The Atlanta Falcons got their second win of the season with a 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons avoided falling into last place in the NFC South with a win over the winless Bucs. The team held the lead from start to finish, getting a big boost with an early defensive touchdown by Thomas DeCoud.
Matt Ryan led the Falcons with a strong performance despite missing several key receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. Ryan completed 20 of 26 passes for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jacquizz Rodgers led the team in rushing with a mere 16 yards on 8 carries. Jason Snelling fared no better with 14 yards on 7 carries. Rodgers also led the team’s receivers with 8 catches for 46 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Harry Douglas also had a brilliant day, catching 7 passes for a career-high 149 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez added a pair of catches for 30 yards in a relatively quiet performance. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt of 23 yards. Matt Bosher had 4 punts for an average of 48 yards, with 1 being placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert Alford fumbled his lone punt return of the day, while Rodgers returned his lone kickoff return for 21 yards. Offensively, the Falcons weren’t great, generating only 291 total yards and converted just 3 of 9 third downs. But they were effective in the red zone, converting on 2 of 3 trips and were able to score when necessary with a couple of big pass plays to compensate for a lackluster rushing attack. Ryan connected on five passes of 20 or more yards.
Defensively, the Falcons were pretty solid. While they gave up 337 total yards, much of that was due to the Bucs playing catch-up. They did allow 111 yards rushing on the day, but were able to get off the field on third downs, allowing the Bucs to convert just 5 of 17 attempts there. They also got stops in the red zone, allowing a touchdown only once on the Tampa’s four trips there. The Falcons did generate an early turnover, with a sack-strip by William Moore, leading to a 30-yard touchdown run off the fumble recovery by DeCoud. Joplo Bartu led defenders with 10 tackles, and also added 2.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks. Robert Alford (1 tackle, 2 passes defended); DeCoud (7 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); Akeem Dent (4 tackles); Peria Jerry (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 0.5 sacks); Robert McClain (2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Moore (7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble); Asante Samuel (5 tackles, 1 pass defended); Desmond Trufant (7 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble); Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles); and Paul Worrilow (4 tackles) had noteworthy games.
The Falcons offense did not get off to a great start on the opening series. Jacquizz Rodgers was stuffed for a 4-yard loss on first down. Matt Ryan tried connecting with Harry Douglas on the next two plays, but could not convert for a three-and-out to start the game for Atlanta. After Matt Bosher’s punt, the Buccaneers took over at their 45-yard line.
The Falcons defense stepped up, not allowing a yard on the Bucs’ first two plays of their series. Then on 3rd-and-10, Mike Glennon was hit in the backfield on a blitz by William Moore and fumbled it. It was scooped by Thomas DeCoud, who sprinted it back 30 yards for the Falcons touchdown, giving Atlanta a quick 7-0 lead.
The defense looked to force another three-and-out, and things looked promising after a false start penalty forced a 3rd-and-11. But Tom Crabtree made a 14-yard grab to convert and give Tampa Bay a new set of downs. Two plays later, Vincent Jackson dropped a pass on second down that set up a 3rd-and-5. Glennon hit Jackson on third down, but he was chopped down by Asante Samuel shy of the sticks to force a punt by Michael Koenen.
The Falcons offense converted their first third down with a 12-yard comeback to Douglas on the ensuing drive. A holding penalty on Jeremy Trueblood backed up the Falcons on the next play, ultimately leading to a 3rd-and-20. Ryan checked down to Darius Johnson, but only for 12 yards leading to another Bosher punt.
Malliciah Goodman got pressure on Glennon on first down on the ensuing Bucs drive, but a pass interference call on Samuel negated the incomplete pass to Mike Williams. Two plays later, Osi Umenyiora made a nice stop in the backfield on Doug Martin to force a 3rd-and-4. But Glennon hit Jackson on the ensuing play, beating Desmond Trufant, to convert on a 12-yard pass. Three plays later, another false start, this time on Donald Penn, backs up the Bucs on third down. Glennon’s pass to Jackson is nearly picked off by Robert Alford and Koenen is called to punt once more.
On 3rd-and-11, Ryan’s pass to Douglas is incomplete, but the Falcons avoid the three-and-out thanks to a roughing the passer penalty on Trevor Scott. Two plays later, Ryan found Douglas again for a 26-yard gain on a deep crossing pattern to get into Buccaneer territory. On the final play of the first quarter, Ryan found Tony Gonzalez for the first time of the day for a 20-yard gain over the middle. The Falcons started the second quarter with three straight runs by Jason Snelling to get the ball down to the Bucs 15-yard line. But a false start penalty on Douglas negates Snelling’s converting run on 3rd-and-1. But on the next play, Ryan found Rodgers on a 19-yard wheel route for the touchdown. That gave the Falcons a 14-0 lead with little more than a minute into the second quarter.
The Bucs responded, as Vincent Jackson beat Samuel on a misplayed deep pass for a 59-yard score on the third play of the ensuing drive. That cut the Falcons lead from 14-7 quickly.
Atlanta started their next drive with a pair of screen passes and a pair of runs to Rodgers for a combined 36 yards. Two plays later, Ryan hit Douglas for a 54-yard pass on a back-shoulder grab. A 7-yard run by Jason Snelling to the Falcons to the 7-yard line. An offsides penalty on Gerald McCoy added four yards on the nex tplay. But Snelling was bottled up for a 2-yard loss on the next play. Ryan’s pass to Brian Robiskie was broken up by Dashon Goldson in the end zone. Lavonte David broke up the third down pass to Rodgers at the goalline, forcing Matt Bryant to kick a 23-yard field goal to give Atlanta a 17-7 lead.
On the next drive, a late hit on Ted Larsen backed up the Bucs to give them a 3rd-and-16. Jackson was then tackled well short of the sticks on Glennon’s pass. Michael Koenen then shanked a 20-yard punt to give Atlanta the ball back at Tampa’s 37-yard line with 5:40 left in the second quarter.
Ryan hit Douglas on a deep strike for 37 yards, beating the corner and safety on a deep post for the quick strike. That pushed the Falcons lead to 24-7 with a single play, 8-second drive.
The Bucs started to move the ball on the next drive, helped greatly by a pass interference call on Alford against Vincent Jackson that gave the Bucs the ball in Falcon territory. Three plays later after the two-minute warning, Jackson then converted on a 6-yard catch on 3rd-and-1. After another 6-yard pass to Chris Owusu, the Bucs were in the red zone. Four plays later, Peria Jerry and Jonathan Babineaux converged on Glennon, with Jerry getting credited for a coverage sack. That forced a Rian Lindell 36-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half. The Falcons held a 24-10 lead at halftime.
The Falcons defense started the second half strong, forcing a three-and-out thanks to Samuel jumping a route for nearly a pick six to force a punt. But Robert Alford, replacing starting wide receiver Harry Douglas, fumbled on his first punt return of his career and Dekoda Watson recovered for Tampa Bay. That gave the Bucs favorable field position at the Falcons 23-yard line. On the second play of the possession, William Moore decked the running back on a wheel route that knocked Martin from the game. But Jackson beat Trufant on a 6-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 to get the ball to the Falcons 12-yard line. But Trufant responded by breaking up a pass over the middle to Jackson on the very next play. After an 8-yard run by Martin’s replacement, Mike James, up the middle, James was bottled up by DeCoud for a 1-yard gain on 3rd-and-2 from the Falcons 4-yard line. The Bucs went for it on 4th down, and James was able to convert on a 2-yard carry. Corey Peters then tackled James at the half-yard line before he was able to score on the next play. But DeCoud was caught in coverage against Vincent Jackson on the outside, and got beat on an easy fade toss. That cut the Falcons lead to 24-17 with little more than nine minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Atlanta’s offense responded with a three-and-out thanks to an intentional grounding penalty on Matt Ryan backing them up for a failed conversion on 3rd-and-15. Bosher’s punt gave Tampa Bay the ball back with 7:35 left in the third at their 35-yard line.
Joplo Bartu and Jonathan Massaquoi met on a blitz to sack Glennon on first down. But a roughing the passer penalty on Massaquoi (mistakenly called on Malliciah Goodman) on the next play gave the Bucs a new set of downs near midfield. A false start penalty three plays later on Vincent Jackson backed up the Bucs on 3rd-and-12. The Falcons dialed up the blitz and were able to flush Glennon, but he stepped up in the pocket and ran for the first down to get into Falcon territory. But on their next third down try, Glennon missed on a throw to Jackson to force another Koenen punt.
Ryan found Drew Davis on a one-handed grab 24 yards downfield on the third play of the ensuing Falcons drive to put the ball into Buccaneer territory. After Jason Snelling converted on a 2-yard run on 2nd-and-1, the third quarter came to a close.
Ryan find Gonzalez for the second time of the day on a 10-yard catch that had another 12 yards tacked on after a late hit out of bounds called against Kelcie McCray. That put the ball at the Bucs 12-yard line. Rodgers took the draw up the middle on the next play for four yards, which was followed by a middle screen to Rodgers where he juked a defender to score from 8 yards out. That pushed the Falcons lead back to two scores with 14 minutes left in the game.
The Bucs would respond with a long 9-minute scoring drive. They benefited from two early Falcons penalties, including a defensive holding call on DeCoud that allowed them to convert on 3rd-and-4. They had another third down pass from Glennon fall in the dirt on an attempt to Jackson, bringing up a 4th-and-2 at the Falcons 33-yard line nearly three minutes into the drive. Tiquan Underwood converted on a 6-yard pass to convert there. Two plays later, an 11-yard run by Mike James got the Bucs into the red zone. But the Falcons defense held, with William Moore making a stop in the backfield on James to force a 3rd-and-2 from the 8-yard line after six minutes had elapsed on the drive. Once again, Glennon couldn’t connect with Jackson on third down thanks to a pass breakup by Robert Alford in the end zone. But Brian Leonard was able to run up the middle for 3 yards to convert on 4th-and-2. A holding call on Donald Penn pushed the Bucs back 10 yards on the next play to Atlanta’s 15-yard line. Then a face mask penalty on Vincent Jackson on the next play, pushed them back another 15 yards, setting up a 1st and goal from the 30-yard line. An 11-yard catch by Mike Williams two plays later got it down to a 3rd-and-13. But Glennon threw behind Leonard on the next play to set up 4th-and-13. Jonathan Babineaux was able to get pressure and flush Glennon out of the pocket, but he was able to buy time and find an open Tiquan Underwood for the 13-yard catch and score in the end zone. But the play was nullified by an illegal use of hands penalty on Davin Joseph. The Bucs opted to take the field goal rather than go for it on 4th-and-23, and Rian Lindell hit from 41 yards to cut the score to 31-20.
With 5 minutes left in the game, the Bucs kicked deep hoping to play the field position game. The Falcons helped them out with a three-and-out that only bled about a minute off the clock thanks to the Bucs using their final pair of timeouts. After Bosher’s punt, the Bucs took over at their 40-yard line.
After a 10-yard catch over the middle by Jackson, William Moore popped the receiver on the next play to break up a pass at midfield. But Jackson was able to beat a pair of defenders on a deep cross, gaining 29 yards. But when he managed to find daylight, he seemingly stumbled with a chance to score. Glennon’s next pass to Mike James was stopped in the backfield by Robert McClain for a 5-yard loss. That stop in bounds bled nearly 28 seconds off the clock. Tim Wright would drop Glennon’s next pass on 2nd-and-15 with 2:32 left in the game. Brian Leonard’s 9-yard catch failed to convert on the third down following as the two-minute warning hit. Once agian, the Bucs were forced to settle for a field goal from Lindell, this time hitting from 35 yards out.
The Bucs then tried an onside kick, but DeCoud made a nice grab off the bounce to recover the Falcons with 1:54 left in the game. With the Bucs out of timeouts, the Falcons were able to kneel on the ball three times to seal the win.
Next week, the Falcons travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals. The Falcons have won their last two outings against the Cardinals, although both came in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons have never won at University of Phoenix Stadium, posting an 0-2 record there including a playoff loss in January 2009. In fact, the Falcons are 2-10 all-time in road games against the Cardinals.