NFC South. NFC South. Green eggs and dry mouth.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers welcomed the Atlanta Falcons into their parlor in September of this year and certainly proved who owned the lot. Twenty-four to nine, the Bucs won. Today, the roles were reversed. Would the Falcons be able to demonstrate some Southern hospitality to their peninsular brothers?
Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia was unable to put on his ritz due to an injury. Brian Griese was the substitute teacher for the day. Televised by Fox, the first quarter started off rather creakily, with a pocketful of penalties (most of them on the Buccaneers) and a Falcons field goal (second time with the ball). Falcons wide receiver Roddy White made a spectacular catch towards the bottom of the quarter (body elongated to perfection) but he didn’t spring back up after being brought down to the turf (at least not before commercial break). Falcons running back Michael Turner put the first touchdown on the board for his team with under two minutes on the clock (his TD was preceded by a pretty happenin’ Jerious Norwood run). Atlanta 10 and Tampa Bay 0.
The second quarter started with Tampa Bay rookie cornerback Aqib Talib getting in between Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s throw and Roddy White’s hands. It was an interception. Another interception occurred with under a minute in the quarter when Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber got his hands on another ball meant for Roddy White. Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Bryant’s thirty-yard catch under thirty seconds was ruled incomplete (his left foot came down out-of-bounds). A couple plays later, Antonio Bryant put the ball into the end zone. Going into halftime, Atlanta 10 and Tampa Bay 7.
The third quarter sprang forth with Falcons tight end Jason Rader breaking the plane for a touchdown, but did the ball come out of his hands before or as he was crossing the goal line? Bucs head coach Jon Gruden challenged the TD call– and he won it. Tampa Bay was awarded possession as cornerback Phillip Buchanon had scooped up the ball after Rader fumbled it in the end zone. Was the offensive tide turning in favor of the Buccaneers? Not completely. Falcons cornerback Domonique Foxworth got his hands around Brian Griese’s pass two or so plays later. Would Atlanta be able to capitalize on that interception? That would be a negative. Niet. Nyet. Nein. Non. Pas du tout. Falcons running back Jason Snelling did, however, grind the Buccaneers’ field position to the nine yard line after Michael Koenen punted the ball away.
The fourth quarter whittled down to under four minutes without any points for either team. Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant tried to tie the score with a fifty-three yard field goal but the ball swerved to the left of the uprights (from his POV). Falcons still in the lead 10 to 7. Tampa Bay wasn’t going to let their ship sink in the Georgia Dome. A blocked punt in the bottom of the fourth quarter put the Bucs in a position to swipe the victory. Matt Bryant went for a thirty-eightish yard field goal attempt with under a minute left on the clock. And it was good. Both teams tied with 10 points.
Tampa Bay won the coin toss in overtime. Their first possession yielded no score. When the Falcons got their hands on the ball, Matt Ryan slid, then connected with Roddy White, then lost the ball as he was sliding but Falcons recovered the ball. Michael Turner was able to move the ball down the field seventeen yards, but a ten-yard penalty on guard Justin Blalock undid some of that gain. Falcons kicker Jason Elam was sent onto the field to go for a thirty-four yard field goal. SWEET MARY OF MARINARA SAUCE!!!! He did it. FALCONS GAGNENT!!! Atlanta won. 13 to 10. Tampa Bay now has two back-to-back losses.
Observations & Miscellania:
1. Dick Stockton and Brian Baldinger provided commentary.
2. I was experiencing major unease, nervousness upon Tampa Bay’s first possession in the first quarter. It lasted the entire game. I watched most of this game standing up. A first I believe.
3. Roddy White did go back into the game a play after he was able to get up. The slow-motion instant replays (from behind and in front of him) indicated that perhaps in his reaching for the ball, he stretched his back a might too far.
4. I wonder how many NFL players do yoga for muscle conditioning. Mind-clearing. I did a search and here are the results.
5. In the bottom of the first quarter, before Michael Turner ran into the end zone, Brian Baldinger gave props to Falcons quarterback coach Bill Musgrave. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has been praised numerous times throughout the season by other commentators. Dick Stockton then remarked that a head coach’s staff doesn’t receive nearly the amount of credit that they should.
6. How rattled would Jeff Garcia feel if Brian Griese led his Bucs to a win? Would he be happy for his backup QB?
7. Brian Baldinger praised Michael Koenen’s punting skills in the bottom of the third quarter.
8. MVPs for the Falcons? I’m thinking Domonique Foxworth, Michael Turner, John Abraham, and Jason Elam.
9. The camera got a glimpse of a red-jacketed Arthur Blank at the two-minute warning. He looked understandably concerned.
10. My heart was beating so fast in OT, which lasted much longer than I’ve seen other OT’s last.
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