Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris told the Atlanta media this week that in order for this series to be considered a rivalry his team needed to win more games against the Falcons, and Tampa Bay hasn't done that recently. It's true that the Falcons have captured four in a row against the Bucs, but I don't think it diminishes the intensity of this rivalry. Nor does it change the definition.
With all due respect to Coach Morris, my view of a rivalry may be different than his. The past four Falcons wins have come by three (in overtime), three, 10 and six points (in Week 9 this year). These games are always passionate, physical and hard-fought battles with a ton of emotion spilling out all over the field. That's my definition of a rivalry.
Most people may think playing a team twice in the same division is automatic grounds for calling that opponent a true rival. But is it really?
Ask the Steelers if the Bengals game twice each season is more of a rivalry than the Browns. There is something about the Browns that gets their juices flowing in a certain way that is different than the Bengals.
I already talked about how the Bucs were the bullies in this series at one point in my last blog prior to the first encounter this season. Their success at that time fueled this rivalry and made the Falcons determined to change that course. I think that's what a good rivalry can do.
There are going to be normal ebbs and flows in each rivalry when a certain team puts together a winning streak like Atlanta currently enjoys. But it's the dynamics of each game and how those games are actually being contested is what also makes it a rivalry.
It's apropos that the Bucs will be wearing their old orange throwback uniforms this weekend (in commemoration of their first ever team in 1976). This game pits two adversaries who enjoy banging against each other whenever the opportunity presents itself. Just like true throwbacks would. I would classify that as a rivalry.