Pewter Report Intern
Which players had outstanding games that helped the Buccaneers end their five-game losing streak? Which players will be singled-out for mistakes when the Buccaneers have their final meetings of the season on Monday? Find out in this weekly postgame feature from Pewter Report.
The Buccaneer’s 22-17 win over the first seeded Falcons broke their five game losing streak to end the season on a high note. Not only did the Bucs defeat the Falcons, who played their starters the entire game, but they held them to the least amount of points for the Falcons this year. They also handed Atlanta their first home loss of the season.
Tampa Bay made the Falcons pay for playing their starters all game, and not just by beating them in their own house. They knocked out two of their top defensive players, Dunta Robinson and John Abraham. Abraham’s ankle injury looked bad at the time, and could cost the team in the postseason.
The Bucs outplayed the Falcons in all three phases of the game, so there are several players who deserve to be on the most impressive list this week. Below are the players who played exceptionally well, and those who could have played better.Most ImpressiveThe Offensive Line
After struggling for the past month in both pass protection and run blocking, the offensive line played like they did during the Bucs’ hot streak. Freeman had plenty of time to throw and didn’t get sacked once, after getting sacked five times last week against the Rams.
The O-line struggled in the first half blocking for Doug Martin, but came back in the second half making big holes for Martin. They did what they needed to do: allow Martin to get to the second level and let him do the rest. The lack of a running game was a big part of the Bucs’ five-game skid, and having that back opened up the offense for Josh Freeman and the play-action fake.RB Doug Martin
It can be argued that Martin was snubbed from the Pro Bowl last Wednesday, and he certainly made that argument against the Falcons. Martin was brilliant in the second half, breaking tackles and simply out sprinting the Falcon’s defense. His 40-yard touchdown runs was perfect execution on his part, along with the rest of the offense.
Martin also put the game away with his 19-yard run late in the fourth quarter that allowed the Bucs to run out the clock. Expect Martin to have an even bigger year in 2013 when Pro Bowlers Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks return to the lineup. Sunday’s game should have fans even more excited to see this rookie sensation return next year with experience and a healthy offensive line to block for him.LB Lavonte David
Although his teammate Mason Foster lead the team in tackles this week with twelve, David still had more of an impact on defense. David had six tackles, one sack for a loss of 14 yards, and one pass deflection. David also had great pressure on Matt Ryan on blitzes, and had two big hits on Ryan aside from the sack. The star rookie also added another tackle for loss, which seems to be the norm for him every week.
What is most impressive is how much the second-round pick improved in pass coverage after giving up an 80-yard touchdown last week. He was solid all game, and was in perfect position covering future hall of famer Tony Gonzalez, preventing a key first down. CB Leonard Johnson
Johnson had another very good game this week, playing opposite of Roddy White for most of the game. Johnson held White to just 42-yards receiving, and had a great PBU in the end zone, forcing a fourth down. Johnson also notched three tackles, and was in great coverage on two deep ball pass attempts by Matt Ryan.
Johnson has really improved since being picked on against the Falcons in their first meeting. The undrafted rookie could have a bright future in Tampa Bay as a nickel back.SS Mark Barron
Barron has played much better, along with the rest of the secondary, in the last two weeks. He was matched up against TE Toney Gonzalez for much of the game, and held him to just five catches for 41 yards. Barron has been criticized for his poor pass coverage this season, but Sunday’s game should have fans excited for his future.
Barron was in perfect coverage on Gonzalez in the end zone that resulted in a Matt Ryan incompletion, leading to fourth-and-goal. But his best play of the game was his last of the season. On a crucial fourth-and-ten play in the final minutes of the game, Matt Ryan threw a great pass to Gonzalez who looked to have caught it. Barron made a hustle play to get back to the ball and bat it away at the last second, all but securing the win the Buccaneers.Honorable Mentions:
LB Dakota Watson, LB Mason Foster, CB EJ Biggers, K Connor Barth, and OC Mike Sullivan.Most DisappointingCB Anthony Gaitor
Gaitor allowed Matt Ryan’s only touchdown of the game on a big fourth down play in fourth quarter. Gaitor looked confused on the play, not sure of who he was responsible for. This allowed WR Harry Douglas to run wide open and score the touchdown easily. Coach Greg Schiano was infuriated after the play, scolding Gaitor on the sideline for allowing such an easy score. Gaitor somewhat redeemed himself later in the game when he had a key pass deflection on the Falcon’s final drive.FB Erik Lorig
Lorig, who has been a great blocker for Martin all year, struggled against the Falcons. He missed a few key blocks on run plays in the first half, and also had two holding penalties (one that was declined) in the game.
WR Tiquan Underwood, PR/KR Roscoe Parish
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