1) Why did I keep hearing Lumpkin's name in singleback sets well into the Fourth Quarter? I'm okay with Graham as a singleback to some extent because he can get first downs, is a reliable safety valve receiver, and is a viable running option to keep defenses wondering which play is coming. But Lumpkin? Lumpkin on the field practically screams "PASS PLAY". If Blount was out there, you could still fake out defenses into thinking it's a run play or pass with more certainty. But noooooooo, we kept playing Lumpkin out there. /headdesk
2) Oh, in other news, the Bucs win over the Falcons for the first time in like 3 years. Felt nice. Felt familiar. Still felt like a loss. Even with the Bucs holding the lead during the entire game. Because it felt like the Bucs' offense was trying to give the game away, dammit.
2a) Which is why it feels so damn good to say this: The DEFENSE won the game for the Bucs. Thank God.
3) Player of the game. I wondered back in the draft two years ago why the Bucs went for a second DT just after drafting Gerald McCoy in the First Round. The argument was that our D-line in the middle was wickedly bad and needed another good-sized pass-rusher run-stuffer in there. Well, it took a year and an injury wait to see why, because Brian Price had his Hello-NFL game with a sack, two tackles for a loss, major contributions to stuffing a decent run attack, and basically making life miserable for Atlanta's QB Ryan. Here's hoping this is a sign that our D-line is back to 1999-2002 power levels.
3a) Serious props to Ronde Barber with his INT. Good to see the old man (Christ, he's only a few years younger than me!) still making plays.
3b) Mason Foster, in only his third game as a rookie, took over the D-radio helmet - meaning he was in charge of the D onfield - and if this is the results we get with him wearing the helmet I think Foster is good for Rookie of Year come December. Oh, and he got a sack too.
3c) When Blount did get the ball to run, he did well for 24 carries for 81 yards. It's a 3.4 rush average but he had some long ones and kept most of the offensive drives going.
4) Goat of the game. You know, Freeman had such a good sophomore year throwing (only 6 INTs last season) that the dread was that this year wouldn't be as good (he's still learning, after all). But right now there's signs of serious regression: two INTs this game with no TDs (the first time in, what, 17 games he didn't throw a TD?). The first INT was right in the end zone, just after the Bucs D handed the offense a beautiful fumble recovery deep in Atlanta's zone, and by the sound of it he made a poor decision and terrible throw. He's still out-of-sync with receivers.
4a) Part of the problem may be the type of offense he's being asked to call. OC Greg Olson is royally p-ssing off fans with incredibly bone-headed calls (like pulling Blount for Lumpkin). Or maybe it's Raheem making the personnel decisions on the field. Either way, whoever's not syncing the on-field talent to the proper play call needs to get slapped with a fresh trout daily until he wakes the F-CK UP.
4b) Speaking of coaching, who on the Atlanta's sidelines went with the bone-headed decision to NOT run the ball more often? Your QB is getting pummeled, the score was close (seriously, it was) for most of the game, Turner's a decent runner, and you only called 15 run plays?!?! Sure, the Bucs seemed to shut down the run plays early, but you Falcons gave up too early on it. You may have the receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones, guys, but if you ran more rushing yards with Turner you could have kept Ryan from feeling like a pinata at day's end, and probably kept the Bucs' D second-guessing themselves into a loss...
5) The Falcons seemed to really go pass-crazy when S Cody Grimm got carted off with a knee injury. This is the BAD NEWS portion of the observations by the by. While the same play injured LB Geno Hayes, our LB corps is respectable enough that missing Hayes for a few games won't be a problem. Losing Grimm for the season (which is likely) has serious ramifications. At least until Tanard Jackson comes off suspension, which is still an unknown date. If I were the Bucs' organization, I'd be pleading with the commish to adjust Jackson's penalty to time served and another fine to cover the days repealed. Our secondary can't afford any losses: we're just not that deep.
5a) The failure of the Bucs to pursue a CB during FA is already showing signs of "OOPS Did We Screw Up Or What"...
6) Stats of the game: Sacks. As in 4 of them. The Bucs finally had a multiple sack day where different players contributed: both LBs and D-linemen had one each (Foster, Price, Watson, Clayborn). Felt like old times...
6a) Red-zone offense for the Bucs: 4 visits to the Red Zone. One Touchdown, three field goals. We had this problem before: for some reason getting at the goal line, our offensive play-calling gets stupid and we're forced to kick FGs. If even one of those FGs had been a TD, the team lead would have been greater, this game would have been easily under the Bucs' control. Question: Was Blount ever on the field when the Bucs were at the goal line trying to score 6?
6b) Bucs racked up 9 penalties this game. Worse, some of these penalties were bone-head plays that either gave the Falcons great field position or killed a decent Bucs drive. While one of the calls (a late "hit" on the QB by McCoy) was questionable, the rest weren't. Sloppy, sloppy game.
7) In other NFL news: the likelihood of there being a Buffalo Bills - Detroit Lions Super Bowl this February increases. Both teams are 3-0 right now, and are actually looking like good teams. This... is the Seventh Sign. 2012, peoples, the Mayans were right...!
7a) Minnesota lead at halftime. They still lost. For the third time in a row! Whatever adjustments they're making in the locker room, they need to stop it. It's not working.
7b) It's too early (Miami) to suggest which team (Dolphins) are gonna draft first overall (LeBron sucks) in next April's rookie draft (Luck Luck Luck).
8) In college football news: The Big East announced they were sending a conference invitation to Hawaii. It's hoped they can balance out the conference with Texas Christian and fellow-invitees Gonzaga, Washington Polytech, Central Oregon Community College, and Montezuma A&M.
8a) Go Bulls! Rooting for them to pummel Pitt this Thursday!
9) In other sporting news: RAYS! Wild card hunt down to 1 game back. 3 games to go. THIS IS IT. LETS GO RAYS!
9a) I'm going to tonight's game. Family won free tix to go. Woot!
10) Finally: can SOMEONE YELL AT THE COACHES TO HAVE BLOUNT ON THE FIELD WHEN WE'RE IN THE RED ZONE?! IT MIGHT HELP SCORE MORE TDs YOU MANIACS! gasp wheeze...