As originally posted here.
The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) defeated the Atlanta Falcons (1-1), Jon Gruden was their head coach. Current Bucs head coach Raheem Morris believes his team belongs among the NFC elite, but first, he must win against the likes of the Falcons.
The Bucs were marred with slow starts in their first two games. Following their loss to the Lions in week 1, they overcame the Vikings down 17 at the half to defeat them, 24-20. The resilient performance from quarterback Josh Freeman and a resurgent ground game lead by LeGarrette Blount saved them from going to a 0-2 hole. Freeman threw for 243 yards and engineered two fourth-quarter touchdown drives while Blount rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries and two scores.
The Falcons recovered from the trouncing the Bears gave them in week 1 with an emotional win over the Eagles, 35-31. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan outshined his predecessor, current Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, with a career-high four touchdown passes and 195 passing yards in a slugfest. Falcons’ running back Michael Turner ran for 114 yards on 21 carries and a score. Tight end and perennial Pro Bowler Tony Gonzalez caught half of Ryan’s TD passes netting seven catches for 83 yards.
Unless either defense decides to step up, the game could turn to a high scoring duel between the young elite QBs of Ryan and Freeman. The Falcons look to Turner exploit the young Buc defense on the ground. The Bucs currently rank 31st through to games in opponent’s rushing yards. If the Bucs fail to stop the run, look for Ryan to spread the ball through their secondary with receivers Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and their first-rounder, Julio Jones.
It would be important for the Buc offense to give Blount some quality carries to help set up Freeman in the passing game. Freeman’s improvisational skills worked better when Blount was producing on the ground in last week’s game against the Vikings. Question marks remain on which receivers will emerge in the Buccaneer passing game. Starting receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn have yet to show their value having caught only 10 passes combined out of 25 times they were thrown to and producing only two scores. Receiver Preston Parker and tight end Kellen Winslow have stepped in coming up with key receptions and each over 100 yards receiving.
Despite whatever is at each other’s disposal, Ryan and Freeman tend to look quite average when facing each other. Freeman completed 54 percent of his passes and has thrown for six touchdowns and five interceptions. Ryan, on the other hand despite being 5-1 against the Bucs, has thrown eight interceptions and five touchdowns.
The game will be blacked out in Tampa extending the streak of home blackouts to ten. The high will be 86 and the low will be 74. There will be a 40 percent chance of rain.