Bucs, Falcons have leaky defenses
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.”