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

• Atlanta first-round draft pick Takk McKinley and the Falcons have been at odds for awhile now, at least since his fifth-year option was declined earlier this year. McKinley had hoped for a trade prior to the NFL’s trade deadline last week, but no deal was reached.

McKinley took to Twitter to voice his frustration and the Falcons finally had enough, releasing the 2017 first rounder on Monday. McKinley claimed that the Falcons had a number of offers to make a trade, but that seems highly unlikely. Now that he’s been released, Atlanta gets nothing in return for the former 26th overall pick.

In his time in Atlanta, McKinley totaled just 75 tackles and 17.5 sacks.

• With three wins in four weeks, interim head coach Raheem Morris is making a bid for the full-time job. Dan Quinn was fired after a dreadful start this season and Morris has the Falcons playing well, with their most recent win coming last Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank
Falcons owner Arthur Blank – Photo by: USA Today

Owner Arthur Blank commented on Morris’ chances of succeeding Quinn in a full time capacity.

“Raheem will be looked at as any other coach will be,” Blank said on a podcast recently. “I’ve known him for a long time. I think he’s a good guy. I think he’s got a lot of credentials. He’s not the same man he was when he was 32 [and] became a head coach [with the Bucs]. Twelve years later, he’s matured a good bit. 32, it’s hard to be a head coach in the NFL. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard to do. Twelve years later, I think he’s had a lot of great experiences, and I think he’s learned a lot, and I wish him all the success he could possibly have, for his benefit and for our benefit.”

Morris coached the Buccaneers from 2009 to 2011 and many feel that after nearly 10 years as an assistant, he is worthy of another shot as an NFL head coach. The question is – does Blank? Morris has seven more games to audition.

• Without McKinley, the Flacons had an open roster spot and filled it with linebacker Edmond Robinson off of their practice squad.

Carolina Panthers

• The Bucs next opponent, the Carolina Panthers aren’t the same team Tampa Bay beat in Week 2 by a score of 31-17, as proven by the Panthers going on the road and narrowly losing to the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Carolina missed a 67-yard field goal as time expired, but the fact it went down to the wire should get Tampa Bay’s attention. The Panthers tallied 435 yards of offense and couldn’t be put away, continually coming back in the fourth quarter.

Bucs ILB Lavonte David
Bucs ILB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

• Running back Christian McCaffrey can’t catch a break. After missing several weeks with an ankle injury suffered in a loss to the Bucs earlier this year, McCaffrey dinged his shoulder in his first game back last Sunday and is listed as day-to-day. An earlier report suggested he could miss this week’s game, but head coach Matt Rhule hasn’t ruled him out. We will know more as the week progresses.

McCaffrey scored two touchdowns in his return against the Chiefs, rushing 18 times for 69 yards and catching 10 passes for 82 yards.

New Orleans Saints

• The Saints handed the Bucs an embarrassing loss on Sunday night, beating Tampa Bay 38-3 to prove they are still the top team in the NFC South. With all the talk of Antonio Brown joining the Buccaneers and seeing his first action in over a year, there was another receiver on the field who was also coming back from controversy.

Saints receiver Michael Thomas, who hadn’t played since Week 1 due to injuries and then later a suspension for a fight with his own teammate, was pleased to be healthy, and according to him, more mature.

“My emotions got the best of me in that situation,” Thomas said following the game. “I’ve grown from that, and I’m here to help my team win games and finish the mission: To win a championship.

“It felt great just to be out there with the guys and dominate the game on all sides of the ball. That’s what we expect as an offense, that’s the standard. That’s how we’ve been trying to play the past six weeks. Unfortunately, I wasn’t out there to help the guys, but I’m back out there and I’m trying to do my job to the best of my abilities, and we’re all complementing each other.

Saints head coach Sean Payton
Saints head coach Sean Payton – Photo by: USA Today

Head coach Sean Payton was happy to have Thomas back in the lineup.

“This is really the first time coming back off an injury ever for him in the NFL,” Payton said. ”We wanted to be smart relative to the pitch count, but he handled it well. I’m really proud of him. It was really good to see him get in the flow of the game, because I think sometimes the mistake can be how much we use him in that first week back.”

• Tampa Bay did a good job of bottling up Saints running back Alvin Kamara on Sunday night, holding the Pro Bowler to a total of just 49 yards on the ground and as a receiver, but the focus to stop Kamara opened things up for others on the Saints to help New Orleans cruise offensively, scoring nearly at will.

Kamara wasn’t upset with his production as others stepped up.

“It’s been a long time coming, just trying to play a complete game on offense, and I think that’s the most complete game we’ve played,” Kamara said. “You see what it looks like — it’s poetry in motion when we get going like that.”

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