- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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Self-reflection: Most figured a somewhat healthy Roddy White would make a huge difference for a struggling Falcons offense. Well, White had little impact with three catches for 36 yards against the Buccaneers while being targeted nine times. White's second-quarter fumble led to a Bucs touchdown that all but put the game out of reach at 24-3. "I have to play better, first of all,'' White said. "Right now, I'm not playing very well. I've got to work on me. I can't fumble the ball and give them the ball at the 50. And I can't drop the ball on third-and-2 and stop a drive. I can't let somebody knock the ball away on fourth-and-, stop a drive when we're trying to get going. I, myself, have to play a whole lot better in these games in order for us to win. I can't just go out there and not make enough plays for us not to win. I've got to start on myself and look in the mirror. There are a lot of things I've got to fix.'' White did score his first touchdown of the season, but not even that score was clean.
On the run: The Falcons talked all week leading up to the game about establishing the run with Steven Jackson. They looked well on their way after Jackson picked up 22 yards on his first two carries. But after starting the game with those two runs, consecutive sacks by Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on Matt Ryan seemed to knock the Falcons' offense out of whack for the remainder of the game. And once the Falcons got behind by 21 points late in the second quarter, they had to abandon the running game once again. Jackson finished with 41 yards on 11 carries -- not exactly what you would call "working your workhorse," as offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter vowed to do.
New faces: Speaking of the running game, Antone Smith showed some things in a reserve role for the Falcons late in the fourth quarter. The special teams ace had a 50-yard touchdown sprint up the middle -- his first career touchdown -- and led the team with 88 yards on just two carries. Smith had just one carry for 8 yards for the season coming into the game. Unheralded players such at Smith should get more opportunities over the last six games for the 2-8 Falcons. "Absolutely,'' coach Mike Smith said of playing such players more. "I don't believe there is anything that is out of the question. It is all on the table. When you play the type of football that we have played the last four weeks, you've got to look at everything. You've got to turn over every stone.'' Tackle Ryan Schraeder, safety Zeke Motta, running back Josh Vaughan and backup quarterback Dominique Davis were some of the players who got some game experience. Davis suffered what could be a serious knee injury, which would mean the Falcons might have to find a quarterback to back up Ryan on Thursday night against the Saints.
Foul play: Once again, procedural penalties killed the Falcons . Tony Gonzalez and Lamar Holmes were whistled for false starts. White was whistled for illegal motion. Peria Jerry was whistled for encroachment. The Falcons had seven penalties for 45 yards. "We have had way too many procedural penalties,'' Smith said. "We are a team that prides itself in playing smart football and we have not done that, especially the past four games.'' Actually over the last five games, the Falcons have been penalized 34 times for 275 yards.
Spoon's return: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon's return to the starting lineup for the first time since Week 2 (Lisfranc sprain) didn't inspire the defense as much as he would have liked, but Weatherspoon gutted it out. He finished with nine tackles, second behind rookie Paul Worrilow's 16. Weatherspoon looked a bit hobbled after the game but said he was good. The team's emotional leader was obviously frustrated about the outcome. "It's about going out there and just playing together and playing efficiently, and that's something we didn't do,'' Weatherspoon said. "I go home, get my iPad and watch the tape, get a chance to see what actually happened. You just have to come back to work, man. I've been in the league for a while. I've lost some games. It's all about how you respond to it.'' With four straight losses, the Falcons haven't responded well.