NFL preseason 2013: Evaluating the competition

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Two NFC rivals played last night. What did we learn about them?

The two biggest wins of Thursday night came at the expense of two old friends. In Tampa Bay the Buccaneers learned that Baltimore is just as dangerous, even without their defensive leaders -- as the Ravens sauntered to an easy 44-16 victory. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons had the marquee matchup of the evening, but faltered falling 34-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals. It's hard to glean too much information from preseason, but lets take a look at where the competition went wrong.

Buccaneers' offense was... something

It started with an 8-yard sack of Josh Freeman, and that served as an appropriate opening for what Tampa Bay's offense would be. Tampa's quarterback didn't do much to dissuade criticism as he finished with an ineffective 34 yards passing. Glancing at the box score you might be mistaken thinking Mike Glennon played good football, but outside of his opening pass (a 61-yard gain against lapsed, busted coverage) he wasn't able to do anything special. If Bucs' fans are hoping they landed 2013's Russell Wilson, they'll have to wait a little longer.

QB play will come with time, and Freeman is better than he showed on Thursday night -- but more concerning was the lack of a running attack. The game ended with Tampa Bay's rushers finishing with just 80 yards, at a paltry 3.2 yards per carry. Couple this with Peyton Hillis injuring his knee, and they'll want to forget this game.

What they're saying

We know bad special teams play in Carolina, and Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation is worried about theirs.

One area for concern was special teams. While Derek Dimke is now a cult hero, everything else about special teams failed. Chris Owusu muffed a punt and nearly muffed a kickoff. The Bucs gave up a long kickoff return, which was nearly a touchdown. And to make matters worse, the first half ended with a blocked punt, giving up a touchdown and giving the Ravens a 24-13 lead.

The Buccaneers brought in Dave Wannstedt as a special teams coordinator this season, but apparently the backups aren't handling his coaching very well. Wannstedt, of course, had never coached special teams before. That may have something to do with it -- or it may just be that the backups played poorly.

Falcons' depth falters, but their starters look sharp

Skip Bayless might not like Matt Ryan, but I think that's probably a compliment to Atlanta's quarterback. There were times early where he was pressured, but overall Ryan played fine and made it though the game without injury. The real concern is the right side of the offensive line, as 2nd year right tackle Lamar Holmes looked lost. Greg Hardy will be licking his chops at the opportunity for this matchup.

Atlanta's depth is worse than imagined, or it could be a product of how well and how deep the Bengals have been drafting recently. The Falcons looked a step behind all game, almost as if they were playing one string deeper for most of the game. There's no question Atlanta have the best starters in the division as a whole, but it's clear they get very shaky on the back end. They could be in a lot of trouble if they get banged up.

What they're saying

The death knell for the Falcons' last night way their inability to stop a mobile quarterback. Alex Welch explains.

The Falcons struggled defending Josh Johnson. He broke away for a 43-yard run and finished 9-of-16 passing for 100 yards and a touchdown. The game got out of hand when the reserves started to take the field, which feels reminiscent of last year's preseason start.

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