Buccaneers vs. Falcons: Takeaways from Tampa Bay's 31-23 Loss to Atlanta
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to 0-6 on Sunday after a 31-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. With Tampa Bay in a downward spiral into the basement of the NFL, what can fans of the Buccaneers learn from their most recent defeat?
Other than accepting the team's fate as one of the worst in the NFL after allowing 31 points to a depleted Atlanta roster, there are some specific positive and negative lessons to be learned from Sunday's loss.
Here are the eight things that stand out to me from Sunday's disappointing result for the Buccaneers.
Penalties Destroyed Tampa Bay’s Chances
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had more yards than the Falcons on Sunday. They also had more first downs. They even held the ball for a longer amount of time.
But they committed 11 penalties for 103 yards and completely wasted a solid performance from their offense.
Holding penalties and personal fouls in key situations pushed the Buccaneers into hopeless down and distance circumstances on far too many occasions.
The worst example of this was during the fourth quarter, when the Buccaneers were faced with a 1st-and-goal from the 30-yard line. Tampa Bay would turn that into a 4th-and-goal from the 13, and score a touchdown on the fourth-down attempt. But a penalty would bring that touchdown back, and Greg Schiano would settle for a field goal.
The Buccaneers are too talented to waste good performances with a lack of discipline. Today was a perfect example of how mental errors can undo otherwise good games in the NFL.
Mike Glennon Is Talented, but Limited
Mike Glennon had the best game of his brief NFL career today, throwing two touchdowns with no interceptions and completing 26 of 44 passes for 256 yards.
But he still showed some shortcomings which held the Bucs back in their loss. As I wrote for Bleacher Report last week, Buccaneer fans have to be patient with their young quarterback as he experiences his ups and downs.
Glennon was very poor on deep throws on Sunday, making only one semi-accurate throw which was hauled in by Vincent Jackson on an incredible one-handed catch. You can relive that moment, and take note of the lack of accuracy, in this GIF from Bleacher Report's social staff.
Until Glennon can throw the ball down the field with success, he will limit the Tampa Bay offense. He has proven to be fairly efficient on short throws, improving week to week in his grasp of the offense.
But until he earns the respect of defenses by throwing accurate passes downfield, the Tampa Bay offense will not be able to perform at maximum potential.
Doug Martin’s Injury Could Cost the Buccaneers in the Long Run
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing for pride and for the future at this point in the season, which is why the injury to Doug Martin shows just how careful Tampa Bay must be with their young, talented players.
Martin was seen after the game with a sling on his arm, according to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune. It's not yet clear if he has a long-term injury, but the reality check that an injury to Martin creates is still very real.
Overusing players like Martin this season will set the team up to fail in the future. The Buccaneer running back had been carrying the load for the Tampa Bay offense all season long, and it was bound to catch up to him eventually.
Greg Schiano (or whoever the coach may be over the remaining 10 games) must be cautious in the way he uses Martin and other young stars for the Buccaneers, because it would be irresponsible to put them in the line of fire for a losing football team.
Mike James Is a Surprisingly Good Backup
If Doug Martin has to miss any time due to his injury, Mike James showed on Sunday that he's a capable backup.
The sixth-round rookie out of Miami showed well on Sunday, carrying the ball 14 times for 45 yards. That included a key fourth-down conversion during which he plowed through contact to pick up a first down.
James is not as fast as Martin, but he shows a similar ability to fight and claw for yardage and fall forward to get a maximum gain on every play. The Buccaneers must continue to rely on James this season to keep pressure off of Martin.
Don't be surprised if James is the primary back against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night if Martin's status is in doubt after a short week.
Lavonte David Is One of the Best Defensive Players in the NFL
It seems like the silver lining of every week of Tampa Bay football is the play of Lavonte David. Sunday's performance against Atlanta was no exception.
David was all over the field, breaking up passes and tackling ball-carriers from his linebacker position. He drew extremely positive reviews from John Lynch, who was a very good defender during his NFL career.
The second-year man out of Nebraska has been one of the few bright spots for the Buccaneers in this disappointing season, and his 10 tackles against Atlanta were just another solid performance on what should be a Pro Bowl resume this year.
The Defense Is Easily Exploited
The Tampa Bay defense spent the first four weeks of this season earning a reputation as one of the best in the league, shutting down Drew Brees and the Saints and largely limiting Tom Brady and the Patriots on their way to a frustrating 0-4 start that seemingly was the fault of the offense.
But after Sunday's game against Atlanta and last week's loss to Philadelphia, it's clear that coaches and players have figured out how to beat the Tampa Bay defense.
For the second week in a row, the Buccaneers were beat with deep passes, something that didn't happen in the first month of the season. Check out this GIF from Bleacher Report's social staff for a look at one example of the defense's breakdowns.
Safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson have been duped by the pump fake too often over the past two games, and it's led to receivers getting downfield and scoring easy touchdowns. There is too much talent on the Tampa Bay defense to excuses moments like these.
The Pass Rush Went Missing Against a Bad Offensive Line
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks in their first five games by blitzing and bringing linebackers and defensive backs to bring down the passer. But on Sunday, they couldn't find their way to Matt Ryan.
According to Tom Krasniqi of 620 WDAE, the last 105 pass plays the Tampa Bay defense has faced have resulted in only two sacks. That includes Sunday's game against Atlanta, when they failed to sack Matt Ryan at all.
The defensive line is simply not talented enough to get to the quarterback on their own, because there is no excuse for not getting through the Atlanta offensive line.
Coming into Sunday's game, the Falcons ranked in the bottom five in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' Pass-Blocking Efficiency (subscription required), which measures the amount of quarterback pressures allowed per pass dropback.
The fact that the Tampa Bay defensive line was unable to get to Matt Ryan and force a sack against Atlanta speaks to the immense lack of pass-rushing ability for the Buccaneers.
Greg Schiano’s Days in Tampa Bay Are Numbered
Greg Schiano is going to be fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At this point, it's a matter of "when" and not "if" he will be let go.
The team is 1-11 in their last 12 games, with that lone victory coming against a playoff-clinched Atlanta team in Week 17 of 2012. This season saw another influx of talent to Tampa Bay, with stars like Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson joining the roster along with the return to health of Adrian Clayborn, Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph.
While injuries can explain some of the Buccaneers' shortcomings, they cannot excuse the lack of discipline shown by the team.
The amount of penalties and mental errors committed by Tampa Bay are unacceptable, and they have cost the team dearly in 2013.
Throw in the awful mismanagement of the end-game situation against the Falcons, when Schiano decided to go for a field goal when down 14 points with five minutes to play, and it's clear that Schiano is not cut out for life as a head coach in the NFL.