The Buccaneers missed an opportunity to remain viable contenders for the NFC South title in Week 13, and two of the team's top players — CB Aqib Talib and C Jeff Faine — suffered season-ending injuries in Sunday's loss to first-place Atlanta.
Both Talib (hip) and Faine (triceps) were placed on injured reserve Monday.
At 7-5, the Bucs are going to need a lot of help from other teams to get into the playoffs as a wild card, and dropping a 10-point fourth-quarter lead on Sunday put them three games behind the Falcons and two behind the Saints in the division standings with just four games to play.
Injuries are taking a toll on Tampa Bay, which will try to end its two-game losing streak against the Redskins, who have dropped four of their last five, in Week 14. The Bucs have placed five starters (Talib, Faine, S Cody Grimm, OG Davin Joseph and DE Kyle Moore) on I.R. in the past week.
The PFW Spin
The fact that the Bucs gave one of the NFC's better teams that much of a scare, even with all the injuries, shows how far they have come. The final 10:24 of the game, when Tampa Bay's 10-point lead turned into a four-point deficit that it didn't overcome, shows how far it still has to go.
The Bucs have up a return for a touchdown on the kickoff following FB Earnest Graham's touchdown pass to TE John Gilmore, and they never recovered after WR-RS Eric Weems' momentum-swinging 102-yard TD.
Tampa Bay went three-and-out on its next possession, the Falcons took over, drove and scored a TD to take the lead, and CB Brent Grimes picked off QB Josh Freeman on the Bucs' last possession, sealing Atlanta's win.
Losing both of their games against the Falcons this season by a combined 10 points probably is stinging the Bucs today, but they proved that the gap between themselves and a team that could get home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs isn't quite as large as some thought it was earlier this season. They will have to learn how to finish off the good teams before they can take that next step and become true contenders.