Well, that hurt.
Falcons 43 – Bucs 28
It was a short week for the Bucs, coming off a disappointing loss to the Oakland Raiders back on Sunday. Add to that the pressures of a nationally televised game in front of a home crowd, and we had the makings for a long night.
From where I sat (that being my comfortable recliner), Tampa’s biggest enemy of the evening looked to be simple fatigue. The defense in particular seemed to still be dealing with the fallout from the previous game, during which the Raiders rode them pretty hard and put them away wet, but there were other clues. Workhorse wide receiver Mike Evans looked to be off a step or two while running his routes, and that was before he took an especially vicious hit late in the game that was enough to sit him down for the rest of the night. He’s currently undergoing observation and tests as part of the NFL’s “concussion protocol,” and we obviously hope he’s okay.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston also took a tumble in the fourth quarter, rolling his ankle while being tackled and also having a seat for the rest of the game. Backup Mike Glennon stepped in to guide the Bucs the rest of the way, managing to notch a touchdown drive in what ended up being a losing effort.
Prior to his being pulled so that trainers could assess any possible injury, Winston had been having a rough time of it. Though he completed 23 out of 37 passes for 260 yards and 3 TDs, some of those 14 incompletions were a little bizarre, with him overthrowing–wildly, in a few cases–intended receivers while on the run. Mobility outside of the pocket was one of the concerns mentioned back when he was being scouted for the draft, and it’s true that Winston has done much to improve in this regard during his time with the Bucs. However, the Falcons defense hounded him all night, causing him to throw too soon and off mark during several clutch plays. However, another thing Winston has demonstrated since arriving in Tampa is a drive to learn from his mistakes and sharpen his game. That attitude, coupled with solid coaching, will pay off. I just hope the Bucs are the ones to benefit from that evolution, rather than some other team in a few years.
The loss–Tampa’s second straight– drops the Bucs to 3-5 on the year, with four of those losses being inflicted on their home turf, and leaves them vying for the bottom rung in the NFC South. Improving to 6-3 gives the Falcons a commanding division lead. It sucks to say this at the halfway point, but Tampa’s post-season hopes are already fading, unless something drastic happens in the next couple of weeks…like half the National Football Conference suddenly deciding to hang up their pads before taking up stamp collecting.
Next up? The Bucs will host the Chicago Bears a week from Sunday. The Bears are doing about as well as Tampa is, right now, so this could either be a snoozefest, or some serious balls-out football as both teams fight to get their seasons back on course.
Maybe I’ll go see Hacksaw Ridge that day.
Bucs life, yo.