Even with the injury list growing by the day, it felt like the Bucs were in a winnable game with Atlanta. For a couple quarters, at least.
Fans cheered for John Lynch at halftime, then spent the next two quarters longing for the days when No. 47 was in the defensive backfield.
In the end the visitors walked away with a big 43-28 victory and left Bucs fans wondering what this hobbled roster is really capable of accomplishing moving forward.
Keep reading to check out PewterReport.com’s Most Disappointing list after Tampa Bay’s home loss against Atlanta.
LT DONOVAN SMITH
Jameis Winston’s blindside protector wasn’t providing much assistance Thursday night.
Smith’s inconsistency this season continued and he was beaten badly on multiple occasions. Former Buccaneer Adrian Clayborn said hello to Tampa Bay a few times Thursday, including once in the second quarter where he just made Smith look slow before cracking Winston in the back right after he threw.
The pressure that came before Winston flung his little left-handed flip pass was caused primarily by Falcons defensive end Brooks Reed freezing Smith with a spin move and then blowing by him to the inside.
In addition to Smith’s poor pass protection, the offensive line as a whole committed five penalties of the Bucs’ 11 penalties.
LB LAVONTE DAVID
This was not one of David’s better games.
The fifth-year linebacker tallied just four tackles and looked either out of place or slow to react at times in coverage. David was late getting over to check Devonta Freeman during Atlanta’s first drive and then took a bad angle trying to catch up, allowing the running back to turn a short pass into a 27-yard gain.
Freeman burned David again a couple drives later when he got around the egde for a 20-yard pickup.
The Tampa Bay defense needed David to step it up when middle linebacker Kwon Alexander left for an extended portion but that didn’t happen.
A few guys took turns either making mistakes or failing to make plays that resulted in big gains or touchdowns for the Falcons.
Defensive backs did manage to keep Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan under 500 yards this week, which is a plus, but the veteran still went for 344 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and ended his day with a 144.7 passer rating.
Ryan exploited the size advantage of receiver Julio Jones against Vernon Hargreaves III on a 3-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Prior to that the rookie cornerback helped set up a 1-yard touchdown pass to fullback Patrick DiMarco with a pass interference call in the end zone on third-and-goal from the Bucs 2. Safety Bradley McDougald did no favors on the DiMarco touchdown by getting in linebacker Lavonte David’s way at the snap, essentially setting a pick that left the fullback wide open.
A pass rush that didn’t put much heat on Ryan didn’t help, but soft spots in the Bucs coverage scheme were exposed all night. Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mike Smith spoke of reducing explosive plays this week and his players responded by surrendering eight passes of 20 yards or more.
“Definitely pass rush and coverage go hand in hand,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said after the game. “We’re not getting the pass rush and we’re not covering very well either.”
Not a great combo.
It’s a little tough putting Peyton Barber, Antone Smith and Mike James on here considering the situation, but this is the NFL and players need to be able to perform when their numbers are called.
Things didn’t look so bad early. Barber and Smith combined to take six carries and go 26 yards during the Bucs’ opening touchdown drive. After that, though, the duo ran the ball 10 more times for 30 additional yards. James picked up three yards on one carry.
Barber and Smith did add seven catches for 51 yards, but Smith was also involved in the botched, first-quarter draw play that resulted in a lost fumble and lead-taking Falcons field goal.
“We were going to play all three guys,” Koetter said of the running back situation. “They all three played. They gave us what they had.”
That about sums it up.
WR CECIL SHORTS III
The Bucs brought Shorts in to bolster a wide receiving corps that lacked depth but the veteran has failed to accomplish much.
Shorts managed to catch just one of his four targets Thursday after securing none of four targets last Sunday against the Raiders. In five games with Tampa Bay, Shorts has been targeted 10 times and has only two receptions for 32 yards.
With Russell Shepard inactive, rookie Freddie Martino was the fourth and final active wideout. He caught one of two targets for nine yards.