It certainly didn’t look that way on Thursday night but Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter says he has not lost faith in his defense’s ability to make a critical stop.
Less than 24 hours after he declined a penalty that might have erased a Falcons’ scoring chance, Koetter expressed regret over the call and said it was not borne of a lack of confidence in his struggling defense.
“We should have taken that penalty,’’ Koetter said Friday as he reviewed the Bucs 43-28 loss. “That’s on me. And I don’t want anyone to read in that we didn’t have confidence or anything like that. That was just a bad decision by me.’’
The decision came with Atlanta leading 10-7 early in the second quarter after Falcons guard Andy Levitre was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty on a third-and-7 play from the Bucs 23-yard line.
By accepting the penalty, Koetter would have left the Falcons facing third-and-22 from the Tampa Bay 36. He opted instead to leave them with fourth-and-7 at the 23.
The Falcons responded by having kicker Matt Bryant kick a 41-yard field goal, but Koetter suggested on Thursday that he feared the Falcons night have scored a touchdown had he accepted the penalty.
“We talked about it,” Koetter said immediately after the game. “We had pushed them right to the edge of Bryant’s range and they would’ve had another down (if we had accepted the penalty).
“We thought (the result) was probably going to end up being about the same way as it was and possibly even worse, so we figured we’d just take our chances right there.’’
Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy, speaking during halftime as part of NBC’s Thursday Night Football crew, was among those who were critical of the decision to decline the penalty.
There may be some justification for Koetter’s choice, though. After all, it came after one Falcons tight end dropped a potential touchdown pass on first down and another dropped a potential first down pass on third down.
The first to a drop a pass was Joshua Perkins, who was left undefended down the seam and dropped the ball as he fell into the end zone. The other was Austin Hooper, who dropped a ball at the 3-yard line.
Considering those two drops and the fact the Falcons went on to score another 27 points, you could see why Koetter was willing to give the the Falcons three points.
After all, it sure beats giving them seven.