Falcons vs. Buccaneers: Takeaways from Tampa Bay's 41-28 Win Against Atlanta
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began the season 0-8, and it seemed like they could do nothing but find new ways to lose football games.
But on Sunday the Buccaneers earned their second straight victory with a win over the Atlanta Falcons, and they showed that the potential to win has been there all along for this talented group of players.
The Buccaneers moved to 2-8 with a 41-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, and the game was not as close as the scoreline suggests. Tampa Bay was dominant on offense and defense as they left the Falcons behind when they jumped out to an early lead.
So what did we learn about the Buccaneers in their second victory of the season? Plenty of positive things, which begin with the play of their quarterback.
Mike Glennon Showing Franchise Potential
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the switch to Mike Glennon in Week 4 of this season, and he has never looked better than he did on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Glennon found a way to connect with Vincent Jackson on two deep passes, and that opened up the defense and allowed the rookie from NC State to pick apart the Falcons underneath.
He finished with 20 completions on 23 attempts for 231 yards and two touchdown passes. He did not make any mistakes and found open receivers on a regular basis to pick up easy yards.
And according to his head coach, it was his ability to let "the bad plays die," and not force passes that don't need to be thrown that stood out the most, as quoted by the official website of the Buccaneers.
He's not shown enough to earn the title of "future of the franchise," and former Buccaneer Stephen White still has some concerns moving forward which he expressed in a tweet. But he's progressing nicely, and as White said, he could be the franchise quarterback "some day."
Bobby Rainey Showing Ray Rice Potential
Just weeks after being claimed off waivers, Bobby Rainey carried the load for the Tampa Bay offense on Sunday and helped control the tempo against the Atlanta Falcons.
Rainey ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns, added a receiving touchdown and even chipped in as a blocker (as noted by Tampa Tribune writer Roy Cummings on Twitter) to help his offense earn more points than it has scored all season.
During the Fox broadcast, Heath Evans noted that Rainey was known as a "little Ray Rice" during his time in Baltimore, and he showed that potential Sunday against Atlanta.
Contributing to multiple phases of the game and running hard on every play proves that there is more to Rainey than just a one-game fluke. The versatile back who was unwanted by both the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns this season might have found a long-term home in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay Offensive Line Living Up to Potential
The Tampa Bay offensive line will leave Sunday's game with two sacks to its credit, but according to quarterback Mike Glennon, those sacks were on him.
"When we open up the running game like that…the offensive line deserves a lot of credit. I didn’t get hit but a couple times and that was just because I was protecting the ball and not wanting to force anything," Glennon said after the game, according to the team's official website.
And he's right, the offensive line, led by tackles Demar Dotson and Donald Penn, cleared the way for Bobby Rainey and company to have a huge day on the ground.
Before the season, the offensive line was seen as a strength for Tampa Bay. And while the Buccaneers have been through their ups and downs so far this season, they've picked up their level of play over the past month and are now dominating opposing defenses.
Vincent Jackson Is Unstoppable
In the week leading up to Sunday's game against Atlanta, Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano told the Tampa Tribune that he wanted to get Vincent Jackson more involved in the offense and get him more touches.
In other words, the Falcons knew it was coming, and they still couldn't stop the leading receiver for the Buccaneers.
Jackson hauled in 10 catches for 165 yards and one touchdown as he found ways to get open and make plays against Asante Samuel and the rest of the Atlanta defense.
When the Buccaneers make a point to get Jackson involved, he responds with dominant performances. He's a matchup nightmare for any defensive back, because he has tremendous size and athleticism, while also flashing the ability to make highlight-reel catches.
Gerald McCoy Is Playing at an All-Pro Level
Gerald McCoy entered 2013 after logging a full season without injury concerns in 2012 and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl for his efforts.
That raised the expectations for McCoy for the 2013 season, and he's living up to those lofty goals and ambitions with dominant performances at defensive tackle.
After closing out Monday night's victory against Miami with a sack of Ryan Tannehill on the final drive of the game, McCoy started out Sunday's game against Atlanta with three sacks in the first half of the game as he dominated the interior of the offensive line.
McCoy now has six sacks for the season and has been held and double-teamed as often as any defensive tackle in the league. And according to Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com, McCoy joins Warren Sapp as one of only three Tampa Bay defensive tackles to post three sacks in a game.
When we look back at his career, that's likely not the only similarity we'll see between McCoy and Sapp. He's emerging as one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, and he's only getting better.
Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson Had Their Best Game Yet
When Dashon Goldson was signed by the Buccaneers in the offseason, it meant that he and Mark Barron had the potential to become one of the most feared pair of safeties in the NFL.
And while injuries and mental breakdowns have plagued the two since the start of the season, they put it all together on Sunday for a dominant performance against Atlanta.
Barron made multiple key plays in run defense and pass coverage and finished with five tackles on the day as he roamed the field from his strong safety position.
And while Goldson did earn a personal-foul penalty, he redeemed himself with two tackles, an interception and a forced fumble. He lived up to his nickname, "the Hawk," and flew around the field while making plays and having a positive impact on his team.
The two safeties will play side-by-side for the next few years, and the Buccaneers have to hope that Sunday was a sign of promising days to come.
Unique Defensive Play-Calling Benefitted Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been unable to generate consistent pass rush from their defensive line this season, apart from tackle Gerald McCoy who is a one-man wrecking crew in the interior.
So on Sunday, they changed up their game plan and used some three-man fronts and brought linebacker Dekoda Watson after the quarterback as a pass-rusher. It worked.
Watson hit Matt Ryan's arm as he threw a pass that would be intercepted by Mason Foster and returned for a touchdown.
And even after Foster left the game with a concussion, Watson combined with Jonathan Casillas and Adam Hayward to keep up the strong defense from the linebacker position on both run and pass blitzes.
The Buccaneers needed to get in Matt Ryan's face to keep him from picking them apart on defense. They did just that thanks to some innovation by the coaching staff.
The Team Is Still Playing Hard for Greg Schiano
Davin Joseph, one of the longest-tenured Buccaneers and a team captain, said after the game that the players trust Greg Schiano and that the team is finally starting to feel like a family, according to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune.
And while things haven't been perfect all season, it's clear that when things are going well, the Buccaneers enjoy playing for their head coach.
Schiano busted out the bag of tricks on Sunday, calling for a fake punt, an onside kick and a halfback pass as his team controlled the game and earned an easy victory. But this isn't a coach who feels like he has nothing left to lose.
Instead, these are signs of a coach who is finally starting to adjust and adapt to the players he has available and is receiving the effort and commitment from his players that he needs to save his job.
Ultimately, the NFL is about winning, and Schiano hasn't done much winning this season. But if his team continues to play hard and win football games, he could find himself with another chance to lead the Buccaneers in 2014.