AtlantaFalcons.com contributing writer Daniel Cox takes a day-after look at the Falcons' 28-24 win over the Bucs on Sunday. In typical fashion the Falcons executed a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, but there were plenty of unsung heroes that helped get them into the victory circle.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. —There was no doubt when Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli saw that Jason Snelling wouldn't be in Sunday's game, he grinned a little.
Not because his fellow running back's absence would mean more playing time for him, but because he knew he'd be needed a little more.
A guy like Mughelli relishes the opportunity to step up for his team, and after a big 16-yard reception last week, the eight-year pro knew he'd be a little more than a blocker this week in the passing game with the team's top backfield receiving option out.
He took advantage of the opportunity, catching a 17-yard pass in the second quarter that he turned into an animated touchdown run.
With no one to block, the fullback slipped out into the left flat and caught the Matt Ryan pass and rushed up the field, breaking a tackle that almost took his feet out from under him.
He maintained his balance to step into the end zone for the fifth time in his career, his first this season rushing or receiving.
The touchdown appeared to be a little bit of timing, a touch of luck and a ton of effort.
"Fullbacks don't get that many chances to touch the ball," Mughelli said. "So when I got the ball, turned around and saw the end zone, I had to get there. I wasn't going to let anybody knock me over, push me down, drag me down. I had to get in the end zone."
Behind Enemy Lines:Coming into Sunday's game, there was a lot of talk about Tampa Bay having an 0-4 record against teams with winning records.
After losing their second straight game, also to winning teams, the Bucs fall to 7-5 and their chances for the playoffs are slipping away.
The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings shared the Bucs view of their playoff chances in his postgame story.
On the outside looking in as it stands right now, the Bucs have a lot stacked against them to get into the playoffs, including two losses to the Falcons and one full game behind the two teams battling for the final wildcard spot.
While no one is saying it, the writing may be on the wall for the Bucs; Sunday's loss to the Falcons may have put them out of contention.
"I thought we had to win out coming into this game,'' linebacker Barrett Ruud is quoted as saying in Cummings' article. "Now I know for sure that we have to win out.''
From the FanCast:You think William Moore's a fan favorite?
This from a fan during the Tampa-Atlanta FanCast that concluded a slew of comments following the safety's two big hits in the second quarter to stop a Bucs drive.
"Oh William Moore's playing!"
The irony isn't lost on many. Yes, William Moore's playing, and yes, each week he makes it known that he's in the ball game.
Statistically Speaking:Even when the Falcons are not at their best, they still find ways to win and they still do some impressive things.
Quarterback Matt Ryan certainly didn't have the kind of day he's been used to having lately, but he put together the game-winning drive and kept up a run of some impressive play.
On the day, he had two touchdowns to go along with 205 yards passing. It was the seventh time this season the third-year quarterback has passed for two touchdowns or more in one game. He's also thrown at least one TD in 11 straight games.
Staying in the Ryan department, his game-winning drive Sunday was his sixth of the season and gives him a remarkable 13 in his career. Ryan's had late-game heroics such as Sunday's in three of the past four games.
Pivotal Play:Eric Weems has been making plays on special teams all season.
The player head coach Mike Smith described as a "core special teams player" during the preseason is living up to his billing.
The past few weeks, Weems has made a play on the opposing team's return man to help preserve a victory and this week he made his biggest play of the season with the ball in his own hands.
His 102-yard kick return in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons the quick score they needed and served to swing the momentum in a huge way. Weems gets a lot of the credit, but it was a total team effort to set up the return that set the franchise record.
"The play today was the play of our kickoff return team," head coach Mike Smith said. "It was a great individual effort by Eric Weems, but it was also very good blocking at the end of that return that sprung him for that touchdown."
During his return, Weems ran through three players, showing an effort of determination and heart that 10-2 teams need. He's earned the respect of his teammates all season, but Sunday may have given them a new appreciation for what Weems can do.
"Weems is an amazing special teams player," Mughelli said. "I think he's a sleeper pick for the Pro Bowl. A man who can cover like that, return like that and play all special teams like that, he's a heck of a player."
Because often a player's words from the moment can highlight a special play much better than any writer's words can, the following is Weems' description of the return:
"In the huddle the guys were telling me to bring it out, no matter how deep it was. 'Just bring it out, we've got your back. We're going to seal blocks and hopefully we'll get into the end zone.'
"I saw the look in the guys eyes. There was fire and passion. Instead of me talking in the huddle, the other guys spoke up.
"They said 'Come on, we've got to do this. It's going to take us to bring us back and keep us in the game.' I brought it out and it was a bounce to the right. I just cut it back and guys sealed their blocks. After about 90 (yards) I got tired, but guys were still running with me, sealing blocks. They did a great job. Hats off to the them. They did a great job for me."
That's A Wrap:Ten-and-two.
Monday's outcome will decide who the Falcons share the ten-win mantle with, but regardless there's a lot to be proud of.
But there's still a lot of work to be done.
Up next are the Carolina Panthers, and 1-11 conference opponents should always make you nervous. The Panthers would like nothing more than to spoil Atlanta's hot streak of six straight wins and gain their second in the process.
It's the second road game in a stretch of three for the Falcons and they're fortunate it's in close proximity to Atlanta. The Week 15 game is a cross-country trek to Seattle.
At 10-2 with four games remaining is something a little unfamiliar to Falcons fans, but for the players on this team, they almost seem like they don't know any better.