Galloway lined up wide to the left. Hall set up about eight yards off Galloway. At the snap, Hall backpedaled then moved forward into a position to defend a slant. Why? Galloway moved slightly inside coming off the line, indicating that he was running a slant. Nope. Either by design or improvisation, Galloway cut outside once he noticed Hall had committed inside and blew by him. Hall never had a chance to catch up. Because the Falcons like to use man coverage and little safety help, the Bucs managed an easy score.
Donald Penn has acquitted himself nicely in Luke Petitgout's place at left tackle. But he still has a long way to go. Falcons DE John Abraham exposed that on Sunday as he used a bull rush to shove an already backpedaling Penn off-balance. Abraham used the bull rush and superior position to sack Bucs QB Jeff Garcia. Abraham isn't easy to block to begin with, but no tackle can afford to get off-balance against him, as Penn did on that play. Penn probably lost the battle, overall, against Abraham on Sunday.
The Bucs are glad to have TE Alex Smith back and his touchdown catch in the third quarter on Sunday was a clear reason why.
Smith caught the touchdown pass with two Falcons surrounding him. Garcia threw the pass off-balance as he was pressured. Let's see how the play developed.
Smith lined up next to RT Jeremy Trueblood. The Bucs were in an offset I formation run play with two receivers split wide. This was a pure pass route for Smith, who broke immediately from the line of scrimmage. FB B.J. Askew picked up Smith's blocking assignment. Behind Garcia, Abraham rushed forward, having gone unblocked due to the blocking scheme. RB Earnest Graham was the only thing standing between Abraham and an unwitting Garcia.
Graham did a terrible job of getting into position to block Abraham. But at the last minute he threw his body into Abraham's path just enough to force Abraham a bit outside. By then, Garcia knew pressure was coming and was looking to unload the football.
Smith's route took him right up the seam to Garcia's right. S Lawyer Milloy expected the play to come to his right side — the opposite side of Smith. Garcia saw Smith in open field with Milloy shading toward the opposite hashmark. That made it an easy read for Garcia. The trick on this play was Garcia's pass beating Milloy to Smith. Milloy hit him hard and if the pass had been a second later, Milloy could have jarred the ball loose.
Graham's touchdown run to end the scoring was an example of an offensive line's cumulative effect on a defensive line. The Bucs had spent most of the second half running the ball as Graham took the football to start the fourth quarter. The Falcons defense never stood a chance of stopping him.
The Bucs ran a pitch play with an overloaded right side, which meant two tight ends and a pulling Davin Joseph were there to lead the path. Joseph put together the final outside seal block to create the seam to spring Graham. From there, Graham made one nice move around Houston to score the touchdown.
Defensively, the Buccaneers forced four turnovers. They weren't the recipients of inefficient play. They actually FORCED all those turnovers. Three of them led to touchdowns:
No. 1: Falcons QB Byron Leftwich was hit by Bucs DT Jovan Haye as he let go of the football and LB Barrett Ruud picked off the pass. How did Haye get there? He lined up right over the left shoulder of the center. At the snap, both the center and Haye moved to Haye's left, and Falcons LG Justin Blalock came over to help. But Blalock shifted too far to that side, leaving a big hole to his left. Haye caught the overshift, cut to his right and through the hole left by Blalock's shift and hit Leftwich.
No. 2: In a shotgun formation on 3rd-and-10, Bucs DE Greg White caught Leftwich from behind, jarred the ball loose and CB Ronde Barber picked it up and ran 41 yards for a touchdown. The Bucs collapsed the pocket and flushed Leftwich upfield. White, playing right end, turned the corner on his blocker and headed straight after Leftwich. White caught Leftwich's arm from behind and forced the fumble. It should be noted the Bucs put this pressure on Leftwich with just three linemen. Barber picked up the football and split two would-be Falcons tacklers to score.
No. 3: Bucs DE Gaines Adams hit Leftwich as he threw, forcing the ball into the air where DT Chris Hovan intercepted it. Adams ran a simple speed rush on backup LT Quinn Ojinnaka. He was able to get around Ojinnaka, extend his right arm and hit Leftwich's throwing arm as he started his forward pass. Ojinnaka never established good position on Adams.
The Falcons made a bad decision trying to stretch the corner on 4th-and-1 in the third quarter. Warrick Dunn and the Falcons ran a stretch play that yielded no yardage. The Bucs defended the edges well all day against the speedy Dunn. Barrett Ruud and Derrick Brooks forced Dunn to stretch the run out further, and Barber bulled past a wide receiver to cut off Dunn's last escape route to tackle him for a loss. The Falcons would have been much better off with a quarterback sneak or an off-tackle play.
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Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.