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Falcons vs. Buccaneers: Three Pivotal Plays


Al Messerschmidt

There were so many plays that contributed to the Falcons' loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday that it was difficult to narrow it down to just three. The Falcons played poorly in all phases, honestly. There were a handful of excellent plays, but when guys like Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are dropping balls, and the Falcons defense is making Tampa Bay's Mike Glennon and Bobby Rainey look like future Hall of Famers, the bad definitely outweighed the good.

As a matter of fact, it was literally impossible to narrow it down to three plays. For our first pivotal play(s), let's look at the Bucs' first touchdown drive, which commenced a few minutes into the second quarter, and set the tone for the rest of the game.

The score is 3-3 after a Matt Bryant field goal. The Matt Bosher kick is returned to the Tampa Bay 19 yard line. Mike Glennon takes the snap, and his protection is great. Well, his protection is great if you love offensive holding, but whatever.

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Glennon fires off a deep pass to Vincent Jackson. Asante Samuel is in coverage, but Jackson beats him to the outside. William Moore is coming over to help but he's playing too far off Jackson to have any impact. It's a 47-yard completion.

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The Bucs then had first and ten from the Atlanta 34. First down was a short one-yard gain from Bobby Rainey. The Bucs' initial second down effort was negated by offensive holding, and what a relief, because it would have been a 23-yard gain from Rainey on a short pass from Glennon. It didn't matter, though, because Rainey did even more with his next opportunity.

Rainey and a fullback are in the backfield when Glennon takes the snap. Atlanta has Jonathan Massaquoi, Peria Jerry, Corey Peters fighting a double team, and Cliff Matthews, plus Joplo Bartu on the edge, all trying to get some push at the line of scrimmage to no avail. There's a huge hole in the center, but Sean Weatherspoon and Paul Worrilow are both in pretty good positions to close the gap and make a play.

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Spoon gets tangled up with the fullback. Worrilow gets blocked by the double team Peters is trying to deal with. DeCoud is in position to make a stop, and William Moore is coming over to help.

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And, nobody makes a stop. It's a 43-yard touchdown for Bobby Rainey. Great.

The fun doesn't stop, though, because Tampa Bay decides that a third of the way through the second quarter with a 10-3 lead is the perfect time for an onside kick. Those wacky Bucs recover, and have another offensive drive that culminates in a failed fake field goal. The Falcons get the ball back on their own 34, and Matt Ryan immediately throws a pick-six to the Bucs' Mason Foster.

There's no delicate way to put this: Atlanta's offensive line was truly offensive on Sunday. On the play in question, Matt Ryan is under center and Patrick DiMarco and Steven Jackson were lined up in the backfield. DiMarco's going to run a short route to the left, Jackson's going to go help Justin Blalock block.

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Really, the pocket is pretty clean with one notable, tragic exception. Jeremy Trueblood cannot contain his assignment. Ryan's arm is hit as he releases the ball, which changes the course of a short pass intended for DiMarco, dropping it directly into the hands of Mason Foster, who's just standing there, ready for it. Foster easily returns the interception for a touchdown, and it's 17-3.

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To illustrate how poorly the team played in all phases of the game, let's look at the second blocked punt of the season. The Falcons were down 31-6 at this point of the third quarter.

Running back Josh Vaughn just kind of falls on the ground instead of blocking his assignment, and the punt is blocked.

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Matt Bosher recovered the blocked punt, because Matt Bosher is an excellent football player. Had he not recovered, it could have easily been run in for yet another Tampa Bay touchdown.

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What were your pivotal plays of the game?

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