.
Now unfortunately, we get back to the Buccaneers and my focus on Josh McCown didn’t last long as he was out of the game with over three minutes left in the second quarter. He went five for twelve in the passing game and was picked off in the first quarter when Kemal Ishmael read the play and jumped in front of the pass to Vincent Jackson. In fact, Mike Glennon looked better almost straight away when he came into the game and we’ll have to see if there is a decision to be made for the Bucs regarding quarterback going forward.
Watching Lavonte David play for a defence that gave up six touchdowns was never going to show him in the best light, but frankly I was more impressed with Dane Fletcher who at least flashed with a good pass defence going across the middle, half a sack and five tackles. David had more tackles with seven, but his play didn’t stand out. In fact the Buccaneers defence as a whole seemed to struggle to get off their blocks, their zone coverage was soft enough that Matt Ryan picked them apart, and they gave up some bad plays. Hester ran virtually untouched in a twenty yard counter play that saw all of the Bucs’ linebackers go with the play then get sealed so they couldn’t make the tackle, and Dashon Goldson should have stopped Antone Smith from running in the Falcons final touchdown, which is a shame as he made an excellent play earlier in the game to stop a fumble going out of bounds so the Bucs could recover it.
In fairness no aspect of their game shined, unsurprising in a blow out loss, and Lovie Smith will have a big job to pick them up and do something to make them better.
If you want to understand how badly this game went for the Buccaneers, look at the following series of four plays. At 8:31 in the third quarter Matt Ryan connects with Julio Jones who makes a great over the shoulder catch for a forty yard touchdown. After a touchback on the ensuing kick off, the Buccaneers proceed to snap the ball over Mike Glennon’s head and turn the ball over. On the next play, Steven Jackson somehow runs through three tackles to score a touchdown. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about this game, and would have saved me eight hundred and fifty odd words. Roll on tonight’s games and let’s hope that next week’s Thursday night game of the Giants at Washington is closer.