This was a killer. This was the big fish that wriggled off the hook.
If the Bucs end up missing the playoffs — and those postseason chances took a major punch to the gut Sunday — this one-point loss is one that will keep them awake all offseason.
Follow along: The Bucs have home games left against the Eagles and Rams. Let's count those as wins. Let's assume a loss this coming Sunday at Denver.
That leaves two other games: at Atlanta and at New Orleans. The Bucs would have to win both of those to get to 10 victories, the likely number it will take to make the postseason.
A victory Sunday against Atlanta would've meant needing to win one of the two road games against Atlanta and New Orleans.
Who knows where this season will take the Bucs, but it could be that one measly point wrecked it.
Many are going to question coach Greg Schiano's decision to have Connor Barth attempt a 56-yard field goal with 3:37 left and the Bucs down by one, instead of punting and pinning the Falcons deep in their own end. Schiano said after the game that he considered punting and even gave thought to going for it on the fourth and 7, but he believed Barth had a shot at putting the Bucs ahead.
I'm going with Schiano on this one. Barth has hit four field goals from 50 yards or beyond this season, including a 57-yarder. Whether you punt or Barth misses, the Bucs were going to have to stop the Falcons anyway. Might as well go for the win.
The Bucs have played against five quarterbacks who rank somewhere between really good and elite: Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. In those games, those quarterbacks have averaged 370 yards passing. More telling, the Bucs are 0-5 in those games. Not really promising when you consider that Brees, Ryan and Peyton Manning await on the schedule.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Who was running the show for the Falcons? They insisted on running the ball over and over against a defense that can't stop the pass but is No. 1 against the run. And who was in charge of clock management, Skip Holtz?
2. The Bucs rushed for only 50 yards on 21 carries. QB Josh Freeman was sacked twice and under pressure all day. For the first time, the Bucs noticeably missed offensive linemen Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks.
3. A defensive holding call on Bucs safety Ahmad Black on a third down led to the Falcons' winning touchdown. I'm not saying the call cost the Bucs the game, but I am saying it was a ticky-tack call.
Sunday's game pretty much sums up the way things are: The Bucs are improved, but the Falcons are still a smidge better.
Tom Jones can be heard from 6-9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.