The Falcons got blasted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that featured a 32-point third quarter deficit, but ultimately resulted in a 41-28 win for the Bucs. Both teams records now stand at 2-8 at the bottom of the NFC South, but while the Bucs have won two straight, the Falcons have lost four straight.
Matt Ryan had another lackluster performance, completing 19 of 36 passes for 254 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, which included a pick-six. He gave way to Dominique Davis in the fourth quarter, who completed 5 of 7 passes for 34 yards, before he exited the game with an injury. Antone Smith led the team in rushing with 88 yards despite only a pair of carries. One of which he took to the house for a 50-yard scoring run. Steven Jackson added 41 yards on 11 carries. Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez each led the team with 6 receptions for 134 and 51 yards, respectively. Douglas caught an 80-yard touchdown. White scored the Falcons other touchdown, and finished the game with 3 catches for 36 yards. Matt Bryant hit on two of his field goal tries from 46 and 49 yards, while Matt Bosher punted twice. He had one punt blocked, and only had a 24-yard punt on his other one. Robert McClain averaged 8 yards on a pair of punt returns. The Falcons managed to convert only 1 of 7 third down conversion attempts.
Defensively the Falcons got gashed allowing 410 total yards, including 186 rushing yards. The Bucs only converted 3 of 11 third down attempts but had a number of big plays early. The Bucs had four plays of 20 or more yards in the second quarter, which helped them score 21 points. Paul Worrilow led the Falcons with 16 tackles, including one for a loss. Jonathan Massaquoi (4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Robert McClain (7 tackles, 1 pass defended); William Moore (7 tackles); Desmond Trufant (4 tackles); Osi Umenyiora (3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks); and Sean Weatherspoon (9 tackles) had notable games.
The Falcons won the toss, but deferred to the second half. They were able to get a stop agianst the Bucs on the opening series on a four-and-out, leading to a Michael Koenen punt. The Falcons offensive drive started strong with a pair of runs by Steven Jackson up the middle for a combined 22 yards. But a pair of sacks by Gerald McCoy backed up the Falcons on a 3rd-and-24, and Matt Bosher punted after a 10-yard pass to Darius Johnson.
Bobby Rainey led the Bucs on their subsequent drive, rushing for a combined 33 yards on four carries to get the ball into Falcon territory. Then he turned the keys over to fellow running back Brian Leonard, who converted on a pair of third downs with a 6-yard catch followed by a 6-yard run on a direct snap. The latter put the ball in the red zone, but the Falcons defense held and forced the Bucs to settle for a 30-yard field goal from Rian Lindell to take a 3-0 lead with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
The Falcons were able to move the ball into Bucs territory at the start of the second quarter, utilizing the no-huddle. However McCoy was able to get to Matt Ryan again on a sack on 3rd-and-8 from the Bucs’ 21-yard line to force a 46-yard field goal from Matt Bryant to tie the game 3-3.
But the Bucs responded quickly, as Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson on the opening play of the ensuing series for a 47-yard gain. Three plays later on a 2nd-and-19, Rainey burst up the middle for a 43-yard touchdown run, giving Tampa Bay a 10-3 lead with 10:14 left in the first half.
The Bucs followed that score with an onside kick, which was recovered by Erik Lorig, giving the Bucs the ball back at their 48-yard line. Then on 4th-and-9 at the Falcons 34-yard line, the Bucs got too aggressive in trying for a fake punt which led to an incomplete pass by Koenen to Leonard, that was broken up by punt returner Robert McClain.
With the Falcons taking over, Ryan was hit as he threw by Dekoda Watson, which forced his pass right into the waiting hands of Mason Foster who returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. The Falcons followed up that turnover with another one, as on the six play of the ensuing series, Roddy White was stripped by Dashon Goldson after a 16-yard gain, resulting in Mark Barron recovering the ball at Tampa Bay’s 47-yard line.
The Bucs moved the ball downfield quickly, and scored on a 3-yard run by Rainey, capping off a 5-play, 53-yard drive. That gave the Bucs a 24-3 lead with 3 minutes to go in the first half.
The Falcons were able to move down the field and score on their ensuing drive, finishing an 8-play, 49-yard drive with a 49-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
The Bucs followed suit, but Lindell’s 55-yard attempt at the end of the half sailed wide right and the score remained 24-6 at halftime.
The Falcons opened up the second half throwing and utilizing their no-huddle. They were successful at retaining possession thanks to a pass interference penalty on Mike Adams giving them a first down on their first third down try. That was followed by a 14-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers on a later 4th-and-8 attempt that finally put the ball into Buc territory. But their next third down and fourth down attempts failed on a pair of Ryan passes to White that were incomplete.
The Bucs responded with another scoring drive, thanks to another deep shot from Glennon to Jackson, this time for 53 yards on the fourth play of the series. On the next play, Rainey scored on 4-yard pass where he was wide open in the flat, giving the Bucs a 31-6 lead with 9:34 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons were able to convert a third down on their next series on a 8-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez, but again Ryan couldn’t connect three plays later on a 3rd-and-9 to White. The subsequent punt by Bosher was blocked by Dekoda Watson and the Bucs took over at the Falcons 20-yard line.
Four runs by Rainey got the ball to the 10-yard line, and three plays later the drive was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Glennon to Jackson.
The Falcons offense finally showed life on the next series, as Ryan found Harry Douglas over the middle for a pass. Douglas broke a tackle and ran the rest of the way for an 80-yard score to get Atlanta its first touchdown with 1:02 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons defense responded to the surge with a three-and-out to begin the fourth quarter, but on the second play of the ensuing Falcons offensive series, Ryan’s pass to Douglas was picked off by Goldson.
Rainey continued to accumulate yards and milk clock on a 6-minute drive as he rushed for a combined 31 yards on 6 carries. But the Bucs scoring drive was halted when Osi Umenyiora sacked Glennon to force a 46-yard field goal from Lindell, which was good.
The starters gave way to the backups on the subsequent Falcons series with Dominique Davis taking over at quarterback. On the sixth play of that drive, Antone Smith ran up the middle and streak past the Bucs defense for a 50-yard touchdown run. Davis then hit Gonzalez on a throwback pass for the two-point conversion. That cut the Bucs lead to 41-21 with 5:22 left in the game.
The Bucs backups had a three-and-out and gave the Falcons the ball back with 3:40 left in the game. On the third play of the drive, Smith broke outside for a 38-yard run. Two plays later, McCoy was flagged for a low hit on Davis, which knocked the young quarterback out of the game. Matt Ryan re-entered the game and hit Douglas on a 10-yard pass just before the two-minute warning. McCoy was again flagged for roughing the passer on the next play, and gave the Falcons a first down at the Tampa Bay 6-yard line. Two plays later, Ryan hit White who then backed up over the goal line on a 5-yard score. But the ball was knocked out just as White was crossing the plane and recovered by Levine Toilolo in the end zone. But the play was reviewed by the officials and ruled a touchdown since the ball had crossed the plane before it was jarred loose by Lavonte David. That cut the lead to 41-28 with 1:45 left in the game.
The Bucs ran the ball three straight times with Rainey before punting to get the clock to under a minute. On the subsequent final play of the game, the Falcons handed it off to Josh Vaughan for a 1-yard gain up the middle.
The Falcons return home to the Georgia Dome next week to face off against the New Orleans Saints (8-2) on Thursday Night Football. The Falcons sport a 3-0 record on Thursday night games under Mike Smith and are 4-1 all-time at home on Thursday night. They beat the Saints a year ago at home on Thursday night in Week 13 by a score of 23-13. The Falcons have already lost to the Saints this year, dropping their season-opener 23-17.