DT Gerald McCoy (Photo by: Getty Images)
No one around One Buc Place wants to speak about 2015.
When the words “last year” are included in questions – even the positive, well-meaning ones – players and coaches routinely bat them away and remind everyone it’s all about the now and what lies ahead. But if Tampa Bay is able to repeat the success of last Nov. 1 come Sunday afternoon, no one around the facility will be complaining one bit.
The Atlanta Falcons had been 6-1 and a perfect 3-0 at home leading into last November. But when Tampa Bay came to the Georgia Dome and left with a 23-20 overtime win, it triggered a six-game nosedive that helped extend Atlanta’s postseason drought to three years.
After sweeping the 2015 season series, the Bucs will be going for not only two straight in Atlanta but three straight overall. It would be longest winning streak against the Falcons since three straight in 2007 and the front end of 2008, and the first time Tampa Bay’s pulled out two in a row at Atlanta since taking four straight from 1997-2003.
With the Falcons and New Orleans Saints both calling the NFC South home, Tampa Bay is no stranger to playing in domed stadiums. But those atmospheres are still few and far between and a concerted effort is being made to prepare for Sunday’s noise level.
“Absolutely,” wide receiver Vincent Jackson said Thursday. “I think they definitely have a 12th man, especially on the offensive side of the ball. On defense it probably doesn’t have as much of an effect. But we know when it’s third-and-short and we’re backed up in our own territory it’s going to get quite loud. And we work on that. We do a lot of drills throughout practice, we’ve been doing it even through the offseason before we knew we we’d be playing opponents in places like that. Every season you know you’re going to play on the road and have some really loud places, so you have to practice those operations where you can’t hear the quarterback.”
While players like Jackson, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and offensive tackle Demar Dotson have been taking an annual trip to the Georgia Dome for years now, defensive coordinator Mike Smith is the man most familiar with the building.
“Well, it’s very loud, so it’s very tough for the offenses going into that environment to communicate,” the former Falcons head coach of seven years said Thursday. “The fans, they’re really jacked up and they do a good job there. The acoustics in the building aren’t very good and that makes it even tougher to communicate.”
Atlanta has managed to win two of its last three home games against Tampa Bay, but there’s been a little slacking off in terms of defending the dome over that period against all opponents. The team’s struggled in many venues since 2013, and that includes a not-so-menacing 10-14 mark at home.
What the Falcons have managed to continue, even through the recent rough stretch, is their success debuting for the home fans. Even through the recent rough stretch, Atlanta enters Sunday riding an eight-game, home-opener win streak.
“There’s a little extra buzz to [opening games] in the stadiums,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan told the Tampa Bay media Wednesday. “Even players, it’s your first time out there for real, so there’s always something to that. In division, it’s always big because they know us really well, we know them really well and I think always in those kinds of games, those kinds of situations, it comes down to players making plays. I think everybody will have their minds right on both sides and we’ve got to go out there and make as many plays as we can make to help us win.”
The Falcons’ last two home-opening wins also came on Week 1, including last year’s 26-24 close call over Philadelphia.
Season openers, no matter the location, haven’t been so kind to Tampa Bay, however. The Bucs haven’t started the season 1-0 since beating Carolina 16-10 at home in 2012 and have done so only twice in the past 10 years. That other victory also came at home in 2010, a 17-14 comeback against the Cleveland Browns.
Here’s hoping we start off with a bang. We have to put pressure on Ryan. Big win in Atlanta will begin the change. Go Bucs!
Horse called it. Pressure on Ryan. I’m not so nice. I say smack him around like a boated wahoo. IMO this is a must win game. The Falcons got payback in mind and the Bucs realize this. Run the ball right into Claiborne, he is a little banged up I think. Same thing with Jones, press him tight so he can’t get you with his speed. Think he’s a bit gimpy also.
This where Stocker will prove his worth, smacking the Falcons defensive line around some.
Didn’t the Falcons get scolded or fined by the league for artificial crowd noise? Easy to quiet the crowd. get on top and stay on top on the scoreboard.
I can’t wait to see what this defense can do. With better coverage and more pressure, this could be fun to watch. Smash the run on the way to sacking the quarterback. Go Bucs!
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