Which players had outstanding games despite losing to the Falcons 24-23? Which players' performance came up short of expectations? Find out what Pewter Report thinks in the weekly Most Impressive and Disappointing feature.
The Buccaneers saw their four-game winning streak come to a halt on Sunday, dropping a tough 24-23 decision to their division rivals, the Atlanta Falcons. The loss leaves Tampa Bay with a 6-5 record and staring a tough remaining schedule.
The Buccaneers moved the ball well at times and even had some bright spots defensively, but overall the effort came up just short.Most ImpressiveRB Doug Martin
This certainly wasn’t Martin’s flashiest performance, yet the rookie still found the end zone on two occasions. He also managed to set a Buccaneers single-season rookie record for touchdowns with nine, breaking a three-way tie with Errict Rhett (1994) and Lars Tate (1988). Tampa Bay’s patchwork offensive line had trouble creating running lanes for Martin to hit cleanly and that contributed to a rather pedestrian stat line of 50 yards on 21 carries (2.38 yards per attempt). He pulled in two catches on two targets for another 13 yards, although Martin’s biggest splash play (a 42-yard catch-and-run in the second) was negated by RG James Meredith’s penalty for having his hands in a defender’s face. The Falcons actually had their choice of infractions to choose from on that play. RT Demar Dotson was also whistled for holding. WR Vincent Jackson
Tampa Bay’s leading receiver again turned in an impactful effort, catching five of his seven targets for 96 yards. The highlight of Jackson’s day was making a beautiful 28-yard catch along the left sideline between two defenders. Even when QB Josh Freeman was without the ball, Jackson was the go-to target. One of the veteran’s five grabs came from WR Mike Williams when he dropped back after catching a receiver screen.CB E.J. Biggers
The fourth-year corner’s play in Tampa Bay is probably known most for its unevenness. One step forward, one step back. He showed a little bit of both Sunday afternoon, but leaning more toward the positive. Biggers’ star shined brightest while owning an early fourth-quarter series that resulted in a turnover. He got in on four of Atlanta’s six plays, making four tackles, recording his first-career sack and forcing a fumble of QB Matt Ryan that was recovered by DT Gerald McCoy.
S Ronde Barber
Barber stepped up again as a defensive leader of this unit, tying for the game-high in tackles with eight and picking off Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the second quarter. After returning the interception 28 yards, Tampa Bay took over possession at the Atlanta 31 and eventually tied the game at 10-10 with a 22-yard Connor Barth field goal. Barber recorded one of the Bucs’ six tackles for loss. QB Josh Freeman
Freeman ended his day with 256 yards on 19 of 30 passing, no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bucs passing attack didn’t come out guns blazing in terms of deep shots, but Freeman hit his receivers accurately almost all day. He and the Bucs did miss on a handful of red-zone tosses Sunday, but the Falcons secondary also locked down when it counted and Freeman didn’t compound any problems by getting picked off in the end zone. On the fourth-quarter drive following E.J. Biggers’ sack and forced fumble, Tampa Bay settled for a Connor Barth 48-yard field goal that put the Bucs ahead 23-17. The Bucs went three-and-out leading up to the kick, but TE Luke Stocker and WR Tiquan Underwood dropped first- and third-down passes, respectively.MOST DISAPPOINTINGCB Leonard Johnson
The Tampa Bay defense had been doing a quality job limiting Atlanta from connecting on big plays. The Falcons’ highly ranked passing attack going against the Bucs’ lowly secondary earned plenty of attention leading up to the game and Tampa Bay could not escape without getting burned. Atlanta WR Julio Jones burst off the line midway through the third quarter, turned Johnson around and burned him on a 9 route for an 80-yard touchdown. The rookie from Largo High threw his helmet around and combined for a career-high seven tackles, but he was caught off guard and with no help when Jones and QB Matt Ryan attacked in the third.OT Demar Dotson
Piecing together a high-quality offensive line from week to week has been a challenge this season and it showed at times Sunday afternoon. The unit surrendered two sacks of QB Josh Freeman and could not help jumpstart Tampa Bay’s ground game (21 carries for 50 yards). Although Dotson handled himself relatively well at times while often going against four-time Pro Bowl defensive end John Abraham, he was whistled for two illegal hands to the face penalties. One of those negated what would have been the Bucs’ longest play from scrimmage, a 42-yard Doug Martin catch-and-run in the second quarter.G Jamon Meredith
The right guard was in on that nullification of Martin’s 42-yard reception, though his penalty was waived in favor of Dotson’s. Meredith, a fourth-year backup forced into a starting role after multiple O-line injuries, had a rough day handling the likes of DTs Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters on the inside and was noticeably slow to pull on at least two occasions.DE Michael Bennett
Tampa Bay’s sacks leader was practically invisible Sunday, registering just a single tackle on the final stat sheet. Atlanta never managed to get its ground game going against the Bucs front but Bennett and Tampa Bay rarely pressured QB Matt Ryan, either. The team’s sack and fumble came from CB E.J. Biggers and Bennett rarely had his number called while frequently being shoved out of the picture.
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