Bucs, Fal­cons have leaky de­fenses

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - BY PAUL NEWBERRY

AT­LANTA — Tampa Bay’s of­fense must be lick­ing its chops for the chance to go against At­lanta’s de­fense.

Then again, the Fal­cons’ of­fense is surely just as pumped to get on the field against the Buc­ca­neers to­day at Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium.

A fan of st­ingy de­fenses? You’ve come to the wrong place.

The sta­dium’s gi­ant halo score­board fig­ures to get a work­out in the matchup be­tween NFC South ri­vals. Tampa Bay (2-2) has sur­ren­dered more points per game (34.75) than any team in the league this sea­son, while the Fal­cons (1-4) are right on the Bucs’ heels with an av­er­age of 32.6.

Tampa Bay’s de­fen­sive woes have put the heat on co­or­di­na­tor Mike Smith, At­lanta’s head coach from 2008 to 2014. Smith’s boss, 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.”

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 is out for the sec­ond straight week with a sprained an­kle.

“We will never make ex­cuses,” Fal­cons 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.”

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