Live from Tampa Bay: The Falcons seek to Buc(k) a trend

I'm not exactly sure what this evocative photo evokes, except that I could use some Gatorade. (AP photo)

I'm not exactly sure what this evocative image evokes, except a thirst for Gatorade. (AP photo)

Tampa — The Falcons are 9-1, but by my reckoning they’ve played one really good game in their past seven. (The one: At Philadelphia ahead of Hurricane Sandy.) Then again, they’ve won five of those six not-really-good games, so what’s the problem?

This: A team wants to be playing well in December, so as to keep playing well into January/February. The Falcons know this better than anyone, having seen consecutive seasons ended by teams that weren’t, as of Thanksgiving, anywhere near locks to qualify for postseason fun and frolic. We know already that these Falcons will make the playoffs. What we don’t know is if they’ll fare any better once there.

Today marks Game 1 of a loaded (and shortened) week. They play the Buccaneers, who’ve won four in a row, and then they play the Saints, who’ve won five of six, on Thursday night. Sweep the week and we won’t be quibbling, at least not so much. Get swept and the carping will be unconfined.

Confession: A couple of weeks back, I suggested this would be the venue for the Falcons’ first loss. As we know, the Saints interceded. Part of me thinks the Falcons are pointing toward this game as another checkpoint, same as they were the game in Philly. Then again, they wanted badly to win in the Superdome, and they didn’t. So here’s what I’m saying, kind of:

If the Falcons are as good as they (and I) think they are, they’ll win this one. But they can’t beat Tampa Bay by half-stepping, or by turning it over six times. They’ll have to play well, and it has been a while since they’ve managed that.

Whatever happens, I’ll be here to watch and comment, and I’d appreciate the company. And I thank you, as ever, in advance.

By Mark Bradley

1,274 comments Add your comment

stevie zero

November 25th, 2012
11:03 am

first? go birds

stevie zero

November 25th, 2012
11:05 am

any thoughts on wether or not rodgers or snelling may get more touches to jumpstart run game, mark?

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
11:05 am

Kudos, stevie zero.

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
11:06 am

I’m not sure the Falcons will run much. TB has the league’s worst pass defense

Saints R.E.A.M.

November 25th, 2012
11:18 am

How did the Falcons turn so fast into a pass-happy team? Uh…most likely the addition of Dirk Koetter. It is interesting to note that Falcon fans generally prefer 3 yards and a cloud of dust football. The problem is that the Falcons have no balance right now and that will come back to haunt them when they play good teams down the stretch. In short, you can’t put that much pressure on Matty to throw when everyone knows you are going to throw. Just the opposite of the Smith/Mularkey offense of years past.

misslissasav

November 25th, 2012
11:20 am

Couldn’t agree more Mark. All of this will be for not if the Falcons cannot get their mojo back heading into the post-season. If they want the respect they covet, they have got to get their ish together and play a complete game on both sides of the ball. Better tackling and pounding the run (more Rogers please) for starters.

Love my Falcons! Go get ‘em, Fellas!!

Saints R.E.A.M.

November 25th, 2012
11:22 am

Hey Mark, thanks for not blocking me. I’ve been on the …uh.. “bow-tie” blog…but it appears certain fans of other teams have been blocked. Nice that you allow a differing opinion on the blog….kudos.

headley lamar

November 25th, 2012
11:22 am

“Nobody has ever stopped my offense”

- Paul Johnson

Falcons Rule

November 25th, 2012
11:22 am

Taking care of business = 10-1.

Saints R.E.A.M.

November 25th, 2012
11:26 am

Yeah, you won’t see a lot of running from the Falcons today…..Tampa Bay also has the #1 rushing defense in the league. Tough game to try and get your running game going.

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
11:31 am

This is the second game I’ve covered in this stadium this year. The first was on Jan. 2. Georgia slightly lost to Michigan State.

falcon freak

November 25th, 2012
11:32 am

is franks our only hope for a punt for a td?

misslissasav

November 25th, 2012
11:34 am

Well if the run is out this game then I expect to see a lot more production out of Gonzalez, Jones (is he active today?), and ‘em. Whatever happened to those quick slant passes that Ryan/Gonzalez used to tear up defenses with? Haven’t seen too many of those lately.

IceColdATLien

November 25th, 2012
11:35 am

I’m really concerned with the fact that Bucs lead league in tackles-for-loss. Mark, given Turner’s lack of burst, do you think the Birds rely more on ‘Quizz today?

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
11:36 am

Funny you mention Tony Gonzalez. I’ve just been watching him go through a pre-warmup warmup. He prepares like … well, like a Hall of Fame professional.

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
11:37 am

I’m not seeing today as the Burner’s breakout. Remember how he kept getting zero to minus yards in the Superdome? That could happen here.

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
11:39 am

I believe Julio Jones is active. Hasn’t been confirmed, but that’s the buzz in the ol’ press box

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
11:40 am

Weather: It’s great. Today is why folks move to Florida.

IceColdATLien

November 25th, 2012
11:40 am

I hate using clichés, but this really is a statement game for the Falcons. Going on the road and beating probably the only team who can realistically challenge for the division crown would go a long way toward cementing ATL as a top-tier squad.

Falcons4Eva

November 25th, 2012
11:42 am

Do you think we can get a FULL and PRODUCTIVE game from Julio? How does he look in warmups? Same for Spoon? We need Run Stoppers bad today!

Decatur Falcon

November 25th, 2012
11:44 am

Looks like Mike Smith conservative play has crept back in. Extremely predictable like years past, not the high powered New England like offense nor aggresive defense we saw in the first few weeks of the season. They still don’t play with that swagger you are not on our level mentality. Only thing holding Falcons back is mental approach and that starts with M. Smith!

Stat Checker

November 25th, 2012
11:45 am

9 picks in last 5 games. Should we be worried?

Todd grantham

November 25th, 2012
11:47 am

Mark, quick turnaround time from Athens. Must have been a short night.

IceColdATLien

November 25th, 2012
11:47 am

#1 matchup of the day: Freeman vs. Nolan
The Bucs are going to run, so we should just accept that. What will decide the game is how well Nolan can confuse Freeman and induce either turnovers or negative/no gain plays.

Todd grantham

November 25th, 2012
11:51 am

Rumor has it that Paul Johnson is wandering around Tampa Stadium looking for his no show team.

Todd grantham

November 25th, 2012
11:52 am

Weather and no state income tax.

falcon freak

November 25th, 2012
11:52 am

the off. looks like they are not doing as much no huddel as they did earlier this year. keeping the d on there heals. are we going to get back to that or is that something we do only when we need it?

Navyman

November 25th, 2012
11:53 am

Can anyone tell me how many games have we won without forcing a turnover? Thanks.

JTH

November 25th, 2012
11:53 am

TB wins this one 27-24, but Atl wins the rematch in the Dome and finishes the season 13-3 earning home field advantage for the playoffs.

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
11:56 am

Julio Jones, Asante Samuel and Sean Weatherspoon are active.

Go Birds

November 25th, 2012
11:56 am

I’m setting the over/under on Turner’s yards per cary at 2.4

JTH

November 25th, 2012
11:58 am

And with that news, I’m changing my pick to Atlanta 30-27

Todd grantham

November 25th, 2012
11:59 am

Terrible pass defense vs Matty’s penchant for throwing pics. Should be entertaining.

Todd grantham

November 25th, 2012
12:00 pm

Over/under on Matty pics is 2.5

Ben

November 25th, 2012
12:02 pm

Won 2400 bucks when the saints beat us a couple weeks ago.

Got another 1500 on Tampa today.

I dont dislike the Falcons, they are just so predictable in these type games. Easy money. The ATL run defense is terrible, the secondary is mediocre, and Martin and Freeman are probably the hottest QB/RB tandem in the league right now. Tampa wins this one easy.

falcon freak

November 25th, 2012
12:03 pm

falcons love hamster meat. 28 14 atlanta

Todd grantham

November 25th, 2012
12:06 pm

Odds on Smitty blowing his stack. 2-1
Odds on A. blank sporting a new Italian suit. Even
Odds on Mark tossing a zinger at Smitty post game. Chance too remote for odds.
Odds on Mark lobbing a softball at Smitty. No bets offered on a sure thing.

misslissasav

November 25th, 2012
12:08 pm

“Julio Jones, Asante Samuel and Sean Weatherspoon are active.”

Yes!!!! I’m feeling a little better now. Thanks for the update Mark!

snoopy

November 25th, 2012
12:10 pm

MB, you expect the falcons to cover that 1 pt spread?

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 25th, 2012
12:11 pm

Falcons need to get back to the screens they ran successfully the first 6 games.

BTW say what u will about him, Asante’s a tough u know what.

Todd grantham

November 25th, 2012
12:15 pm

Mark, I understand that you have been nominated for the “Loran Smith Tough Inquisitor Award”. Best of luck.

doggoneit

November 25th, 2012
12:17 pm

Mark: All turnovers are automatically reviewed. What if the Falcons are on defense and recover a fumble and we know it wasn’t a fumble but on the field the refs called it one. Before play is stopped by the refs for review, Mike Smith throws the challenge flag so the play can’t be reviewed. Do the Falcons get the ball minus a 15 yard penalty?

kreedham

November 25th, 2012
12:26 pm

If Spoon plays we’ll win!

Your Comment is awaiting moderation

November 25th, 2012
12:30 pm

Are we allowed to critizie Matty Ice without having our comments erased or banned?

Adogg36

November 25th, 2012
12:32 pm

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
12:33 pm

Stumped the band, doggoneit has.

jax

November 25th, 2012
12:40 pm

Best Falcons season ever – so far- now comes hard part- December/January-Teams playing best in December have big edge- Tampa looks like get better every week- Falcons Mgmt keeps telling us that they have The Players needed to win-hope they are right but big LB would be nice and a big,fast RB-AND MATTY ICE throw ball UP and OVER Defensive Backs, you’ve got some of the best “jumper” receivers in all of Football- give them a chance when DB coverage is close- Go Falcons-TWO DIVISION WINS IN ONE WEEK

snoopy

November 25th, 2012
12:43 pm

DANG MB, you cant give me an answer? got 15 mins to wager my bet

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
12:44 pm

Anyone who asks me for betting advice is probably better served keeping that money in the ol’ pocket.

Mark Bradley

November 25th, 2012
12:44 pm

It’s not going to be a full house today. Tampa Bay’s attendance has crashed in recent years.