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

• After winning their first game following the firing of head coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons got back to their losing ways in the fourth quarter on Sunday against Detroit, giving up a TD pass as time expired to fall to 1-6. The Falcons scored a touchdown with less than two minutes left, but once again their defense let them down, allowing Matt Stafford and the Lions to drive down and score on the last play of the game.

Atlanta was down two points before their final drive and a day later head coach Raheem Morris was second guessing his decision to score a touchdown as opposed to milking the clock and kicking a field goal, leaving Detroit with no time on the clock.

“My biggest regret today,” Morris said. “I wanted to give the ball to Todd and let him take the knee. I made that decision; I put that on Todd. Todd got some momentum going and couldn’t quite get stopped where he wanted to get stopped to go down, so we could have the game end with a kick. Run out of our stadium with Koo kicking it and us have a happy conversation today.

“I should have, looking back at it, taken a knee with Matt [Ryan]. But I just wanted to put it in Todd [Gurley’s) hands, a guy that’s comfortable carrying the ball in [that] situation, not have to worry about people jumping on a quarterback pile and trying to knock the ball out of [Matt’s] hands. I wanted to put it in a sure running back’s hands.”

Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

• With the Falcons season essentially over before the halfway mark, there has been some speculation that Atlanta might be in the market to trade quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones. but according to Adam Schefter that won’t happen.

“I don’t worry about noise outside of our building – I want to be here and hopefully that will be the case,” Ryan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. Jones also said he isn’t seeking a trade and wants to remain a Falcon.

The NFL trade decline is November 3.

• The Falcons will welcome a face back this week when they take on the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. Second-round pick Marlon Davidson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on October 13 and missed the last two games. Davidson will be able to play against the Panthers on Thursday night.

• While Jones and Ryan likely won’t be traded, that doesn’t mean the Falcons won’t be looking to unload other players on the roaster ahead of the trade deadline.

2017 first-round pick Takk McKinley who has notched 17.5 sacks over the course of his career, could be on the move according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Media. McKinley is due to hit free agency after this season and the Falcons declined their option on his contract for 2021.

Carolina Panthers

• Cornerback Eli Apple who hoped to revive his career in Carolina was released on Tuesday according to the Panthers’ team website. Apple was selected 10th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Giants, but was traded to New Orleans in 2018 during his third season before signing as a free agent this past offseason.

Carolina also released wide receiver Seth Roberts on Monday after just four catches for 31 yards this season. Roberts is reportedly set to join the Green Bay Packers.

Bucs LB Lavonte David and Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey
Bucs LB Lavonte David and Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

• The Panthers may finally be getting their star running back on the field this week as Christian McCaffrey returned to practice and is expected to play this Thursday night, according to head coach Matt Rhule. McCaffrey was injured in Carolina’s Week 2 game against the Buccaneers.

• Carolina gave a valiant effort, but came up short against the Saints, losing 27-24 to drop their record to 3-4 on the season. One of the biggest issues the Panthers have had this season is the inability to get off the field on third down. Carolina is allowing opposing offenses to covert over 50 percent of their third downs which is in the bottom three in the NFL, and on Sunday allowed Drew Brees and the Saints to go 12-of-14 on third down, the worst percentage in franchise history.

“I think when you play Drew Brees, you have to know he is going to be efficient,” head coach Matt Rhule said on Monday. “We didn’t make the plays or call the plays — just a team effort on our end — to get them off the field.”

New Orleans Saints

• The Saints have been able to manage fairly well since star receiver Michael Thomas went down with an injury late in the season opener against the Buccaneers. So well, in fact, that some have speculated that Thomas could be on the trading block. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that Thomas’ camp has been trying to initiate a trade to move the receiver to another team, but so far no team seems willing to make an offer for Thomas.

Saints WR Michael Thomas and former Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III
Saints WR Michael Thomas and former Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Getty Images

• Despite the Saints 27-24 win over the Panthers last Sunday, head coach Sean Payton isn’t pleased with all aspects of his team right now.

“Our red zone numbers right now are really poor,” Payton said. “And that’s the one area where I know that we’ve got to improve on. Those are certainly the key things that you’re seeing. We’re seeing the same thing. The same things, look, our fans are seeing. People are real educated in our game and they’re seeing the same thing in those areas. We’re getting ready to play the No. 1 red zone defense in the NFL in Chicago. So all of those things really matter when the games become important, and we recognize that.”

The Saints face the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.

• While the Buccaneers boast the league’s best run defense, the Saints aren’t push-overs themselves, and currently rank as the league’s fourth-best unit giving up just 89.7 yards per game. But maybe more impressive is the streak of not allowing a 100-yard runner in 49 consecutive games, a run of success that dates back to Washington’s Samaje Perine gaining 117 yards on New Orleans in November of 2017.

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