Falcons 31, Bucs 23: Postgame takeaways & observations

Two teams met Sunday at the Georgia Dome, each desperately needing a victory. When it was over, the Atlanta Falcons received a breather from their swoon. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers keep gasping for air.

With the 31-23 defeat, the Bucs dropped to 0-6 and lost their 11th game in their past 12 tries under coach Greg Schiano. Playing without two of his top targets, Matt Ryan had little problem ripping a Bucs defense that looks vulnerable after playing well through the season’s first four weeks.

It was a different day, different setting, different opponent. But the result remained the same: The Bucs lost, again, and it was little surprise to see it happen.

Here are a few thoughts and observations from the latest letdown …

1. The Bucs failed to take advantage of the Falcons’ offensive injuries.

Who would have guessed Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers would become such factors with Roddy White and Julio Jones inactive?

Dougles finished with 149 yards and a touchdown on seven catches, and Rodgers had 46 yards on eight catches with two touchdowns. Credit Matt Ryan, who had 273 yards on 20-of-26 passing with three touchdowns. But Tampa Bay’s pass defense was a big reason for this loss.

After playing well before the bye, the Bucs’ defense has shown cracks the past two weeks. First, Nick Foles burned them for 296 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-31 passing last week. Sunday, it was Ryan’s turn to take a swing. This was a missed opportunity against less than the best Atlanta has to offer, plain and simple.

2. Credit Mike Glennon, who continues to grow each week.

Yes, he had the awful fumble in the first quarter, which Thomas Decoud returned 30 yards for Atlanta’s first touchdown. But the rookie showed some positive things Sunday, especially during a stretch when he led the Bucs within a touchdown in the third quarter after they trailed 24-7 late in the second.

I’ll go as far to say the Bucs would have folded when down 24-7 with Josh Freeman behind center. The fact that they rallied showed Glennon has added some spark to this offense, even if it wasn’t enough with Ryan’s merry band of backups gashing Tampa Bay’s defense all afternoon.

Glennon finished 26-of-44 passing with 256 yards and two touchdowns.

3. If linebacker Lavonte David’s not a Pro Bowl player at season’s end, I’ll be surprised.

Nationally, he’s known for his shove of Geno Smith that allowed the New York Jets to beat the Bucs in Week 1. But week after week, the second-year player performs at a high level.

Sunday, he had 10 tackles, all unassisted, including three for a loss. At one point in the first half, it was fair to ask, “Is there anyone other than No. 54 on this defense?”

Tackle Gerald McCoy is the emotional leader of this unit, but David has been the Bucs’ most consistent player on that side of the ball throughout the season. If the Bucs were relevant outside of the Tampa Bay region for reasons other than the Josh Freeman divorce, MRSA problems and a winless record, David would be more well-known. He’s a keeper.

4. Doug Martin can’t be out for long.

For the Bucs, a scary moment came when Martin was sprawled on the turf, in pain because of an apparent shoulder injury in the third quarter, after a hit from William Moore broke up a pass from Glennon near the end zone.

After rushing for 1,454 yards last season, Martin has only had one 100-plus-yard rushing game this season — with 144 against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 — but he remains the engine that makes this offense run.

Mike James ran admirably in Martin’s absence with 45 yards on 14 carries. But Martin is one piece on offense the Bucs can’t afford to be without for long.

5. How many penalties can one team have?

It’s silly to write about this each week, but it remains a theme with these Bucs.

Sunday, they had 11 penalties for 103 yards. They began the day as the league’s second-most penalized team, averaging 8.6 a game. Meanwhile, their average of 82.6 penalty yards per game ranked at the league’s worst total to begin the game.

Apparently, penalties are a part of this team’s DNA. There’s no way around it. No amount of discussion or preparation will change this, for whatever reason. Bad teams find ways to beat themselves. The Bucs continue to do just that.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.