Falcons finish 9-7 with a win over Bucs
The Falcons ended their 43-year streak of not having consecutive winning seasons with a 20-10 win over Tampa Bay Buccaneers to finish the season 9-7. With their 11-5 record last season, the Mike Smith era starts with two winning seasons.
Matt Ryan completed 23 of 35 passes for 223 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Jason Snelling had his first 100-yard game of his career finishing with 147 yards on 25 carries. Jerious Norwood added 27 yards on 9 carries. Roddy White led receivers with 6 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Michael Jenkins and Jerious Norwood each added 4 catches for 45 and 23 yards respectively. Justin Peelle had 3 catches for 38 yards and a touchdown, while Tony Gonzalez’s 3 catches for 30 yards means he finishes the season one catch shy of his 1000-catch career benchmark. The Falcons offense struggled early in the game, only converting 2 of 7 third downs, but 5 of 8 in the second half. The Falcons offense largely rested on Snelling’s shoulders in the second half, where he rushed for 131 yards on 18 carries.
Defensively, the Falcons had a strong performance limiting the Bucs offense to 212 total yards, including 52 in the first half. Even with Eric Weems fumbling the opening kickoff gave the Bucs the ball at the Falcons 28-yard line, the defense held the Bucs to just three points, and did not score again until 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. During that span, the Bucs never penetrated further into Falcons territory than the 45-yard line. Erik Coleman led defenders with 7 tackles including 1 for loss. John Abraham (3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss), Jonathan Babineaux (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss), Chauncey Davis (2 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss), Brent Grimes (2 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defended), Curtis Lofton (4 tackles), Stephen Nicholas (5 tackles, 1 pass defended), Chris Owens (5 tackles, 1 interception), and Mike Peterson (3 tackles) had noteworthy games.
Special teams had some issues. An injured Matt Bryant managed to connect on two 36-yard field goals, but had a 40-yarder blocked. Michael Koenen also nursing injuries had 3 punts for an average of 35 yards. Eric Weems fumbled a kickoff, but finished the day with 3 for an average of 21.3 yards. He had 1 punt return for no yards. Stephen Nicholas added two stops on special teams.