And we're under way in a somewhat rainy Raymond James Stadium, as the Falcons elect to receive the ball on the opening kickoff against the Tampa Bay Bucs. Notable gameday inactives for Atlanta include DT Jonathan Babineaux and LB Stephen Nicholas, along with nickelback Kelvin Hayden. In their place, we'll see Peria Jerry and Mike Peterson get the starts on defense.
Well, it was quite an interesting start in this one. For the Falcons, this game started off exactly how they didn't want: on third-and-long, the Bucs blitzed and recovered a Matt Ryan fumble deep in Falcons territory. The offensive line yet again let our banged-up QB get hit pretty quickly. Alas.
However, on first and goal just as everything seemed to be pointing to a Bucs score of some sort, the Falcons reminded everyone of their dominance of Josh Freeman by picking him off in the endzone. Thomas DeCoud, who got the start today after sitting against Philadelphia, came up with a huge interception that bailed the Falcons out of allowing an early score.
But the Falcons wouldn't make much of this next possession, either. The offense did manage to pick up a first down, but some great third down coverage of Tony Gonzalez by the rookie Mason Foster forced Atlanta to punt the ball away. Poor special teams coverage, another issue that has plagued the Falcons this season, would allow the Bucs to set up on their own 46.
And yet that awesome linebacking duo of Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon flashed that athleticism early on in this one, making some great plays that forced a quick Bucs three-and-out. The Falcons followed that drive with a short six-play drive of their own.
This is looking like a real "slug-it-out" game early on, folks. With such poor field conditions and more rain possible, I wouldn't expect a lot of scoring in this one.
For discussion, head to Falcons blog The Falcoholic and Buccaneers blog Bucs Nation, plus SB Nation Tampa Bay.