Behind Enemy Lines is a look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every week. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?

Atlanta Falcons

• Bucs fans counting on two wins when Tampa Bay plays the Falcons twice in the month of December, might want to hold off throwing any money towards their bookies just yet. Atlanta dismantled the Raiders last Sunday, 43-6, and did so without All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones and the team’s leading rusher, Todd Gurley. The Falcons hope to have both back this week and to avenge a loss to the Saints from Week 10.

“I’m definitely hopeful for everybody to get back, particularly the guys that missed the game,” Morris said on Monday. “See where they are at, see if they can get ready for the Saints.”

Falcons head coach Raheem Morris
Falcons head coach Raheem Morris – Photo by: USA Today

• According to the team’s website, the Atlanta Falcons announced Tuesday that wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus has been placed on injured reserve after leaving the team’s win against the Las Vegas Raiders with a toe injury. In addition, the Falcons announced that Laquon Treadwell has been activated off of the reserve/COVID-19 list and added to the 53-man roster.

The Falcons signed Treadwell as a free agent this offseason. The former first-rounder was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

• As a result of their 43-6 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, the Falcons improve to to 4-7 on the year and currently hold the No. 10 spot in the updated NFL Draft order. Atlanta is one of six teams with four wins.

Carolina Panthers

• Teddy Bridgewater was back under center for the Panthers on Sunday, but Carolina allowed Minnesota to come back from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to snatch a 28-27 victory from the Bucs’ NFC South rivals.

Head coach Matt Rhule said the loss was on the coaching staff.

“That’s unacceptable by us as a staff,” Rhule said following the game on Sunday. “We’ve got to put the ball in the end zone there and end the game. Or we’ve got to stop them. Or we’ve got to [make that last-second field goal]. So instead of pointing fingers, I better just point the thumb back at me. And that’s not coach-speak. I’m disappointed in myself and my staff tonight.”

QB Teddy Bridgewater – Photo by: USA Today

• Bridgewater feels the Panthers panicked in the fourth quarter, throwing an incomplete pass and stopping the clock to allow the Vikings time to score the go-ahead TD for the win.

“I think we’ve just got to be better from top to bottom from the sideline to executing on the field. It was one of those deals where I feel like we might have panicked a little bit, trying to figure out what play call to call in that situation,” Bridgewater the Charlotte Observer on Sunday. “Honestly, we called a great play. We didn’t have enough time to execute, but it was a play where we wanted to shift Robby [Anderson], to get a good man/zone read to see what defense they’re in. Because we were against the clock, we just had to rush into it.”

• Rookie defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list this week. It wasn’t revealed if he tested positive or just had close contact with someone. On the season Gross-Matos, Carolina’s second-round pick, has notched 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in the eight games he’s played in.

New Orleans Saints

• The Broncos were without a quarterback on Sunday in their 31-3 loss to the Saints, and you could say the Saints were also to a degree, as New Orleans starter backup Taysom Hill was just 9-of-16 for 78 yards with an interception.

Saints QB Taysom Hill
Saints QB Taysom Hill – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But when people talk about complimentary football, they need to look no further than to the Big Easy to understand what that means. Latavius Murray ran 19 times for 124 yards and two scores, and Hill, despite his pedestrian numbers under center, ran for two scores as well. And as usual the Saints played great defense, limited the wounded Broncos to 112 yards of total offense, including just one completed pass.

Following the game, Saints head coach Sean Payton said he really doesn’t care if the wins are pleasing to the eye with Hill at quarterback.

“Taysom played this thing just how I wanted him to play it,” Payton said. “It doesn’t have to be aesthetically pleasing to be effective. The job is to win, and he did a good job of that.”

At 9-2 and running away with the NFC South, who can argue?

• When you can’t – our don’t want to try – to throw the ball, you better be effective running it, particularly in the red zone. The Saints did a great job of scoring inside the 20 against Denver, and Payton talked about it on a radio interview on Monday night.

“We got into some goal-to-go situations if you will, or inside the 10 (yard line), and they’d give you some heavy fronts.” Payton said. “We had a couple good runs. Obviously, it’s hard to just run it into the end zone, and Taysom scored on a couple. I think it was Latavius on a weak zone, those were the three red zone scores. But we had pointed out during the week that we were going against one of the top red zone defenses and that we were going to have to run the ball effectively down there, and we were able to do that.”

• With Sunday’s win over the Broncos, Payton has now defeated all 31 other teams in the NFL as a head coach.

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About the Author: Mark Cook