Falcons still not tackling their primary issues in loss to Buccaneers

ATLANTA -- In one corner of the Atlanta Falcons' locker room, star receiver Julio Jones tried to explain why an offense intent on improving red-zone efficiency ended up 1 of 4 during Sunday's 31-24 season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We just have to play better ball," Jones said. "We got down there and a couple penalties hurt us. It got us out of position to run certain things we run in the red zone. ... We shot ourselves in the foot. That's it."

On the other side of the locker room, free safety Ricardo Allen tried to comprehend how the defense allowed Buccaneers running back Charles Sims to shake free from at least six defenders on a critical, 23-yard catch-and-run touchdown right before halftime.

"We beat ourselves," Allen said. "If we were going to win that game, we had to do what we did best. And we didn't do that. We weren't us. We didn't play to our standard."

Critics would say the Falcons played exactly the same way folks have grown accustomed to seeing them play over the past few years. The same old problems arose in the loss, most noticeably the red-zone woes, the poor tackling, and the lack of pressure -- with no sacks from a defensive line that now includes seven-time Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney.

Throw in some untimely penalties -- most notably an unnecessary roughness penalty that appeared to be on cornerback Robert Alford on the third down immediately before Bucs receiver Mike Evans beat Alford and Robenson Therezie for a 45-yard touchdown -- and you had the recipe for another Falcons disaster.

Not to mention it's an 0-1 start in the NFC South for a team that enters the season with hopes of competing with Carolina for the division crown.

"There's lot of things for us to clean up and tighten up before we get on the plane and head to Oakland," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said about preparing for Week 2.

The tackling would be a nice start. All the talk about the rugby tackling style and getting guys to the ground went for naught on that momentum-changing Sims play.

"That's using proper technique and proper leverage, so when we didn't do that," Quinn said. "That showed up and that stung us for sure."

Had the Falcons scored two touchdowns in the red zone in the first half rather than settling for a pair of 34-yard field goals by Matt Bryant, they would have held a halftime lead rather than having to play from behind, trailing by as much as 31-13 midway through the third quarter.

Had the Falcons scored a touchdown with just under five minutes left in regulation rather than settling for Bryant's 29-yard field goal, they could have had the opportunity to win the game with a touchdown rather than only being able to tie it.

In the end, it didn't matter, as the Falcons failed to score in the final two minutes. Ryan saw passes dropped by Jones and Mohamed Sanu, who got his ankle stuck, and Ryan's final desperation attempt on fourth down in the final minute was tipped by Gerald McCoy and fell incomplete.

If the Falcons continue to fail to generate pressure and miss tackles, the offense truly will have to carry the team the rest of the season. And the offense won't be able to hold up its end without scoring touchdowns in the red zone or generating more than 52 rushing yards -- their rushing total from Sunday.

"We got ourselves off schedule a little bit," said Ryan, who finished 27 of 39 for 334 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. "We had some penalties down there which, we control those. When you have procedural penalties, those are things that we have to eliminate. That's something that we control and something that we can do better.

"Third downs and red zone, we've got to be good there offensively. We weren't good there today."