Penalties, Turnovers Prove Crucial: The Falcons did no favors for themselves by committing 11 penalties and four turnovers—one interception, three fumbles—all of which led to Tampa Bay scoring drives. This has been a point of emphasis in recent weeks, and whether or not Atlanta can do a better job taking care of the football will, ultimately, make or break the 2015 season.
"Really the issue to us came down to the ball," Dan Quinn said. "Not creating any takeaways defensively, and finish(ing) at a minus-four turnover ratio—that recipe's hard … Part of our motto is finishing and doing it right longer, and that caught up with us today when we were not able to do that."
Julio Dominant Again: A first-half fumble notwithstanding, Julio Jones turned in another masterful game—this time corralling 12 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown. His score, a five-yard throw from Matt Ryan, tied the game with 17 seconds left in regulation, effectively forcing overtime. No longer hampered by a sore hamstring, Jones was able to use his rare combination of speed and strength to gain separation and make a variety of easy catches.
Collins Steps Up: With Robert Alford (groin) and Desmond Trufant (lower back) dealing with injuries, first-year cornerback Jalen Collins rose to the occasion and turned in a solid game. The second-round draft pick has improved his technique considerably since training camp; that development, along with his size and aggressive playing style, allowed him to thrive in press coverage against the Bucs.
"No. 1, in terms of the development he's had, we knew this was coming in terms of the length and the speed he plays with outside," Quinn said of Collins. "And then also, Alford's ability to go inside and play nickel was a factor in his growth. Lots of belief and confidence in Jalen moving forward."
Tamme Hits Century Mark: Jacob Tamme amassed 100 receiving yards for the first time this season and came down with a TD on his eighth of 10 catches. The tight end's ability to get open in the middle part of the field has helped Ryan tremendously and has proven to be one of the best additions to this roster.
"Jacob's done a great job for us this entire year," Ryan said. "He's quietly been a huge addition to our roster. He had a really good game today. He's a pro's pro. He's well prepared every week, he knows exactly what he needs to do and he makes plays when we give him the opportunity."
Hardy Debuts: In his NFL debut, wide receiver Justin Hardy made an impact by racking up 21 receiving yards on a pair of first down catches. Hardy's first career reception was particularly impressive: The fourth-rounder fought off tight coverage to gain 12 yards and move the chains. Jones said the ECU product will be a big part of the offense moving forward, and if that happens, Ryan will have another reliable target with whom to work.
"Everyone was so excited for him to get his opportunity," Quinn said of Hardy. "So today, we knew he was ready. He's been working extremely hard."
'We Can Only Control What We Can Control': This loss, just like the defeat in New Orleans, was a product of self-inflicted wounds. The bad news is the Falcons are making a lot of unnecessary mistakes; the good news, however, is these are correctable errors. Players and coaches alike are aware of this and know they can quickly get back on track next week in San Francisco.
"You're probably going to hear it from (Quinn) over and over, but we're going to be committed to the process, man," said O'Brien Schofield, who registered one of the team's two sacks versus Tampa Bay. "We're going to be committed to coming in, working hard and cleaning up the pre-snap penalties, the things that hurt ourselves. We can only control what we can control. Here going forward, we're going to continue playing Falcon football."