The Bucs fall to division rivals New Orleans in the Superdome - 11/6/2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday October 16.
Ntohing beats a win in on national TV in front of a sold out crowd!
Most teams sitting atop their conference, playing essentially a meaningless game, sit their starters after some time. Most coaches believe that the risk of injury as they head into the playoffs is too great, and with nothing to play for - the backups get an extended look.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith is apparently not one of those coaches.
Atlanta kept Matt Ryan and Co. in the entire contest as they fell 22-17 to the Bucs. Along the way to finishing 13-3, the exact reason coaches pull the starters happened when LB John Abraham was sidelined in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
The Bucs defense shined - allowing the NFC South Division champs to convert three-of-14 third downs and holding Ryan to 238 passing yards - 13 shy of tying the record set by Green Bay last year at 4,796 passing yards allowed in a single-season.
The pass rush was effective throughout the game with limited stunts and blitzes highlighted by a rookie LB Lavonte David sack as time expired in the first half that sent Ryan through the air for a loss of 16 yards.
At times, Buccaneers QB Freeman was poised, decisive, and consistent. At others, he reverted back to the quarterback who struggled the past two weeks. Freeman finished the game 19-of-35 for 222 yards an interception and a touchdown, his 27th passing TD of the season, eclipsing the mark set by Brad Johnson in 2003 as most passing touchdowns in a season in Bucs history.
Rookie sensation Doug Martin was off to a slow start, but found his legs and amassed 142 yards on 28 attempts (5.1 average per carry) with a score.
Although no Tampa Bay receiver had more than 65 yards (Mike Williams, six receptions 65 yards), six total had double-digit receiving yardage - including Martin who caught four passes for 18 yards.
The Bucs will now head back to Tampa for some rest before beginning to work towards next season. From the 7-9 2012 record they have a lot of work to do, but a foundation has been laid that this team will fight to the very end.