Competition Breeds Success
It's an adage football coaches have used for years, and it just might be true in the case of the safety competition between Thomas DeCoud and James Sanders. Sanders was signed right before the Falcons' final preseason game and ended up starting last week's game against Philadelphia. DeCoud came back this week to start against Tampa and made an impression right away. After the Falcons lost a fumble on their first offensive drive, the Bucs took over deep in Atlanta's end. Josh Freeman tossed a pass to the end zone and DeCoud came down with it to end the scoring threat. Overall, DeCoud had a nice game with a couple of disrupted passes and tackles.
The word "explosive" has been tossed around for a while in reference to the Falcons' desires on offense. We saw a bit more of that come to fruition as it pertains to rookie wide receiver Julio Jones. Matt Ryan hit Jones for a 49-yard pass late in Sunday's game to set up a Tony Gonzalez TD catch to bring the Falcons within a touchdown of the lead. Two plays, just like that, and the Falcons were back in what had not been a banner game to that point.
Old Man and the TD
Tell Tony Gonzalez he's old. Tell him he's lost a step. I dare ya. He's been a huge bright spot in the Falcons offense this season, snagging two TDs last week and another this week — one that the Falcons really needed at that time. That TD tied Gonzalez with Isaac Bruce for ninth all-time in touchdown receptions in a career with 91. Last week, Gonzalez passed Terrell Owens in all-time receptions list to take possession of fifth place. If Gonzalez is slowing down, showing age or losing a step, it's not being seen on gameday.
The Falcons and Bucs couldn't keep the yellow laundry off the field Sunday. The game started going the wrong way immediately as two turnovers occurred in the first three plays of the game. Then the flags started to be thrown and they didn't stop coming. The two teams combined for 16 penalties Sunday, accounting for 116 yards. Tampa had more infractions with nine, but the Falcons added six.
Pressure Keeps Coming
The Falcons offensive line was one of the best in the league last year. After a unique offseason and losing Harvey Dahl to free agency, the front five has not had an easy time keeping Ryan off the ground. The problems continued Sunday as Tampa Bay's defensive front was a constant guest in the Falcons' backfield. Pressure caused Ryan to fumble the ball twice in his own end and twice Tampa Bay recovered. The Falcons' D held the Bucs to just three points on both those plays, but things could have been a lot worse.