Rapid Reaction: Atlanta Falcons
November, 17, 2013
By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 41-28 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:
What it means: Considering Tampa Bay was winless prior to Monday night's win over the distracted Miami Dolphins, getting blown out by the Buccaneers shows just how far the 2-8 Falcons have fallen coming off last year's 13-3 campaign. It's one thing to be physically dominated by one of the league's best teams, like what happened against the Seattle Seahawks a week ago. But getting demolished by a team led by a rookie quarterback (Mike Glennon) and a fourth-string running back (Bobby Rainey) is inexcusable. The Falcons left their fans to wonder if they can even win another game this season, with the Saints, Packers, 49ers and Panthers still remaining on the schedule. Here's what makes Sunday's loss even worse: Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Harry Douglas and Sean Weatherspoon were all in the lineup despite dealing with injuries.
Stock watch: Matt Ryan's stock continues to plummet after another multi-interception outing. He had two against the Buccaneers, giving him nine in the past four games. One was a pick-six to Bucs linebacker Mason Foster as Ryan's arm was hit while he was throwing. You can blame a lot of Ryan's woes on poor pass protection, but he admitted his footwork hasn't been flawless by any means. Ryan is sure to be hard on himself this offseason while dissecting why things went wrong. It would help to get him better protection in the process. If things weren't bad enough for Ryan, he had to return to the game late in the fourth quarter after backup Dominique Davis got injured.
Explosive implosion: Once again, the Falcons' defense failed to cut down on allowing explosive plays. They gave up three more 40-plus-yard plays, including a 43-yard touchdown run by Rainey. Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson had catches of 53 and 47 yards. The Falcons have now surrendered 17 plays of 40-plus yards this season. And the Falcons' coaches consider an explosive play a 20-yard pass or a 10-yard run. Ouch.
Iron man: Gonzalez was questionable coming into Sunday's game after injuring a toe on his left foot during a loss to the Seahawks. Although Gonzalez practiced just one day leading into the game, coach Mike Smith said not to rule Gonzalez out. Well, Gonzalez started and caught a pass in his 205th consecutive game. Whereas some veterans might have milked such an injury, there seemed to be no doubt Gonzalez would play no matter how much pain he experienced throughout the week. It certainly had to be painful for Gonzalez to be on the short end of Sunday's lopsided loss.
What's next: The Falcons have a quick turnaround with Thursday night's matchup against bitter NFC South rival New Orleans. The Saints continue to play for playoff position while the Falcons have to play for pride. During the first matchup in Week 1, the Falcons had a chance to pull off a momentum-building road win but couldn't score in a goal-to-go situation in the final seconds as Ryan's tipped pass got intercepted. Pulling off an unexpected win over the Saints this time around could help in building the Falcons' confidence going into next season, because this year is all but over.