A quick look at the news being generated by the other three teams in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' division:
All four teams in the NFC South have now enjoyed their bye weeks, with Atlanta coming off their extra time off Monday and preparing to travel to Philadelphia. At 6-0, the Falcons still have a big lead in the division, but the Buccaneers continue to play every game to the wire and the Saints are feeling good while riding a two-game winning streak. The Falcons are working on a specific fundamental of their game they feel has slipped recently, while both the Panthers and the Saints are reacting to changes at the top of their organizations.
In Atlanta, the Falcons are getting back to work after their bye week, and just as the Buccaneers did several weeks ago, they used the extra time for some thorough self-scouting. Obviously, as the NFL's only remaining undefeated team, the Falcons liked much of what they saw. That said, the Falcons still rank 20th in the NFL against the run, both in terms of yards per game and yards per carry, and they believe they need to improve their tackling. That was one emphasis during their Monday "bonus" practice, in which the Falcons focused on the Falcons and not their upcoming opponent, Philadelphia. "I think, now, we have the technique of tackling," said S Thomas DeCoud. "Once we make contact, we know how to do that. But I think now it's more so just our path to the ball. The speed of the game is a lot faster and it's faster than it's ever been before, so guys can eat up angles or make you wrong once you get on your way to the ball, so it's more about the path to the ball and making sure we have the correct angles once we're entering contact." The Falcons have a tough matchup coming up in Philadelphia in their efforts to stay undefeated, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon thinks solving those tackling issues could be the key. " We've got to tackle," he said. "We'll have the opportunities. We'll be faced with some of the things that we've been faced with in the games previously, so they'll watch tape and see things they think they can do against us and it'll just be up to us to go out there and make sure we hit them whenever we have those opportunities." The Falcons could have one more hand in that defensive effort if DT Corey Peters is activated from the PUP list before Sunday. On Monday, Peters practiced for the first time since having offseason foot surgery. "He practiced on a limited basis and we will up his participation as the week goes on," said Head Coach Mike Smith. "By rule, we have 21 days to activate him, but it was very nice to see Corey Peters with a football helmet and shoulder pads, out on the field."
In Carolina, the 1-5 Panthers, reeling after another close loss to the Dallas Cowboys, have relieved General Manager Marty Hurney of his duties. A gracious Hurney took responsibility for the team's slow start, which was not expected after Carolina won four of their last six games to close out 2011. After the 19-14 home loss to Dallas but before he was let go, Hurney expressed his feelings in a postgame radio interview. "There's just so many emotions," he said. "Anger. Frustration. You start blaming yourself for everything. We are a better football team than 1-5. It can't be like that. The organization, our fans, Mr. Richardson deserve better." Tackle Jordan Gross, who was drafted eighth overall by Hurney in 2003, took the news hard. "It makes me feel really bad that he's gone because it's a reflection of our record, which is a reflection of the team," said Gross, whose team has lost four straight. "I feel like we let him down. This business is a performance business, and we all know in this locker room that if we don't win more there are going to be a lot of changes." Head Coach Ron Rivera explained that the personnel decisions would now ultimately be his. "Personnel will be a collaborative effort between myself, pro scouting and [director of football operations] Brandon Beane," he said. "With the guys that we have in our personnel department, we feel pretty comfortable and confident that this group of people will be able to get the decisions made. It will stop with me. If there's a decision that has to be made that involves this football team and players, it will stop with me. As always, for major decisions we will most certainly talk to Mr. Richardson and get his input."
Back inNew Orleans after the Saints shootout win over the Bucs on Sunday in Tampa, the Saints were displaying the growing confidence engendered by a two-game winning streak after four losses to start the season. "I thought the game yesterday against Tampa Bay really showed the organization's fortitude and resolve," said Offensive Line Coach Aaron Kromer, who finished up his stint as the team's acting head coach on Sunday. "We're down 14-0, we're 1-4 going in to the game, and there are a lot of teams that would have folded then. You saw our guys step up and continue to make plays and trust that they could win the game and that's what happened." Kromer was at the helm for the first third of the team because Head Coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the season and the coach that the Saints would have installed in his place, Joe Vitt, was suspended for the first six games. Vitt returned to the team on Monday and praised the work Kromer did in his place. "I think Aaron Kromer did a phenomenal job of keeping this team together through some tough times," he said. "He has kept our staff together. We had a little bit of a rocky start. You never know how the season is going to go because every season takes on a life of its own. He has kept it together and kept our team together. Our hats are off to Aaron." One of the first issues Vitt began to tackle on his return was how the team would handle it's trip to Denver this weekend to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Sunday night. "The theory is this – if you are going to take a team to Denver and play in a higher altitude, take them [two days in advance] to adjust. If you don't do it [two days in advance] you should do it within 24 hours. We are mulling potentially going out there Friday. We have done it before. We played them pretty well out there back in '08. I was in that division for 10 years when I was with Seattle. There are a lot excuses you can find to lose a game, altitude being one of them. We are going to need to have our best performance this week to beat a good football team."