Almost Doesn’t Count

The Bucs couldn't quite finish the Falcons.
The Bucs couldn't quite finish the Falcons. /

The Buccaneers failed to capitalize on their opportunities on Sunday afternoon and squandered a ten-point lead, falling to the Atlanta Falcons 28-24. The Bucs now sit at 7-5, three games behind the Falcons and two back behind the Saints with just four games to play. More importantly than that though, this was a game the Bucs had to have if they wanted to get the league’s attention. They almost did too, but almost doesn’t count.

Let’s not discount the Bucs too much though, the cold hard facts remain that a loss yesterday probably did doom them in the NFC South and put a serious obstacle in the way of their playoff hopes. But as far as losses go, the Bucs don’t have too much to apologize for. They took one of the best teams in football down to the final moments. It’s disappointing to Bucs fans to have to move forward at 7-5 (though all things considered, they’re still well ahead of expectations) but as a football fan, that was one hell of a game yesterday.

The biggest thing the Bucs need to focus on moving forward is finding leadership and just finishing these games. This was largely a role reversal yesterday, the Bucs dictated the tempo of the game with a bruising rushing attack, taking the game into halftime tied at 14 before reeling off ten unanswered points to begin the second half. But unlike a lot of games, it wasn’t the Bucs in the familiar role of the comeback team, it was the Falcons. They answered a Bucs touchdown with a special teams touchdown of their own and then drove down the field for the winning touchdown. If you could make one criticism of the Bucs from yesterday, it’s that better leadership (not from the coaches, from the players) probably would have had that team rallied after giving up the kickoff that put Atlanta back into the game.

The Bucs seemed to lose all momentum as soon as Eric Weems housed the kickoff though. The offense came out and went three and out and then the defense compounded things by surrendering a ten play, 77 yard touchdown drive to let the Falcons go ahead for good. A fiery, defensive (or offensive, Josh Freeman is included) leader would have had the team circling the wagons as soon as Weems scored. That’s one place the Bucs looked young yesterday, they got popped for a big play and it seemed to stick with them for the next two series.

The next time the offense would get the ball (after going three and out) they put together a gutsy drive, one that ended on a questionable interception call down near the Falcons’ red-zone with a little under two minutes left on the clock. It was definitely a good thing to see that the Bucs didn’t just roll over. They gave up a big play, a big drive and the lead but they fought to the last minute. A lot of young teams could just collapse there having had their morale tested so much in just ten minutes, but the Bucs didn’t stop fighting. They may have gotten stunned a bit, but they didn’t stop fighting until the final whistle.

And while we’re on it, I’m not going to belly-ache about the Brent Grimes interception call. I actually thought that, while I didn’t agree with the officiating on a lot of things, it didn’t favor either team. The Bucs had a couple calls go their way, so did the Falcons. It’s a shame any time a game comes down to a call, but let’s face facts. The Bucs never should have been in that spot, they had a ten point lead with ten to play in the 4th, if you’re driving to score a touchdown to win after surrendering a double digit lead, you didn’t lose on the call.