Nobody has illusions about turning the season around at this point, but that doesn't mean that the Falcons don't desperately need a win over the Buccaneers on Sunday.
The Bucs represent one of the Falcons' paltry two wins so far this season. When Tampa Bay visited the Georgia Dome, the Falcons looked mostly like the normal Falcons, not the injury-riddled, mistake-prone catastrophe of a team that has taken the field each Sunday since.
The last time the Falcons played the Bucs, Matt Ryan threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns, with a completion percentage of 76.9%. Harry Douglas had a huge day, hauling in seven catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. The running game was fantastic--well, okay, that part isn't true. The running game was a disaster, with the combo of Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers rushing for 30 total yards, and a Matt Ryan scramble actually subtracted 12 yards from the total, for 18 net rushing yards. But it wouldn't matter at the end of the day.
An early sack and forced fumble on Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon that was recovered by Thomas DeCoud and returned for a touchdown set the tone, and even though the Falcons allowed the Bucs to rush for a combined 111 yards, and let Glennon throw two touchdown passes to Vincent Jackson, the Falcons pulled off a win that snapped a three-game losing streak.
The Falcons find themselves in a similar position heading into Sunday's game. Following their win over Tampa Bay, they hit a tailspin. They got embarrassed by the Cardinals, embarrassed by the Panthers, and then they were embarrassed by the Seahawks at home last week. That leads us to our first, and probably most important, reason that the Falcons need to win on Sunday.
1. To remind the Falcons that they can win.
The team just seems thoroughly defeated lately. Whether it's the look in their eyes when they take the field, or post-game comments to the media, the Falcons seem like they have forgotten how to win. And the injuries are overwhelming. Losing Julio Jones for the season when Roddy White was already hobbled was unthinkable. Losing Steven Jackson for several games when the Falcons desperately needed a balanced offense wasn't great, either. It didn't help that Kroy Biermann, Bradie Ewing and Sean Weatherspoon all went down with injuries early in the season, also. Both Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas were held out of practice yesterday, so the hits keep on coming.
Thankfully, Spoon is back this week, and should provide a spark and some much-needed leadership to this Falcons defense, and they'll need it against Tampa Bay, a team that runs the ball well, with a young quarterback who seems to be consistently improving. The Falcons have to contain Tampa Bay's offense, and Atlanta's offense needs to shake off the stress of the injuries and get something going with their young receivers. They need to be reminded that they can win games.
2. Because it's the Bucs.
The Bucs have one win total this season. One. They've had some promising performances, such as establishing a 21-point lead over the Seahawks in Seattle, but their lead slipped away, and they lost in overtime. The Bucs' first win came last week over the embattled Miami Dolphins, and it was a close one. While the Bucs do seem to be improving on a weekly basis, they are not, in general, a good football team.
The Bucs rank near the bottom of the league in average points per game, yards per game, and passing yards per game. The only facet of their offense that has been consistently successful is their ground game, ranked 15th in the league with an average of 111.1 yards per game, but they put their best running back, Doug Martin, on IR recently, and running back Mike James, who was showing promise filling in for Martin, fractured his ankle last week against the Dolphins and is out for the season.
Tampa Bay's pass defense has been middling in terms of yards allowed per game, and they have allowed 17 passing touchdowns, and have just nine interceptions on the season. The Falcons, not exactly turnover machines, have six picks so far this season, to put that in perspective. The Bucs do have a very effective run defense, ranked fifth in the league with 95.8 yards per game allowed on the ground, but the Falcons can't run the ball anyway, so it probably doesn't matter.
And the Falcons cannot lose to Greg Schiano. They cannot drop a game to a guy who has sent his players across the line of scrimmage into a victory formation. They can't lose to Greg Schiano, when Bucs fans are showing up at the stadium with signs that read, "Schiano Is Worse Than MRSA." Former Bucs players have suggested that playing for Schiano is worse than living in Cuba. Much like Greg Schiano firmly believes that the pre-Schiano Bucs were a "laughingstock," and that the situation "needed Greg Schiano," I firmly believe that a loss to Schiano is a loss for the entirety of humanity. The Falcons must win on Sunday.
3. Falcons fans need to see a win.
We haven't seen the team win since they beat Tampa Bay in the Georgia Dome on October 20th. Instead, we've seen them lose week after week, not even remotely resembling the Falcons we're used to seeing. Falcons fans need to see a win, especially against the Bucs, one of the few teams in the NFL at the moment that is definitely worse than the Falcons.
Why do you think the Falcons need to win on Sunday?
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