I noted in a tweet during the game that Raheem Morris’s decision not to go for it on 4th & 1 at the Falcons 41-yard line with a 17-14 third quarter lead would come back to haunt him, and I honestly think it did. That is now twice in the Morris-Smitty series where Morris made a poor coaching decision that I think cost the Bucs the game. The first you may recall as his decision in the Falcons home win over the Bucs last season where he decided to kick a 51-yard field goal with a fledgling kicker with a 4-point lead with 2.5 minutes to go in that game. The kicker, Connor Barth missed the field goal given the Falcons the ball back at their own 41-yard line, and Chris Redman led the Falcons down the field and thanks to a defensive holding penalty on a 3rd down gave Redman four more plays at the 5-yard line to hit the throw to Roddy White.
And speaking of which, the same thing pretty much happened here. On the Falcons game-winning drive, Ronde Barber’s pass interference on a failed 3rd down throw to Tony Gonzalez gave the Falcons a first down. And two plays later, Quincy Black’s horse collar on Michael Turner out of bounds gave the Falcons a 1st & 10 from the 16, instead of a 3rd & 8 from the 31. Not to knock Radio Raheem too much because he has the Bucs playing hard, but they are a young and undsciplined team and he isn’t the greatest game manager which is why the Falcons have basically stolen two wins from Tampa Bay the past two years.
Matt Ryan didn’t have a great game throwing, but a lot of it was poor footing on the field. There were several times where he dropped back and slipped on his drop, which meant his footwork and mechanics were thrown off on passes. His second interception was because of Roddy slipping. Michael Turner had a nice game, but it should be noted that $11 of his Moneyball earnings came in the first quarter alone. The Bucs did a good job shutting him down after that point. Ovie Mughelli stepped up his play in the absence of Jason Snelling, in the passing game and on special teams. It was nice to see Michael Jenkins be the hero with the big catch at the end of the game, when he’s been the goat far too often over the past year or so. The blocking was good early on, but the Bucs were winning the battle in the trenches as the game progressed. Blalock had a much better game than he did a week ago. Baker missed a block because of poor footing.
Overall, it wasn’t a strong performance on the part of the Falcons offense, but they made the plays when they had to make them, and that’s really all that matters.
The field conditions didn’t help the Falcons tackling, but trying to bring down LeGarrette Blount and Josh Freeman wouldn’t have been easy regardless of the state of the field. I should note that despite the poor scores from Robinson, Moore, and Lofton, they did not play poorly. Moore and Lofton are defense’s two best tacklers, and on many of Blount’s big runs, the Bucs were able to get linemen out on the second level to get blocks on them. So while they get hit with the points, I think some of that is more on the defensive line for not being able to get their usual penetration. Robinson also had a nice game, arguably his best yet since joining the Falcons, but was beat by Mike Williams a few too many times. Grimes had a very good game with 4 passes defended and an interception. Up front, Biermann had a good first half as he was able to get some pressure on Freeman. Babineaux had a good second half, gettin penetration and be his usual disruptive self after a quiet first half. Peters is a guy that has caught a lot of flack from me in recent weeks, but he probably had one of his best games this season. Peterson was also very active vs. the run, and I applaud the Falcons safeties and linebackers for making sure that Kellen Winslow was not a major factor in this game.
Weems continued his strong series of games with the big 102-yard kickoff return. Congratulations, you’re now in the record book! I don’t award key blocks on specail teams, but if I did I would give one to Brian Finneran and another to Gartrell Johnson for helping spring Weems for the score. With the exception of the one big run by Michael Spurlock that was called back to holding, the Falcons did a decent job containing him. It makes me a bit more confident that in two weeks when they have to face Leon Washington and the Seahawks, he won’t score 28 points single-handedly.
Advanced Stats from Week 13:
Poor Throws (6): Ryan
Drops (1): Finneran
Key Blocks (8): Dahl (2), Clabo (2), Gonzalez (2), Blalock (1), Mughelli (1), White (1)
Sacks Allowed (0)
Missed Blocks (4): Baker, McClure, Dahl, Peelle
QB Pressures Allowed (4): Baker, McClure, Dahl, Peelle
Tackles for Loss (7): Peterson (2.5), Babineaux (2), Peters (1), Abraham (0.5), Lofton (0.5), Jerry (0.5)
QB Sacks (1): Babineaux
QB Pressures (5): Biermann (2), Nicholas (1.5), Peters (1), Weatherspoon (0.5)
Passes Defended (7): Grimes (4), Robinson (2), DeCoud (1)
Blown Coverages (5): Robinson (2), Lofton (1), Grimes (1), Moore (1)
Missed Tackles (2): Robinson, Moore
Key Blocked (9): Lofton (3), Moore (2), Nicholas (1), Peters (1), Robinson (1), Williams (1)