By Eric Schmidt

If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers miss the playoffs by one game, all they will have to do is point a finger at Sunday’s contest against the Atlanta Falcons. The planets aligned on Sunday for the Buccaneers and with a win, Tampa could have moved into one of the two wildcard seed, instead they remain one game out.

Prior to kickoff, the Buccaneers learned that they would be without CB Eric Wright, who is suffering from a Achilles injury. That left E.J. Biggers and rookie Leonard Johnson to take care of business against Roddy White and Julio Jones. Buccaneers fans were already aware of the limitations surrounding the NFL’s worst pass defense and Matt Ryan had no problems carving them up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Ryan started the afternoon completing ten straight passes and finished the afternoon connecting on nine of his ten. There was some room for improvement however by Ryan, after all, he had six incompletions on the afternoon. He completed 26 of 32 pass attempts for 353 yards and a score.

Despite the shortcomings, the Buccaneers held the lead with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but simply could not close out the win. Tampa, which has the best rush defense in the NFL could not stop the plodding Michael Turner from reaching the endzone with 7:55 remaining.

The Buccaneers had an opportunity to move ahead but couldn’t get any closer that 56 yards for the usually dependable Conner Barth. Barth has a kick on the year from 57 yards but kicking into the wind, his kick sailed to the right of the uprights.

Sunday was a golden opportunity for the Buccaneers. They could have recorded a win against a divisional opponent at home. The Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings all lost. Of course, the Buccaneers didn’t lose any ground in their playoff standings but the road just got a lot more difficult.

Tampa has to travel to Denver next week, where Peyton Manning and his receivers will be drooling after watching this game film. Nine wins might be enough to reach the post-season this year, but 10 wins would be more plausible. In order to achieve that, if the Buccaneers lose in Denver, they will need to win their remaining games. At New Orleans, at Atlanta and home against the St. Louis Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Atlanta and New Orleans games are frightening, especially with this secondary.

Even if the Buccaneers fail to qualify for the playoffs this year, it’s remarkable that they are even in the discussion this year after the train wreck the team was last season. The Buccaneers have a potent offense in place going forward and they can focus the offseason on rebuilding the secondary and finding a way to generate a pass rush.

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