The Bucs defense, vilified for its performance at Carolina last week, had a much stouter performance against the Falcons, at least on the scoreboard. Falcons RB Michael Turner still rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown. And after its worst tackling performance of the season against the Panthers, the Bucs again showed some deficiencies in that area. But after a 10-point first quarter, the Falcons didn't score again until overtime. "I think overall we did better," LB Derrick Brooks said. "I think we gave ourselves a chance to win. We just couldn't pull it off." The Bucs kept Atlanta off the scoreboard in the final three quarters because they forced turnovers, with CBs Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber recording interceptions and SS Jermaine Phillips forcing a fumble near the end zone. The plays by Talib and Phillips prevented touchdowns. The Falcons' 175 rushing yards looked ugly on paper, but with starting Bucs DTs Chris Hovan and Jovan Haye injured, there figured to be some holes. Hovan said he tested his knee during warmups and decided he couldn't play. Haye did dress and played a handful of snaps early, but the Bucs went with Ryan Sims and Jimmy Wilkerson for most of the game.
Trouble with field position
Coach Jon Gruden bemoaned the team's problematic field position throughout the game, but the Bucs in most cases had themselves to blame. A rash of penalties in the kicking game loomed large, with Tampa Bay committing infractions during four kick or punt returns. On three of the four, the fouls pushed the Bucs inside their own 15-yard line. Numerous injuries to backups who were integral members of the kicking teams certainly contributed, but special teams captain Will Allen said that wasn't a valid defense. "That's an excuse," he said. "You have to play within the rules of the game. Sometimes you're a little too aggressive. Sometimes you're a little too passive. … Early in my career, I had a lot of penalties on special teams. You're just going hard, which is what we want. We'd rather them go hard than not go at all. But it's a learning experience. When you get older, you start to understand what you can do and what you can't do. That will come in time."
Abraham nails Griese
Falcons DE John Abraham finished with three sacks, establishing a career high with 15½ sacks this season. And Abraham has seven sacks in his past five games against Tampa Bay, something OTs Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood know all too well. LT Penn saw Abraham most of the day (he typically lines up on the right side of the defensive line), but Abraham switched sides at times and recorded one of his sacks against Trueblood. Penn held up for much of the day, but the one time he didn't use proper technique, Abraham made him pay. "The first time he got me it was because I was too high," Penn said. "On the second one, I knocked him down and he crawled. I'm not going to stop fighting him. I'm going to keep playing. But he's one of the guys who has given me problems every time I've played him. But I kept working hard and tried to overcome it. We had about (40) pass plays, but those two plays are going to stick out. That's how it goes with offensive tackles, so I accept that."
McCown blindsided by Gruden's decision
The Bucs arrived at the Georgia Dome hoping QB Jeff Garcia could shake off his calf injury and play. When that wasn't the case, backup Luke McCown expected to get the call. Surprisingly, that call went to Brian Griese. No one was more shocked than McCown. "From what I understood, I was going to play, and just before the game, (coach Jon Gruden) went with Brian. I guess he felt like … I don't know. I don't want to speak for anybody. But that's how it happened." McCown, who took the majority of snaps with the starting offense last week, added, "I love playing for this team, and I was ready to play. I had a great week of practice. Again, it's the same story since last year. I'll do whatever I have to do to help this team. That was the route he wanted to go, so what are you going to do?"
. When coach Jon Gruden said last week that the Bucs had "moved on" from WR Joey Galloway, he wasn't kidding. Galloway was inactive Sunday and emphasized it wasn't because of injury or any off-field dispute with Gruden. "It's football," Galloway said. "There's nothing to start. There's been no blowup; there's been no confrontation. I'm healthy. I don't have anything else for you." Galloway said reporters probably knew more about his status on the team than he did, "because you guys ask." He has one season left on his contract at a base salary of $2-million, but recent events — most notably the emergence of Antonio Bryant — point to the Bucs perhaps parting ways with him.
Another bad break
SS Jermaine Phillips walked out of the locker room with his head hung and his right arm in a familiar position: wrapped in a sling. The hard-hitting run-stopper broke his right arm in the fourth quarter. It is his second broken arm this season after breaking his left against Dallas on Oct. 26. And it is the third time Phillips has broken the right arm, including suffering a fracture that required surgery to insert a plate on the bone in 2004. X-rays showed a fracture, and it's unlikely Phillips will play again this season. His broken left arm needed five weeks to heal, so with just two weeks remaining, Tampa Bay won't hold out much hope of a return in the regular season.
Cadillac comes close
RB Cadillac Williams led the Bucs in rushing for the first time since his return last month, finishing with 59 yards on 14 carries (4.2 yards per carry). But he didn't leave very satisfied with his performance because he felt he missed his chance at the home run. "There were a couple times when I felt like I came real close," he said. "I just kept feeling like one was going to come, like I was going to do something good. To be honest with you, I felt like my old self. It was like the game slowed down to me." Williams' longest run was a 12-yard dash, which he nearly turned into more.
• Sunday's loss was the third overtime game of the season for the Bucs, the most in a season since 1983. The Bucs are 2-1 in OT games this year after beating Chicago and Kansas City.
• Bucs WR Michael Clayton recorded his 200th career reception and finished with three catches for 41 yards.
• Bucs TE John Gilmore has now played in 100 career games in the NFL. He finished with one catch for 12 yards.