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Falcons vs. Buccaneers: Tampa Bay Can't Be Happy with Almost

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 25:  Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy #93 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recovers a fumble against the Atlanta Falcons during the game at Raymond James Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images
Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterNovember 25, 2012

Many of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ players felt, after their 24-23 loss, that they shouldn’t have lost Sunday’s game to the Atlanta Falcons.

Right tackle Demar Dotson told Tom Krasniqi of 620 WDAE “We left some meat on the bones.”

Left tackle Donald Penn told the Tampa Bay Times, frankly, “We’re a better team than them.”

The Raymond James Stadium scoreboard said otherwise after the Falcons overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Buccaneers by one point. The Buccaneers might not have been in a situation to lose late if they had converted on some key plays during the game.

Two of the biggest drives that could have resulted in more points came after Atlanta turnovers.

Safety Ronde Barber picked off a Matt Ryan pass and ran the ball to the Atlanta 31-yard line. The Buccaneers ran five plays but only gained 27 yards and had to settle for a field goal to tie the score at 10 before halftime.

Ryan fumbled the football after being sacked in the fourth quarter by E.J. Biggers. Gerald McCoy picked up the fumble.

But just like after the last turnover, Tampa Bay couldn’t get any momentum going and had to settle for another field goal, this one a 48-yarder that put the Bucs up by six points.

For the Buccaneers to only generate six points off Atlanta’s two turnovers was a huge failure Sunday.

“That falls in the missed opportunity category,” said head coach Greg Schiano during his postgame press conference. “We’ve been very good about scoring touchdowns off turnovers. It’s hard to win games by threes. Sevens add up considerably quicker.”

But those two field goals weren’t the only areas in which Tampa Bay didn’t do what it should have.

Running back Doug Martin, who entered the game as the NFL’s fourth-ranked runner with 1,000 yards, averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. He scored two touchdowns and ran for 50 yards. The average was his worst of the season, the 50 yards his next-to-worst.

For Tampa Bay to only put up 50 yards on the ground against the Falcons, which has the league's 26th-ranked run defense, is another of what Schiano called a missed opportunity.

The Buccaneers did take the NFC-best Falcons down to the wire. But so did the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers.

Atlanta isn’t known as a team that really thumps its opponents. The Falcons have won seven games this season by seven points or less, mostly against teams with losing records. Tampa Bay shouldn’t take any credit for being there at the end Sunday.

The Buccaneers are now 6-5 and still have an outside shot at the playoffs. But with games against Denver, New Orleans and Atlanta all still on the schedule and all on the road, Tampa Bay has to find a way to not leave points on the table.

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