Atlanta at Tampa Bay

Falcons rally in fourth, drop Bucs in NFC South bout

CBSSports.com wire reports
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Matt Ryan played fairly ordinary before Matty Ice came through again for the Atlanta Falcons.

The streaking NFC South leaders won their sixth straight game Sunday, with Ryan finishing another fourth-quarter rally to help the Falcons (10-2) retain sole possession of first place with a 28-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"When you come out and you don't play as well as you like, but you still find a way to win, those are signs of a good football team," Ryan said. "We feel like today was a good example of that for us."

Ryan threw two interceptions -- Atlanta's first turnovers in five games -- but was at his best with the game on the line. As usual.

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The third-year pro finished his sixth fourth-quarter, game-winning drive of the season with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins with 4:31 remaining. It's the 13th time in his career that he's led a winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Eric Weems got the comeback from a 10-point deficit started by scoring on a 102-yard kickoff return. Brent Grimes sealed the win with an interception that stopped Tampa Bay's final possession deep in Falcons territory.

"The mindset was the same. We felt like we could go down the field and score," Ryan said. "We're confident in that situation. We've been in those situations a number of times this year. ... Nobody panicked because we understand that we can make plays when we need to."

Ryan kept the 10-play, 67-yard march alive with a 25-yard completion to Roddy White on third-and-20. The Falcons, who stayed one game ahead of New Orleans in the division, also benefited from a couple of costly penalties on the Bucs.

"We felt like we really outplayed them for most of the game, but it's the NFL," Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman said. "You have to find a way to win in the fourth quarter nearly every week, and today we weren't able to do that."

Rookie LeGarrette Blount rushed for 103 yards and fullback Earnest Graham threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to John Gilmore for Tampa Bay (7-5), which is 7-0 against teams with losing records compared to 0-5 against opponents with winning marks.

Ryan completed 18 of 36 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. The pair of interceptions were his first since a 39-32 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 24.

The third-year pro, who drove Atlanta to a game-winning field goal in the final minute of last week's three-point win over Green Bay, threw a 17-yard TD pass to Ovie Mughelli in the second quarter. Michael Turner rushed for 88 yards for the Falcons and scored on a 5-yard run that gave Atlanta an early 7-0 lead.

CBSSports.com Grades
Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons
B
QB Matt Ryan didn't have his best game, completing 18 of 36 for 205 yards and two TDs while throwing his first INT in five games. The defense also struggled, particularly against the run, allowing 151 rushing yards. All that aside, the Falcons found ways to get the victory.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
C
Tampa had the game in hand, leading 24-14, but then allowed the 102-yard kickoff return. Then, at crucial moments the Bucs were called for penalties that helped move Atlanta down the field. QB Josh Freeman sealed the Bucs' loss throwing an INT while trying to go in for a winning score.
By Scott Purks
RapidReports Correspondent

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"Sometimes you've got to find a way to win a game when you're not at your best, and we obviously didn't play our best ballgame today," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We were down by 10 points with about 10 minutes to go. We talk all the time about being resilient and somebody has to step up and make a play. The play today was the play of our kickoff return team, and a great individual effort by Eric Weems."

Freeman was 19 of 38 for 181 yards and one touchdown for the third-place Bucs, who fell three games behind Atlanta in the division.

Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris didn't take solace in the NFL's youngest team playing the Falcons tough for the second time in a month.

"I think a good or great team, they go out and finish games," Morris said. "We're not going to wait until we become a veteran team to go out and try to finish games. We've got to do it the next four weeks."

The Bucs wore orange throwback jerseys from their expansion days in the late 1970's, and the team's first coach, John McKay, was inducted into the franchise's Ring of Honor at halftime. McKay's son, Rich, is the Falcons president and was Tampa Bay's general manager when the club won its only Super Bowl title eight years ago.

Atlanta had gone a franchise-record four consecutive weeks without a turnover before Ryan overthrew intended receiver Tony Gonzalez and safety Sean Jones returned his first interception of the season 31 yards to the Atlanta 30 to change the momentum of the game.

Seven plays later, Freeman's 1-yard TD throw to Williams tied it at 14 with 15 seconds left before halftime.

Connor Barth's 33-yard field goal snapped the tie early in the third quarter. Corey Lynch's interception at the Atlanta 39 led to Graham's TD pass to Gilmore that gave the Bucs a short-lived 24-14 lead.

Weems took the ensuing kickoff 2 yards deep in his own end zone, slipped past two diving tacklers as he made his way to the sideline at about 25, then somehow stayed in bounds as he headed up the sideline in front of the Atlanta bench and ran into the clear.

"That was huge. An unbelievable change of momentum," Ryan said. "They go down and they score and put us behind two scores. Immediately following that, we run the kick back. Special teams jump-started us today. We know in this league, especially on the road, you're going to have to find different ways to win week in and week out."

Notes

  • The Falcons have won five straight in the intense division rivalry, with four of the games decided by six points or less. Atlanta won an earlier meeting this season 27-21 when Blount was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Falcons 2 with just under two minutes to go.
  • The Bucs played much of the game without cornerback Aqib Talib, who left in the second quarter with a hip injury. Center Jeff Faine left in the second half with a triceps injury.
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Sun. Dec. 5Final
Atlanta
(10-2)
7701428
773724
FalconsBuccaneers
Pass: M. Ryan (18-36, 205) J. Freeman (19-38, 181)
Rush: M. Turner (24-88) L. Blount (20-103)
Rec: R. White (7-74) M. Williams (6-68)
Scoring Summary
1ST QUARTER
TDMichael Turner, 5 Yd run (Matt Bryant kick is good), 6:23. Drive: 6 plays, 52 yards in 3:16.
TDLeGarrette Blount, 6 Yd run (Connor Barth kick is good), 0:25. Drive: 11 plays, 86 yards in 5:58.
2ND QUARTER
TDOvie Mughelli, 17 Yd pass from Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant kick is good), 4:37. Drive: 8 plays, 60 yards in 2:34.
TDMike Williams, 1 Yd pass from Josh Freeman (Connor Barth kick is good), 0:15. Drive: 7 plays, 30 yards in 1:24.
3RD QUARTER
FGConnor Barth, 33 Yd, 11:34. Drive: 8 plays, 51 yards in 3:26.
4TH QUARTER
TDJohn Gilmore, 2 Yd pass from Earnest Graham (Connor Barth kick is good), 10:24. Drive: 4 plays, 39 yards in 2:00.
TDEric Weems, 102 Yd kick return (Matt Bryant kick is good), 10:03.
TDMichael Jenkins, 9 Yd pass from Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant kick is good), 4:31. Drive: 10 plays, 67 yards in 3:59.
Players of the Game
Pittsburgh

L. Blount
Rush 20
Yds 103
Avg 5.2
TD 1

M. Turner
Rush 24
Yds 88
Avg 3.7
TD 1
 
Atlanta
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
M. Ryan18/3620522
RushingATTYDSTDLG
M. Turner2488111
M. Ryan3-30-1
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
R. White774025
T. Gonzalez338017
O. Mughelli332117
M. Jenkins330115
H. Douglas121021
G. Johnson110010
Tampa Bay
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
J. Freeman19/3818111
E. Graham1/1210
RushingATTYDSTDLG
L. Blount20103128
J. Freeman428017
A. Benn21007
C. Williams2804
S. Stroughter1202
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
M. Williams668121
S. Stroughter539019
A. Benn128028
K. Winslow326010
R. Purvis110010
J. Gilmore2614
C. Williams2604
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
HOU 24 Final
PHI 34
NO 34 Final
CIN 30
CHI 24 Final
DET 20
SF 16 Final
GB 34
DEN 6 Final
KC 10
CLE 13 Final
MIA 10
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MIN 38
WAS 7 Final
NYG 31
JAC 17 Final
TEN 6
OAK 28 Final
SD 13
STL 19 Final
ARI 6
DAL 38 Final
IND 35
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SEA 31
PIT 13 Final
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NE 45