That seemed to be the word of choice during Sunday’s performance by the Atlanta Falcons in their 41-28 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fairness, virtually no one would have been surprised by an Atlanta loss in this spot, given that the game was on the road, etc., but when the 1-8 Bucs (who are certainly “deserving” of that record) hold a 38-6 lead by the end of the 3rd quarter, things have flown entirely off the rails.
We could start in a variety of places where the Falcons failed on this day, but number one for me was along both lines of scrimmage. Offensively, the Falcons’ offensive line was absolutely battered by the more physical defensive front of Tampa Bay, and that was reflected in the numbers. Matt Ryan and Dominique Davis (who came in late) were “only” sacked 3 times, but both guys were highly pressured all day, and that was just the beginning.
On the ground, Atlanta finished with a respectable 152 rushing yards as a team, but that unduly influenced by a 2-carry, 88-yard performance from little-used tailback Antone Smith, and at no point in the game were the Falcons “winning” along the line of scrimmage. To be somewhat fair, Steven Jackson showed (mild) flashed of returning to his former self, as the 30-year-old back rushed for 41 yards on 11 carries, including a 15-yard run on his first touch of the game, but it certainly wasn’t his highlight tape in this spot.
On defense, things were comically ugly at times (are you sensing a theme yet?), and the offensive numbers for Tampa Bay reflect that type of atrocity. The Bucs didn’t commit a single turnover on their way to their lofty point total, and rookie quarterback Mike Glennon (who went 20-for-23 for 232 yards and 2 TD) was absolutely excellent in this game. However, the biggest point of laughter (or sadness, depending on who you are) came from the explosion of Bobby Rainey.
Who is Bobby Rainey (you may ask)? Well, Rainey had exactly 21 carries for the season entering this game, and the 26-year-old running back from Western Kentucky was only thrust into big-time duty after injuries to both Doug Martin and Mike James. Naturally, Rainey looked like a reincarnation of Jim Brown (okay, that may be a bit much, but still) in this game, rushing for 163 yards on 30 carries, and adding 3 total touchdowns (with 1 receiving) for good measure. The journeyman made the Atlanta defense look silly for the duration of his time on the field, and that is flatly unacceptable.
The “big guns” weren’t above reproach in this game, either. Matt Ryan certainly had the excuse of having little to no time in the pocket all day, but he also made multiple throws that made you scratch your head. For instance, his pass that was intercepted by Dashon Goldson early in the 4th quarter was a horrendous read/decision by Ryan, and on that occasion, there was no blame to pass to the offensive line. Ryan’s final line of 254 yards (on 19 for 36 passing) with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions is clearly below average (especially in the completion percentage department), and he isn’t above criticism here.
Since it’s my solemn duty to bring you “the bright side”, there were some positive performances here. Harry Douglas continued to impress, shining through with 6 catches for 134 yards, and his 80-yard touchdown catch at the end of the 3rd quarter was the play of the day for Atlanta. Defensively, Paul Worrilow also reminded everyone (again) of how much of a steal he appears to be, and the young linebacker amassed 16 tackles while flying all over the field in this one.
In the end, it is important to not let the final score fool you here. This game was entirely non-competitive, and the only reason it was as close as the final margin indicates is due to some “excellent” garbage time production. There will be many, many people calling for the jobs of Mike Smith and/or Matt Ryan after this game, and while I will stand in staunch opposition to both of those feelings, it is going to be a tough week of arguments in their favor. At 2-8 (and 0-5 on the road), we’ve reached the point where this season went from “serious disappointment that was explainable by injuries” to “absolute disaster that can’t be explained away”, and that is both saddening and infuriating.