Falcons Flashback: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, December 5, 2010

The Falcons 2017 season is entering its final legs. Of course, they've been in the big legs of seeing their divisional enemies of the Saints, Panthers, and Buccaneers for the past month already. Actually 5 of the last 6 tilts have been the NFC South foes for the Falcons.

Tampa Bay and Atlanta have a rivalry that is relatively hated, more on the field, and especially when both teams are good, but it is definitely nothing like the Falcons and Saints have and not really even in the same league as the Falcons and Panthers. Probably one small problem is that the rivalries the Falcons, Panthers, and Saints have (even with each other) date back longer due to the old NFC West days from 1995-2001 while Tampa Bay resided in the NFC Central. But the Bucs when they are winning, pretty much have a larger target on the back than the other 3 because they haven't been historic rivals than the others.

But the Bucs with Gruden and slightly after still had a few players that would just get under your skin of the NFC South foes. But in the post Gurden years, the Bucs started to wane a bit under Raheem Morris. In 2009, Tampa Bay collapsed to 3-13 and reminiscent of the Creamsicle uniforms with old Bucco Bruce on the helmet. However in 2010, the NFC South, always having that one surprise team yearly, had the Bucs. The funny part was they were considered to be at the bottom. The Saints were the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Falcons were becoming an offensive juggernaut, and the Panthers still were a tough crew. Hard to imagine the Bucs breaking that group.

Turned out, that they were doing their best to do so. Carolina fell apart in 2010 badly, going 2-14 (thus getting Cam Newton in the draft). New Orleans had defensive woes all year and weren't the same team. And the Falcons were becoming the team to beat with their high-octane offense under coach Mike Smith. But Tampa wanted to break things up.

Earlier in the year, the Falcons took down the Buccaneers in the Georgia Dome 27-21. It was a game the Falcons never gave up a lead on, but never really put the nail in the coffin until late. And leading up into the game, the Falcons had two huge wins, a Thursday night classic against Baltimore where Matt Ryan was turning heads with a late drive victory, and and 2 weeks later a war with Green Bay with Matt Bryant kicking the game-winning Field Goal with no time remaining. However, despite being 9-2, the Falcons had the Saints (8-3) and Buccaneers (7-4) on their tails and not letting up.

The Buccaneers decided to honor their "past" by donning the Bucco Bruce era helmets and the Creamsicle uniforms. Maybe to blind the Falcons?

The first half was back and forth as the Falcons and Buccaneers traded two touchdowns each to go in the half tied at 14, which really was a bruising half as Michael Turner and Tampa's LeGarrette Blount shouldered the load while neither Matt Ryan or Josh Freeman were lighting it up.

When the third quarter came around, Atlanta didn't do much better on offense and didn't make the adjustments well while the Bucs did move the ball on the Falcon defense fairly well, despite only scoring 3 points in the 3rd to take a 17-14 lead.

The offense continued to scuffle in the 4th when Ryan threw an interception to Corey Lynch giving Tampa GREAT field position, to which the Bucs took advantage of on a trick play touchdown by Earnest Graham to Jon Gilmore to put them up 24-14 with 10:30 left to play.

Then Eric Weems, who was having a Pro Bowl year, ran one back 102 yards for Atlanta to shut down any major deficit while the momentum swung Atlanta's way. The Falcons force a 3-and-out on the next drive by Tampa Bay with Jonathan Babineaux bringing down Freeman for a key 3rd down sack. Atlanta drove down the field in no time, with help by Tampa Bay's penalties (pass interference by Ronde Barber and a horse-collar by Quincy Black). And a Ryan to Michael Jenkins TD pass put the Falcons ahead for good.

Tampa Bay had one last chance to drive down, to which they were doing until Freeman got picked off by Brent Grimes to end the Bucs chances.....and really it changed Tampa Bay's season of trying to take the NFC South Championship away from the Falcons and Saints.

Atlanta continued their run, winning the division before losing in the Divisional Playoff to Green Bay, but the Falcons remained at or near the top for 2 more years in the NFC. Yes, Tampa did win 3 of their final 4, but the one loss was a stinging one to lowly Detroit, who had not won a road game in 2 years at that point. Tampa Bay was unable to jump ahead of either the Packers or the Saints in the Wild Card standings and honestly, it has been their best chance since then as they've gone backwards to those teams in the Creamsicle era.

More ironic has been that key figures in this game are now on the other sides. Mike Smith, who was fired by Atlanta after 2014 with two lackluster years in 2013 and 14, is now the Buccaneers defensive coordinator (though Bucs fans believe after the first match-up this year he is secretly working for the Falcons after his style of play netted Julio Jones 12 catches for 250+ yards and 2 TD). Raheem Morris is now the Falcons WR coach under Dan Quinn. Grimes plays cornerback for the Bucs so there are Atlanta/Tampa ties.

Monday's tilt seems to be what looks like a lopsided game with the 8-5 Falcons and the 4-9 Buccaneers, but like most rivalries, anything can happen.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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