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Tampa Bay Bucs don't second-guess late-game clock management

Bucs cornerback E.J. Biggers forces a fumble with a hit on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Tampa Bay recovered, setting up a field goal, but a TD with 8:01 left won it for Atlanta.

Associated Press

Bucs cornerback E.J. Biggers forces a fumble with a hit on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Tampa Bay recovered, setting up a field goal, but a TD with 8:01 left won it for Atlanta.

TAMPA — In a game as close as Sunday's one-point Falcons win over the Bucs, every decision is open to second-guessing.

Still, Bucs coach Greg Schiano thought his team properly managed the late-game situation that left the offense with only 8 seconds from its 38-yard line.

Schiano let roughly 40 seconds run off as Atlanta wound the clock down to the 2-minute warning, preserving his three timeouts for after the break.

"That 2-minute warning is a much different phenomenon than anybody realizes when you go from college to the NFL," said Schiano, formerly the coach at Rutgers. "We spend a ton of time doing scenarios and running them through. I think there's no iron-clad rule like, 'If there's this much time, you do this.' Then you take the football out of it."

In this case, Schiano trusted his defense to get a stop on third down. But after the Falcons converted for a first down with 1:47 remaining, all the math in the world might not have mattered.

"It was second and 6," Schiano said. "Now, if you do what you believe you're built to do, which is get them to third down and stop them, now you have plenty of time. But we didn't stop them. That was disappointing. When we did stop them, it didn't leave us much time. In retrospect, would you use it (earlier)? It was (close)."

The Bucs, perhaps, didn't expect the Falcons to pass on the third down in question (when an incompletion would have stopped the clock). QB Matt Ryan threw to WR Roddy White for an 8-yard gain on third and 5.

"I wouldn't say surprised, but that's a tough decision," Schiano said. "That's what your head coach gets paid to do. But it was a big throw and a big catch. And our guy (CB LeQuan Lewis) competed. It was just that their guy did a better job than we did on that play."

LOSING THEIR GRIP: LB Adam Hayward on Monday lamented the many missed opportunities the Bucs felt slipped away.

Among those, Hayward said, was missed tackles, something the Bucs need to fix before visiting the Broncos on Sunday.

"Our biggest thing is we weren't tackling … at all," Hayward said. "That whole first half was awful. We were stopping them, but the first guy would miss a tackle, then break for five more and now we're in a bad situation. We need to fix that. That's our No. 1 problem. We fix that and we're not having this conversation."

Hayward was puzzled because tackling hasn't been a big problem this season.

"I don't know what it was but we have to fix it. That would have eliminated a lot of things,'' he said. "They would have been in bad situations throughout the whole game. It's frustrating, but we'll fix it. We're here to work."

MORE TO COME?: WR Vincent Jackson was on the receiving end of a trick play when WR Mike Williams threw him a 28-yard pass. The play caught the Falcons off guard and almost resulted in a touchdown.

Now that the element of surprise is lost, it's not something to expect anytime soon. But Jackson said other gadget plays are possible.

"Who knows?" he said. "That's something that now (opponents) will have to adjust for and our coaches are pretty creative. We have some skill players on this team who can do different things. I don't think that will be the last of plays like that.

"There's plays like that which we put in weeks ago and you just never know the time of the game where it'll come up. We've had that in our back pockets for a few weeks now."

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Bucs don't second-guess late-game clock management 11/26/12 [Last modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 11:09pm]
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