Bucs fans have been wringing their hands over the state of the team’s safety corps, wondering out loud if starters Bradley McDougald and Chris Conte are good enough to make Bucs winners again.
Well, it’s safe to say that without Conte in particular and maybe even McDougald, the Bucs would not have won their season opener against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
The seldom-heralded Conte proved to be the game’s unsung hero, twice preventing touchdowns by chasing down pass catchers who had taken advantage of broken coverages to make massive gains.
Conte’s first save came in the first quarter after cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III bit on a run fake, leaving Falcons wideout Mohammed Sanu to grab a long pass that he extended into a 59-yard gain.
The second came in the second quarter after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan beat a blitz by throwing to hot receiver Tevin Coleman, who gained 47 yards down the right sideline before he was caught by Conte.
In both cases the Falcons had to settle for field goals, the first of which tied the game at 3-3, the second giving the Falcons a 13-10 lead that the Bucs erased for good one series later.
“Chris is one of those guys who doesn’t get a whole lot of publicity because you have other super-star type guys on defense,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “But Chris does his job.
“And I thought he and Bradley were both really solid (Sunday). We’ve been telling these guys, ‘Make your plays. When it’s your time to make a play, make it.’ (Conte) did a pretty good job of that (Sunday).”