The Falcons won in a closely fought division game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 20-17. Chris Redman hit Roddy White on a game-winning score with only 23 seconds left for the Falcons in a dramatic come from behind victory. The Falcons started the game fairly well going up 10-0 before injuries to Matt Ryan and Michael Turner stalled momentum and the Bucs were able to take the lead in the third quarter and held it until the very end.
Matt Ryan started the game, but only made it through one series before he was sidelined with a toe injury. He finished the game 2 of 3 for 15 yards. Chris Redman subbed in and had 23 completions on 41 attempts for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns. Michael Turner also left the game with a lower leg injury early in the third quarter. Turner still managed to lead the team with 33 yards on 12 carries. Jerious Norwood had 6 carries for 22 yards. Both Tony Gonzalez and Michael Jenkins had season-high performances. Gonzalez caught a season-high 9 passes for 83 yards. Jenkins had 7 grabs for 80 yards, both season-highs for him. Roddy White added 5 catches for 57 yards. Jerious Norwood also had 2 grabs for 28 yards and a score. With the team down 4 points late in the game, and capitalizing on a missed 51-yard field goal by the Bucs, the Falcons were able to get the ball back with 2:30 left at their own 41. Redman led the team on a 15-play drive to get the game-winning score. Gonzalez came up big, catching 4 passes for 34 yards on that drive. The Falcons were aided by a defensive holding call on a 3rd & 10 incompletion at the Buccaneer 10-yard line, which gave them a fresh set of downs. Redman hit White for a 5-yard score on 4th and goal. Injuries to Ryan and Turner were not the only ones the Falcons had to deal with as both Sam Baker and Harvey Dahl were pulled from the game with injuries.
While not one of the best efforts of the Falcons defense this season, they were able to hold the Buccaneers offense to 318 yards, and made some stops on third downs at critical times to give the offense some opportunities. The Bucs were only 3 of 12 on third downs for the entire game. Curtis Lofton led defenders with 8 tackles. Jamaal Anderson (5 tackles), Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), Kroy Biermann (3 tcackles), Chris Houston (4 tackles), Chevis Jackson (3 tackles, 1 forced fumble and recovery), Stephen Nicholas (6 tackles), Chris Owens (5 tackles), and Mike Peterson (3 tackles) had noteworthy games.
On special teams, it was not a great day. Jason Elam continued his inconsistency. He made a 45 and 37-yarders, but missed on a 43-yard attempt in the fourth quarter that would have cut the Bucs lead to one point and would have allowed the team to possibly win on a field goal instead of the necessary touchdown. Michael Koenen had a punt blocked, which set up the go-ahead score for the Bucs. He finished the day however with 4 punts for an average of 50.3 yards and 2 were placed inside the 20. Eric Weems had 1 punt return for 18 yards and 4 kickoff returns for an average of 19 yards.
The Falcons hope to get players healthy and carry some of this momentum into a home matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles (7-4) next week. It’s probable that the loser of that contest will drop out of a playoff contention. It will also be a noteworthy game because it marks the return of Michael Vick to Atlanta. The Falcons lost to the Eagles last season in a road contest. The Falcons have won three of their last four vs. the Eagles at home dating back to 1997. But have lost 5 of their last 6 games against the Eagles going back to 2000.