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What you need to know: Time to panic in Tampa

What happens when a perfect storm meets a comedy of errors?

After falling to the inimitable Derek Anderson and a neophyte Austin Davis in the first two weeks of the season, Lovie Smith's depleted Tampa Bay Buccaneers laid a pterodactyl-sized egg in a 56-14 thrashing at the Georgia Dome on Thursday night.

By halftime, the Atlanta Falcons were up 35-0 while the Bucs had more turnovers than first downs. By the end of the third quarter, Matt Ryan's arm was on ice with a 56-0 lead.

As complete as the meltdown was, we can say with confidence Smith's hapless troops aren't this pathetic and the Atlanta Falcons aren't an NFL juggernaut.

The Bucs sorely missed their best defensive player (Gerald McCoy), top running back (Doug Martin), rookie tight end (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) and a pair of Week 1 starters in defensive end Adrian Clayborn and cornerback Mike Jenkins.

Make no mistake, though. Smith's roster has inherent flaws that will require overhauls rather than patches.

There is an obvious lack of team speed.

The offensive line failed to open holes in the running game and surrendered the Falcons' first two sacks of the season.

Starting quarterback Josh McCown continued his string of head-scratching interceptions before leaving with a thumb injury that required a club-like wrap. Backup quarterback Mike Glennon wasn't appreciably better, struggling to top 3.0 yards per attempt before the meaningless fourth quarter.

The defense failed to put any semblance of heat on Matt Ryan behind an offensive line that couldn't keep Bengals defenders out of the backfield last week. Smith's cover-two zone defense allowed free releases with wide receivers running scot-free through the secondary.

It's time for Smith and his coaching staff to go back to the drawing board with their season circling the drain in mid-September.

Here's what else you need to know from the Falcons' victory:

  1. Outside of special teams, Smith never found a way to fully exploit Devin Hester's unique playmaking ability in Chicago. On a night when Hester broke the career return touchdown record and had a pair of long returns nullified by penalty, Smith saw first-hand what Hester can bring to an offense with creative scheming and play-calling. Two weeks after nearly setting a career-high in receiving yards, Hester added a 25-yard reception and his the first rushing touchdown of his nine-year career.
  1. Julio Jones had eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown by halftime and added a spectacular 40-yard score in the third quarter. He was the best player on the field by a wide margin Thursday night.
  1. Matt Ryan set a franchise record with an 87.5 completion rate and a 155.9 passer rating. This comes two weeks after setting a franchise record with 448 passing yards. He's incredible on his home field, especially when he's given time to throw. It certainly helped that left tackle Jake Matthews returned after missing the Week 2 loss at Cincinnati.
  1. The Bucs have managed just seven points on 17 first-half possessions this season. Even if McCown hadn't injured his thumb, the coaching staff would have at least discussed turning to Glennon for Week 4 at Pittsburgh.
  1. It's hard to find a less impressive performance by a running back than the one turned in by Bobby Rainey. Martin's backup dropped a perfectly thrown third-down pass on the opening series and lost two fumbles. Martin shouldn't have to worry about playing time once his knee cooperates.
  1. Steven Jackson's workload won't be reduced any time soon. Third and fourth stringers Antone Smith and Davonta Freeman each lost a fumble. Big-play specialist Smith did add yet another long touchdown in garbage time, though, scoring from 38 yards out to bring the score to 56-0 late in the third quarter.
  1. Falcons receiver Harry Douglas never returned after suffering a foot injury late in the second quarter. With Roddy White (hamstring) expected back in Week 3, Hester could move up to the No. 3 role.

The latest Around The League Podcast breaks down the latest on Adrian Peterson and continues the search for this year's "Team Of ATL."

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