Fan of stingy defenses? Bucs-Falcons is not the place to be

AP

Print Article

  • FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2017, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith, left, talks with head coach Dirk Koetter before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, in New Orleans. The Bucs' defensive woes have put the heat on coordinator Mike Smith, a former head coach of the Falcons. But head coach Dirk Koetter has resisted calls to make a change. "Every week, every game, it's way bigger than any one guy," Koetter said. "It's never all one person's fault and it's never all one person's credit." (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

  • 1

    FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2018, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) and forces a fumble that was later recovered for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, in Pittsburgh. The Falcons, who play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, are off to their worst start since 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, FIle)

  • 2

    FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2018, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) looks to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, in Chicago. Winston will get his first start of the season for the Buccaneers. Winston served a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy and came off the bench in Tampa Bay's last game. After a bye week, the No. 1 job again belongs to Winston. (AP Photo/David Banks, File)

  • 3

    FILE - In this July 27, 2018, file photo, Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel stands on the field at an NFL football training camp practice in Flowery Branch, Ga. The scoreboard at Mercedes-Benz Stadium figures to get a workout Sunday in the matchup between NFC South rivals. Tampa Bay (2-2) has surrendered more points per game than any team in the league (34.75), while the Falcons (1-4) are right on their heels with an average of 32.6.(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

  • 4

    FILE - In this Aug. 24, 2018 file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston throws a pass before an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Tampa, Fla. Winston is working off the rust and preparing for his first start for the Buccaneers since serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

  • FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2017, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith, left, talks with head coach Dirk Koetter before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, in New Orleans. The Bucs' defensive woes have put the heat on coordinator Mike Smith, a former head coach of the Falcons. But head coach Dirk Koetter has resisted calls to make a change. "Every week, every game, it's way bigger than any one guy," Koetter said. "It's never all one person's fault and it's never all one person's credit." (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

  • 1

    FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2018, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) and forces a fumble that was later recovered for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, in Pittsburgh. The Falcons, who play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, are off to their worst start since 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, FIle)

  • 2

    FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2018, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) looks to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, in Chicago. Winston will get his first start of the season for the Buccaneers. Winston served a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy and came off the bench in Tampa Bay's last game. After a bye week, the No. 1 job again belongs to Winston. (AP Photo/David Banks, File)

  • 3

    FILE - In this July 27, 2018, file photo, Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel stands on the field at an NFL football training camp practice in Flowery Branch, Ga. The scoreboard at Mercedes-Benz Stadium figures to get a workout Sunday in the matchup between NFC South rivals. Tampa Bay (2-2) has surrendered more points per game than any team in the league (34.75), while the Falcons (1-4) are right on their heels with an average of 32.6.(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

  • 4

    FILE - In this Aug. 24, 2018 file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston throws a pass before an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Tampa, Fla. Winston is working off the rust and preparing for his first start for the Buccaneers since serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

ATLANTA (AP) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers must be licking their chops for the chance to go against the Atlanta defense.

Then again, the Falcons' offense is surely just as pumped to get on the field against the Bucs.

A fan of stingy defenses?

You've come to the wrong place.

The scoreboard at Mercedes-Benz Stadium figures to get a workout Sunday in the matchup between NFC South rivals. Tampa Bay (2-2) has surrendered more points per game than any team in the league (34.75), while the Falcons (1-4) are right on their heels with an average of 32.6.

The Bucs' defensive woes have put the heat on coordinator Mike Smith, a former head coach of the Falcons. Smith's boss, Dirk Koetter, has resisted calls to make a change.

"Every week, every game, it's way bigger than any one guy," the Tampa Bay coach said. "It's never all one person's fault and it's never all one person's credit."

Smith said he's confident the Bucs can turn things around.

"We did some things in the first three games that you can look forward and say, 'Gosh darn, those guys, they've got a chance to do some things well,'" Smith said. "We've been an inconsistent group and really that's frustrating as a coach because you don't like to put the inconsistencies out on the field."

The Falcons are on the defensive about their defense, as well. For the first time since 1987, Atlanta has given up at least 37 points in three straight games.

It would be easy to point to a rash of injuries to key players. Safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal are both out for the season, linebacker Deion Jones will miss at least eight games, and tackle Grady Jarrett sat out last week's contest with a sprained ankle.

"We will never make excuses," defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said. "We are professionals. We're asking the guys to dominate their gap and their job. I think any man that puts on a helmet should be able to do that, what we're asking them to do. With the ability that you have, if you give us the maximum, we know that's just enough."

Tampa Bay will be looking to strike quickly. Each of the last three weeks, the Falcons have surrendered long touchdown drives on their opponents' first possession.

"They've been marching it down on us pretty easy," defensive end Takk McKinley moaned.

Some other things to watch for when the Falcons host the Buccaneers:

WINSTON RETURNS

Quarterback Jameis Winston will get his first start of the season for the Bucs.

He served a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy and came off the bench in Tampa Bay's last game. After a bye week, the No. 1 job again belongs to Winston.

Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in three straight games while Winston was sidelined, but the "FitzMagic" show came to a crashing halt in a 48-10 loss to Chicago.

Nevertheless, Koetter praised his team for staying competitive while its starting QB was out.

"We're not exactly where we want to be," the coach said, "but we're also right where we need to be as far as competing for the next 12 weeks."

BALANCING ACT

The Falcons are at their best when there's not much discrepancy between the number of running and passing plays.

In their lone victory, a 31-24 triumph over the Carolina Panthers in Week 2, the Falcons ran 32 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns while completing 23 of 28 passes for 272 yards and two more scores. But in last Sunday's blowout loss to the Steelers , Atlanta ran just 19 times for 62 yards and went to the air 45 times.

"That's part of our identity on offense," coach Dan Quinn said. "We've got to make sure the run game and the play-action pass go hand in hand. That is always at the top of our thinking. When we do that, we're at our best."

NOT-SO-SPECIAL TEAMS

Atlanta has given up blocked punts in two of the last three games, leading to a pair of short touchdown drives.

Both miscues were simply a matter of blockers getting beaten: Eric Saubert on one play, rookie Foyesade Oluokun on the other.

"It is 100 percent unacceptable for that to happen," Quinn said. "We'd like to get that squared away so it never rears its head again."

BUCS DOWN WITH JPP

Jason Pierre-Paul, who was acquired in a trade with the Giants , has been a force on Tampa Bay's defensive line. Over his past three games, he has four sacks and caused a fumble.

Now, he's going against an Atlanta line that gave up six sacks to the Steelers last weekend.

"Jason is such a competitive guy," Smith said. "We want to have a rotation and it's hard to get him off the field because he wants to play every snap."

TOUGH START

The Falcons are off to their worst start since 2013 .

"We didn't expect to be here," Quinn said. "But we don't expect to stay here, either."

The last time Atlanta began a season 1-5 was 2007, a dismal campaign marred by the downfall of franchise quarterback Michael Vick, who went to prison for dogfighting, and coach Bobby Petrino abandoning the team after only 13 games.

___

AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall contributed to this report.

___

For more AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NFLfootball and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

___

   

Print Article

Read More National & World Sports

Lots of Broncos fans on hand to watch rout of Cardinals

AP

October 19, 2018 at 5:00 am | GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) There were a lot of orange-clad Denver fans in the stands in Arizona. They must have loved watching the Broncos beat down the host Cardinals 45-10 Thursday night. "That...

Comments

Read More

Haas fighting for 'best of the rest' in year 3

AP

October 19, 2018 at 5:00 am | AUSTIN, Texas (AP) The third season for Haas F1 has been its best, even if it's been a bit bizarre. Formula One's only U.S.-based team has scored the most points in its young history and overco...

Comments

Read More

Cowboys' draft gamble paying off in emerging LB Jaylon Smith

AP

October 18, 2018 at 6:20 pm | FRISCO, Texas (AP) Jaylon Smith makes himself presentable for the cameras, then turns to his locker to grab one last thing before starting an interview: the neck pad given to him by hard-nosed defe...

Comments

Read More

Struggling Buccaneers D braces for Mayfield-led Browns

AP

October 18, 2018 at 5:34 pm | TAMPA, Fla. (AP) There was a time when teams with defensive woes similar to those of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could count on the Cleveland Browns for relief. Not anymore. A little over a mo...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2018 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X