1) All good things must come to an end... The Bucs' rather nice 5-game road win streak couldn't keep going, after all. And at least it was against a solid opponent who looks to be the top NFC South team and a solid contender for the NFC title game in another two months.
2) The amazing thing about this loss is that while it IS a loss - and one that dumped us from a tie for first all the way down to third place in the South - the Bucs played *better* this week than any other previous game, even our wins. Oh sure there were blown plays, dropped passes, bad decisions on both sides of the ball... but we've been having those problems all year long already. It was just... this game, other than the really bad INTs that Freeman threw up for grabs, the disasters were not as bad as we've seen before. And that the team seemed capable of shaking them off better than before.
That this is a sign of maturation for a young team is a good thing.3) Player of the Game: It's always a pleasure to have a special teamer make a kickoff return for a TD, even now that it's old hat for a guy who's done it before in Michael Spurlock. For this effort, though, Spurlock earned the honor by shaking off tackles and making some pretty on-the-edge sideline running to go all the way and keep the Bucs in the game.
4) Goat of the Game: Got to admit, Freeman finally had a really bad day. Those INTs hurt and gave the Falcons easy points. Take those turnovers away, and Atlanta fans would be griping about how hard it was for their offense to make scores.
4a) The other goat: whichever coach who's bright idea it was to hand off to Blount for an off-tackle run at the 2-yard-line on 4th and 1. You've got a bulky, ready-to-run QB in Freeman: what the hell was wrong with a good old-fashioned, push the pile forward, let the QB sneak it for a yard play? I'm hearing the offensive decision-making rests with OC Olson. If so, he needs to run 20 laps in practice next Tuesday for this foul-up.
5) Stats of the Game: The Falcons at first glance seem to have dominated across the board. But a closer examination showed that, other than the turnovers and first downs, the game was pretty tight.
5a) Run average for the Bucs: 3.5 yards per carry. For the Falcons: 3.9 yards per carry. Pretty close.
5b) The Falcons made more first downs via the pass than the Bucs, but the Bucs also had more deep ball catches. Yards per pass for the Bucs: 7.9. Yards per pass for the Falcons: 6.5.
5c) Falcons had more yards total: 365 to 278. But the Bucs had more special teams return yards: 221 to 70. The Bucs seem to keep getting better field positions and less offensive yardage to eat up.
5d) Where the Falcons really killed the Bucs: Goal-to-Go efficiency. The Falcons made it both times they were on the goal line: the Bucs couldn't do it once.
6) The bad news? The Bucs slide from top of the world to somewhere in the middle of the NFC pack. Atlanta clinches a solid lead on the South at 6-2, with the Saints close behind at 6-3.
The good news? Panthers suck at 1-7.
The bad news? The Bucs' standing for a wild card spot is pretty tricky at the moment. Saints clearly have one spot, while Tampa has to share with Philly and either Green Bay or Chicago at 5-3.
The good news? Panthers suck at 1-7. And they're coming for a visit next.
7) In other NFL news: The Oakland Raiders are finally a good team again. This means we can go back to hating them with intense passion.
7a) Did Cleveland just beat New England? If the NFL were going by BCS polling, the Bucs' value has to be going up with each Browns win. Who'd have thunk that Colt McCoy was really this good all along (that mystery injury he had in the championship game turns out to be real after all!)...
7b) Detroit is a perfect example of how some teams just can't catch a lucky break. Whoever's running the jinx on those guys... seriously, Millen's gone now, you can lighten up!
7c) I can't tell which is the better schadenfreude: seeing Carolina at 1-7 or seeing Dallas at 1-7.
Oh hell, I'll take both.
8) Next up for the Bucs: a home game against the Carolina Panthers. You know, Mr. Glazers sirs, you really ought to consider dropping the costs of the tickets if you want a home game to avoid the blackout. There's a ton of sports bars in the television market that's gonna sue for the hurt business they're suffering because of it...