I had forgotten how it felt. But I remembered, quickly.
Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins runs his route. Aqib Talib runs behind him. Ronde Barber runs in front. And still, Jenkins makes the catch. First down, Falcons. But Talib was right there! And so was Ronde! What just happened? What was that?
Oh yeah, it's the Tampa-2.
For those who don't remember back that far -- all the way to December-ish of last year -- the hallmark of the Tampa-2 was simple: Bend, don't break.
In other words, the defense may allow the opposing team to gain some yards, a first down or two, maybe even a field goal. But no big plays, no touchdowns, no game winners.
With old Defensive Coordinator Jim Bates out and new Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris in, Tampa-2 is back. Creamsicle throwbacks did the trick a few weeks ago, so might as well try a little Monte Kiffin-era throwback defense, right?
And for most of the game, the Bucs played the new/old system admirably. The stat sheet is unlike anything the Bucs have seen this year: 6 sacks, 75 total rushing yards allowed, longest pass play allowed was a respectable 22 yards.
But there is one stat that will look truly, achingly familiar to Bucs fans. It's the one that goes in the column marked L.
Because, despite the fact that the Falcons lost Matt Ryan and Michael Turner to injury, and despite the fact that Joshy Freeman and Antonio Bryant linked up for an impressive 2-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, and despite the fact that the Bucs were up by 4 points with 24 seconds left in the game, the Bucs, once again, lost.
Why did they lose? Well, I'm not blaming it on Defensive Coordinator Raheem. He got his men ready, and they looked thrilled to finally be playing to their strengths. In the pre-show, the sideline reporter suggested that DC Raheem was amped to be calling plays, that he'd been up late practicing and getting his defensive captains on the phone to double-check the verbiage. And he called a great defensive game.
If only his head coach hadn't made so many bone-headed calls.
And I don't even mean the usual mistakes, like the fact that Coach Raheem helped hire a DC who refused to use his players to their strengths in the first place, or how his offense went into a completely ineffective ultra-conservative vanilla mode even after Joshy F. proved he was capable of the big play. Let's not even quibble about how whenever running back Caddy Williams got hot, he was immediately pulled in favor of Derrick Ward.
I'm talking really bone-headed. Like the fake punt in the 4th quarter. Now, I love a fake punt as much as the next girl, but on 4th and 8, up by 4, is it not safer to trust the guy whom you drafted first overall to throw the ball than a punter? Named Dirk Johnson? I mean, let's be real, the dude can't even punt the ball more than 30 yards at a time, so perhaps he should just focus on honing the one skill he's supposed to have? The fake was not successful, and the Falcons got the ball on their own 39 yard line.
And if we have to run a fake, how about we fake a 52-yard field goal and punt it away instead of potentially giving the Falcons great field position with 2:30 on the clock. Kicker Connor Barth was playing backup punter in the 4th quarter anyway (due to Johnson's injury on the fake punt), and he'd already proved he had a good leg for it.
Now, I suppose Coach Raheem's choice to kick the field goal was the anti-Belichickian call of the decade -- he assumed that should Barth miss the long FG, DC Raheem's defense could prevent a score. Even though Aqib Talib was out due to an in-game injury. Even though the secondary featured Elbert Mack and some undrafted 2nd-year guy named Roberson facing off against Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Even though the defense is built for bending, and the length of field and time on the clock left no room for a bend.
The field goal, of course, was no good.
The last-series defense? Also no good.
Chris Redman and Tony Gonzalez marched the ball down the shortened field. And on 4th down and goal, with 23 seconds left, Redman threw a touchdown pass to Roddy White. Whatsisname Roberson was unable to break up the play. Game over.
So the defense bent, and then it broke. Which is almost poetic, because watching that game -- a game the Bucs should have won -- my heart bent, too, and then it broke.