Ryan threw for 353 yards and a touchdown. He and the Falcons (10-1, 2-1 NFC South), particularly WR Julio Jones, took advantage of the Buccaneers' pass defense, statistically the NFL's worst and depleted at cornerback due to injuries. Jones was dominant, winning a matchup with rookie CB Leonard Johnson.
For the Bucs, it was a near win in a game that showed just how far they have come under first-year coach Greg Schiano. But that won't likely be much consolation for a team that missed multiple opportunities to earn its fifth win in a row.
Tampa Bay (6-5, 2-2 NFC South) squandered two drives that started inside the Atlanta 40-yard line, getting only field goals on both. Kicker Connor Barth missed a 56-yarder late in the game that would have given the Bucs the lead. Instead, Atlanta was able to almost completely run out the clock.
When the game turned: It looked like the Bucs had all the momentum early in the fourth quarter. They scored a touchdown on a 1-yard rush by RB Doug Martin on the first play of the period. Atlanta's ensuing possession ended when Ryan was sacked by CB E.J. Biggers, who blindsided the Falcons' QB and forced a fumble that Tampa Bay recovered in the Atlanta 36-yard line.
But the Bucs' offense couldn't completely take advantage. Three plays gained only six yards, and the team had to settle for a 48-yard field goal from Barth. That made it 23-17.
Atlanta needed only six plays to go 64 yards on its next drive -- helped by a controversial defensive holding penalty in the end zone on Tampa Bay S Ahmad Black on a third down play -- and RB Michael Turner's 3-yard TD rush proved to be the winning score.
- A bit of trickery from the Bucs late in the second quarter: QB Josh Freeman threw what appeared to be a simple screen pass to WR Mike Williams. But Williams then pulled the ball up and threw it downfield to an open Vincent Jackson for a 28-yard gain to the Atlanta 3-yard line. But Tampa Bay couldn't get in the end zone and settled for a short Barth field goal.
- Jones' 80-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. His status wasn't clear coming into the game because of an ankle injury, but he showed on this play that he's just fine. It was a straight "fly" pattern that saw him matched up one-on-one with CB Johnson. Johnson was in good position but couldn't match Jones' speed. Ryan put the ball on the mark, and Jones did the rest.
- The defensive holding penalty on Tampa Bay's Ahmad Black in the final minutes. It looked as though Ryan was throwing the ball away, as the pass was well over the head of Atlanta's Harry Douglas. Black was incredulous when the flag came out, and it appeared he had a legitimate argument.
- Barth's missed field goal with 3:32 to go. It's hard to criticize Barth for missing a 56-yard field goal, especially after he had made his first three tries of the game, but this miss allowed the Falcons to run down the clock instead of trying to reclaim the lead.
- Falcons QB Matt Ryan -- 26 of 32 for 353 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 fumble
- Falcons WR Julio Jones -- 6 catches, 147 yards, 1 TD
What they said about the controversial defensive holding penalty that set up Atlanta's game-winning TD:
- The Bucs' Ahmad Black, who was flagged, told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times he believed Ryan was throwing the ball out of bounds on the play: "I guess you've got to look at [the receiver] all the time," he said.
Numbers you should know:
- With 353 passing yards, Ryan became the first player in Atlanta's franchise history to throw for 300 or more yards in four consecutive games.
- The teams went almost the entire first half without an incomplete pass. Ryan's third down pass with less than six minutes to go in the half was picked off by Tampa Bay S Ronde Barber, the first pass of the game that wasn't completed. Three plays later, Freeman threw incomplete for the first pass that wasn't caught by a player on either team.
- Tampa Bay RB Martin came into the game leading the NFL in total yards from scrimmage but was held to 63 yards on 21 carries and two receptions. He did add a pair of 1-yard touchdown rushes.
Injury update: Falcons CB Asante Samuel played down the stretch despite being visibly bothered by a shoulder injury.
Going forward: Atlanta -- The Falcons have a four-game lead over the Bucs in the NFC South with only five games to play for each team. Barring an epic collapse from the 10-1 Falcons, the division is theirs. Tampa Bay -- The Bucs are still in the thick of the wild card race but have a reasonably tough stretch run, starting with next week's game at Denver. The Bucs and the Falcons will meet again in Week 17.
For more from Tampa Bay Bucs blogger Patrick Southern, follow @CBSBucs on Twitter.
For more Falcons coverage, follow Mike Singer @CBSFalcons.