– Even with Falcons owner Arthur Blank pacing the sidelines next to the team bench on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, there would be no miracle finish to pull out another improbable victory.
After defensive tackle Corey Peters inexplicably jumped offsides on a fourth down-and-1, the Buccaneers secured a 16-13 win over the Falcons in the NFC South opener for both teams.
“Stupid,” Peters said. “It was my fault. I take 100 percent of the blame for that. I’ve been warned about that over and over again. Everybody has warned me about that.
“The defensive coordinator, head coach and the middle linebacker; so it was 100 percent my fault. I knew not to do that.”
Defensive end John Abraham, one of the leaders of the defense, called Peters’ play “unacceptable.”
But for all the beating up of himself, Peters was not the only member of the team who had a bad play or a bad game.
There were a slew of penalties, a key dropped pass by All-Pro wide receiver Roddy White on an apparent touchdown, another poor showing by the offensive line, Matt Ryan over threw a wide open Tony Gonzalez in the endzone and there was a key failed fourth-down conversion.
Also, the running game was stopped in its tracks by a defense that was giving up 156 yards per game. The Falcons, and their proud Pro Bowlers Michael Turner and Ovie Mughelli, were held to 30 yards on 15 carries.
The Bucs, who had dropped the last five games to the Falcons, improved to 2-1. Atlanta dipped to 1-2.
“I got excited or whatever,” Peters said. “It was stupid. I won’t say that it cost us the game, but it definitely ended the game.”
Peters, who started 15 games last season as a rookie, was calm after the game. He didn’t dodge any questions.
He kept arriving at the same conclusion.
“It was stupid,” Peters said. “It didn’t give us the opportunity. There is no excuse for it.”
The Falcons had planned to stop the Bucs, and then march down for a field goal to send the game into overtime or a touchdown for the victory.
The Falcons, who won seven games in the fourth quarter or overtime last season, appeared poised to snatch a win away from the Buccaneers just like they did last week against the Philadelphia Eagles with two late 80-yard touchdown drives.
But this time, the Bucs, on the legs of powerful second-year running back LeGarrette Blount, were able to run out the clock with the aid of Peters’ penalty.
Earlier, fueled by Falcons’ turnovers, the Bucs built a 16-3 lead with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
After a Falcons punt, safety William Moore had an interception. The Falcons drove down to the Bucs’ 7, but on a fourth-and 3, Tampa Bay safety Corey Lynch batted down a pass intended for running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
“Jacquizz ran a good route and did what we asked him to do,” Ryan said. “We have to make those plays.”
The defense got another stop and the light finally came on for the offense. Ryan covered 41 yards in two plays, tossing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez to make it 16-10.
After another stop from the defense, the offense appeared set to score, but had to settle for a field goal after White dropped a pass in the flat. He took his eyes off the ball as he was turning upfield into a clear path to the endzone.
“It’s difficult to continue to come back week after week,” Ryan said. “Today, I certainly thought that after we got that first [touchdown], we were going to move the ball down again. We moved it pretty effectively, but we just weren’t able to punch it in.”
Ryan finished with 330 yards passing as he completed 26 of 47 passes. White had nine catches for 140 yards and rookie Julio Jones had six catches for 115 yards.
“At the end of the day, we just dug ourselves too big of a hole,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said.
The Falcons have trailed by 10 points in each of their games this season.
“It’s not just one person,” Smith said. “Not just in one phase. It’s across the board. I’ll take full responsibility for that. . .We’ve got a lot of areas to address.”
The Falcons travel to play Seattle next week before hosting Green Bay at the Georgia Dome on Oct. 9 in a rematch of the divisionsal playoff game.