Down by eight with 1:55 remaining, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempted an onside kick, with Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud recovering it and wiping away any shot of a comeback for the Bucs, who fell to 0-6 with a 31-23 loss Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
It didn’t matter that the Falcons lacked speedy wideout Julio Jones, or sure-handed Roddy White, or punishing running back Steven Jackson, something most teams would consider a gift.
Instead Tampa Bay continued its six-week-long stretch of self-destruction, coverage breakdowns, and miscues, including 11 penalties for 103 yards, one of which negated a fourth-quarter touchdown by Tiquan Underwood on what would have been rookie quarterback Mike Glennon’s third touchdown of the day.
In his first road game, Glennon finished 26 of 44 for 256 passing yards, two touchdowns, one fumble, and no interceptions. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson caught 10 passes on 22 targets for 138 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 20 of 26 passes for 273 passing yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Harry Douglas, who started in place of White, had a career-high 149 receiving yards and a touchdown.
The Falcons jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with a 30-yard fumble return for a touchdown by DeCoud. On third-and-10 of the Bucs’ opening possession at the Tampa Bay 45, the Falcons brought an all-out blitz, with strong safety William Moore sacking Glennon and forcing the fumble.
Ryan and the offense got right to work, with Ryan throwing a short pass outside to running back Jacquizz Rodgers for a 19-yard touchdown, to give the Falcons a 14-0 lead.
The 83-yard drive began at the end of the first quarter, with a 15-yard penalty on defensive end Trevor Scott on third-and-11 for roughing the passer. Ryan found Douglas on a crossing route for a 27-yard catch. He then saw tight end Tony Gonzalez matched up against Mason Foster, hitting Gonzalez over the middle for a 20-yard pickup.
On first-and-10 of the Bucs’ very next possession, Glennon fired a 59-yard bomb to Jackson from the Tampa Bay 41, with Jackson making a one-handed catch for a touchdown to make it a 14-7 ball game.
The Falcons turned right around and threatened to score after a 54-yard reception by Douglas. A 7-yard run by running back Jason Snelling and a neutral zone infraction on defensive tackle Gerald McCoy put the ball at the Tampa Bay 3 yard line.
The Falcons were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. Lavonte David stuffed Snelling for a 2-yard loss and Dashon Goldson broke up a pass intended for wide receiver Brian Robiskie. On third-and-goal, David batted the ball away from Rodgers.
The Bucs’ ensuing drive stalled at the Tampa Bay 17 and Michael Koenen netted just 20 yards on a punt. From the Tampa Bay 37-yard line, Ryan found Douglas in the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown, giving the Falcons a 24-7 lead with 5:40 remaining in the first half.
The Bucs had one final opportunity to score before halftime, with Glennon throwing a 6-yard strike to Jackson on third-and-1, followed by a 6-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Owusu and a 9-yard pickup by wide receiver Mike Williams, who was brought down at the Atlanta 7.
After two unsuccessful attempts by Glennon to find Jackson and Martin in the end zone, third down, he was sacked for a 10-yard loss by defensive tackle Peria Jerry. A 36-yard field goal from Rian Lindell brought the Bucs within two scoring plays before halftime.
A minute-and-a-half into the third quarter, running back Brian Leonard forced a fumble by Falcons punt returner Robert Alford, with linebacker Dekoda Watson recovering it at the Atlanta 23 yard line. On fourth-and-1, in relief of Martin, who left the game with a shoulder injury, rookie running back Mike James took it up the gut, setting up a 1-yard touchdown from Glennon to Jackson to make it 24-17.
The Falcons pulled away with an 8-yard Rodgers – his second of the day, set up by a spectacular 24-yard, one-handed catch by wide receiver Drew Davis against Bucs cornerback Leonard Johnson.
An 18-play drive for the Bucs followed, with a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tiquan Underwood on fourth down nullified due to illegal use of hands on offensive guard Davin Joseph. The Bucs settled for a 41-yard field goal before an unsuccessful effort at an onside kick.
Free safety Dashon Goldson left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury and returned…Nose tackle Akeem Spence left the game in the second quarter after colliding with teammate Mark Barron while making a tackle on Jacquizz Rodgers…Running back Doug Martin left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return…The Bucs incurred 11 penalties for 103 yards. Together, the teams combined for a whopping 204 penalty yards…Bucs linebacker Lavonte David finished with 10 tackles, three tackles for a loss, and one pass breakup…Bucs head coach Greg Schiano’s record is now 7-15…Vincent Jackson’s 1-yard touchdown was the first offensive touchdown scored in the second half all season for the Bucs…Jackson became just the second Buccaneer ever to have two consecutive games with at least two touchdown receptions. The first was Horace Copeland in 1993, against the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons…Roddy White’s absence was the first time in his eight-year career that he had missed a game due to injury.