Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Short takes: Sloppy Falcons gift-wrap game for mediocre Bucs


Well, that was ugly. In another throwback performance to last season, the Falcons lost to Tampa Bay 23-20 in overtime. They committed four turnovers, which led to all 20 Buccaneers' points before the overtime. I'll have a full column on the game posted soon on MyAJC.com . Until then, here are my three "short takes" on the game.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the game column.

Here are the short takes:

1 Good Teams Don't Play Like This: The 23-20 loss to Tampa Bay makes three straight mediocre performances by the Falcons, following a 31-21 loss at New Orleans and a 10-7 narrow escape at Tennessee. The Falcons are 6-2 but 0-2 against NFC South opponents, which could be a factor later in the season. The Falcons lost despite having 496 yards in total offense to the Bucs 290. How does that happen? With turnovers. The Falcons had three in the first half and one in the second. Quarterback Matt Ryan had two (interception and an aborted handoff to Devonta Freeman), Julio Jones lost the ball after a long gain and center Mike Person rolled a dreadful snap attempt, which seems to be a Falcons' center specialty this season (James Stone did it in the New Orleans game). The Falcons' offense was in the red zone six times but two of those ended in turnovers, two in field goals and two in touchdowns. That's just giving too many points away.

2. Lovie Smith, What Are You Doing? Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith got away with one. His team was in the process of blowing a gift-wrapped 20-3 lead but still lead 20-12 with two minutes left when he surprisingly decided to have his offense go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 40. The Falcons had zero timeouts left. The logical decision would've been to punt the ball and make the Falcons go 80 yards (or more) to tie the game with no timeouts. But the Bucs went for it and quarterback Jameis Winston was buried. "I would make that call 10 out of 10 times," Smith said later. Yeah. And he'd be wrong each time. The Falcons took over and Ryan drove the team 40 yards in five plays (one minute, 35 seconds) to the game-tying touchdown. Winston and the Bucs' defense rescued their head coach with an overtime win. But the game never should have gotten that far.

3. The Greatest Play That Didn't Count: We knew Julio Jones was a great receiver. But did you know he also could teach a class in defensive pursuit and tackling? On the Falcons' opening drive, Ryan threw an interception four yards deep in the end zone that Tampa Bay linebacker Kwon Alexander returned 93 yards and appeared on his way for a touchdown. But Jones -- the only Falcon in near pursuit -- somehow ran him down, grabbed him and threw him down at the Falcons' 11-yard line. As it turned out, the entire play was nullified by a Bucs' offsides penalty but the crowd was still buzzing after watching Jones' play on the video board.


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.