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(Sunday, September 25th)
Final Score: Tampa Bay 16, Atlanta 13
Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Josh Freeman threw for 180 yards and rushed for 35 yards and a score to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 16-13 victory over NFC South division foe Atlanta.
Freeman completed 22-of-32 passes with two interceptions for the Buccaneers (2-1).
LeGarrette Blount carried the ball 24 times for 81 yards and Mike Williams caught five passes for 43 yards as the Bucs snapped a streak of five straight losses to the Falcons (1-2).
Matt Ryan threw for 330 yards on 26-of-47 attempts with a touchdown and an interception. He also lost two fumbles.
Roddy White caught nine passes for 140 yards and Julio Jones hauled in six balls for 115 yards in defeat for Atlanta.
Trailing 16-3 early in the fourth quarter, Atlanta forced a Tampa Bay punt. Jones hauled in a 49-yard pass deep over the middle before Tony Gonzalez was on the receiving end of a 10-yard scoring strike to make it a 16-10 game with under 10 minutes to go in the game.
Atlanta's defense held Tampa Bay to a three-and-out on its next possession and took the ball back at its own 32. Ryan hit White three times for 44 yards as the Falcons drove deep into the Buccaneers' territory. Ryan was sacked by Brian Price on a 1st-and-goal at the five and Atlanta was forced to kick a Bryant 33-yard field goal with 4:06 left in the game.
Tampa Bay was able to run out the remainder of the game thanks to Blount's five carries for 23 yards and a defensive offsides penalty on a 4th-and-1 at the Falcons' 44-yard line. The Bucs lined up in their goal-line formation and may not have run a play, but a Falcon defender jumped into the neutral zone on Freeman's hard count to allow Tampa Bay to run out the remaining 1:49 in the game.
"We had a play, but on that particular set we were going to call timeout if they didn't jump," Freeman said. "We were eventually going to get to a quarterback sneak."
On the first possession of the game, Atlanta faced a 3rd-and-13 at their own 24-yard line. Ryan was sacked by Dekoda Watson and the ball came loose. It was recovered by Ronde Barber on the 17.
Three plays later, Josh Freeman was intercepted in the end zone by Thomas DeCoud to give the Falcons the ball back.
The teams traded punts until Tampa Bay took over on its own 32 late in the first quarter. Freeman's 16-yard strike to Williams and a six-yard pass to Kellen Winslow set up Connor Barth's 49-yard field goal.
"We just haven't started fast. We've been trying to do it every week, but we haven't been able to. It's certainly something we're going to address and do better," Ryan said.
Atlanta answered with an 11-play, 84-yard drive that carried into the second quarter and resulted in a Matt Bryant 26-yard kick to tie the game. White's 30-yard reception highlighted the drive.
The Buccaneers took the ball next and Freeman connected on 8-of-9 pass attempts for 78 yards as Tampa Bay marched down the field. Freeman hit Blount, Luke Stocker and Williams for double-digit gains before Freeman took the ball in himself from the one-yard line to put the Bucs ahead 10-3.
Adrian Clayborn's first career sack then knocked the ball out of Ryan's hand and Barth connected on a 26-yard field goal after the two-minute warning.
The Falcons drove down the field in the closing minutes and were just about in field-goal range when Barber intercepted a Ryan pass to keep it 13-3 at the half.
Tampa Bay received the ball first in the second half, chewing up over eight minutes of clock with a 16-play drive in which Blount carried the ball six times for 26 yards. The drive stalled inside the Falcon's red zone, however, and Barth split the uprights from 28-yards out to increase the Buccaneers' lead.
After the Falcons were forced to punt, the Bucs were driving down the field until a Freeman pass tipped off the fingers of his receiver and right into the gut of William Moore for an interception at the Atlanta 25-yard line. Moore returned the pick all the way the Tampa Bay 48. Ryan hit Jones on consecutive passes for 16 and 18 yards, but Atlanta would not advance any further than the Buccaneers' seven. Faced with a 4th-and-3, safety Corey Lynch got his hand in front of a Ryan pass to end the drive.
Winslow has now caught a pass in 79 straight games...Ryan had won seven of his past eight division games entering the contest...Atlanta outgained Tampa Bay through the air, 295-180, while the Buccaneers outgained the Falcons on the ground 115-30...Tampa Bay held the edge in time off possession 35:52-24:08.
09/25 21:31:29 ET