Sun Sentinel
National Football League
      === Cellar-dwelling Bucs aim to move up vs. Falcons ===
 ( - This isn't what Tony Gonzalez signed up for.
 Coaxed out of possibly retiring, the future Hall of Fame tight end decided to
 spend one more season with the Atlanta Falcons in hopes that this will finally
 be the year he gets a chance at a Super Bowl title.
 Well, the Falcons are an abysmal 2-7 and chances of at least capturing a wild
 card berth are pretty much lost. Still, they have to move on and continue this
 tumultuous season, which resumes Sunday against the just-as-lowly and NFC
 South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
 Gonzalez was rumored to be on the trading block so the athletic pass catcher
 can link on with a contender. With the trading deadline now past that's not
 going to happen and Gonzalez is sticking it out with Atlanta, which has lost
 three straight.
 Last year's No. 1 seed in the NFC and division champion, the Falcons were
 handed a 33-10 beating at home by the Seattle Seahawks Sunday in a rematch of
 last year's divisional playoffs. Gonzalez caught three passes for 29 yards and
 injured a toe on his left foot in the second half. Gonzalez said he couldn't
 play full speed, but was able to fight through pain.
 "Usually when you have injuries, you can get through it through the game. Then
 the next day after it calms down and swells up a little bit, then that's when
 the trouble starts," Gonzalez said afterward. "So, we'll see how goes.
 Tomorrow, I'm going to wake up, and hopefully it's not that bad."
 If Gonzalez is unable to go, that will leave quarterback Matt Ryan without
 three healthy targets. Julio Jones is already finished with a foot problem,
 Roddy White isn't 100 percent because of a hamstring and now Gonzalez. White
 had one reception for 20 yards against Seattle and was playing for the first
 time since an Oct. 7 loss to the New York Jets.
 Harry Douglas led the corps with seven catches for 49 yards and Ryan completed
 23 of his 36 pass attempts for 172 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons are off
 to the worst starts since going 1-6 in 2007, 1-7 in 2003 and 2-9 in 1999, and
 any speculation that head coach Mike Smith's job is in jeopardy went out the
 window following Sunday's loss.
 "Mike Smith is a hell of a football coach; he's the leader of this team,"
 Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told "Mike's going
 You know what else is going nowhere? Atlanta's running game. It's the worst in
 the league at 64.3 yards per game and hasn't been able to carry its own weight
 amid the passing struggles. Veteran Steven Jackson has been limited to five
 games and ran for 11 yards on nine rushes versus the Seahawks. The Falcons
 aren't going to instill fear in opposing defenses with a hobbled Jackson and
 Jacquizz Rodgers, who leads Atlanta with 251 yards on the ground.
 The Falcons hope to get left tackle Sam Baker back from injury and he has been
 bothered by a knee issue. Lamar Holmes went back to playing left tackle and
 Jeremy Trueblood took over the right side.
 "Yes, it is a concern," Smith said of Baker's health and the mix up across the
 line. "When you can't go out and play consecutive games, you have to be
 concerned about it. Sam's doing everything he can in terms of getting back out
 there and we wanted to make sure that he's 100 percent before we put him back
 out on the football field."
 The Buccaneers got off the schneid with Monday night's 22-19 win over the
 Miami Dolphins. They are no longer the only winless club in the NFL and played
 a satisfactory game to prevail for the first time since last Dec. 30.
 With Doug Martin on injured reserve, Brian Leonard carried the rushing load
 with 57 yards on 20 carries after Mike James was lost with a fractured ankle.
 Bobby Rainey got some reps as well and tallied 45 yards and a score on eight
 touches. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon passed for 139 yards with a touchdown
 and interception, and talked about the ground game.
 "I think Mike (James) got off to a great start. First try with him, he went
 down the field. But Brian Leonard has been around for a long time and he's a
 very good football player and we all knew what he was capable of," Glennon
 said. "Then Bobby Rainey really stepped up. He's only been here for a few
 weeks, these are really his first meaningful reps and to do what he did shows
 that he is a real special player. It looks like they are going to have to step
 up. I think between those two, they did a really good job."
 Glennon still hasn't emerged as a franchise quarterback, but played safe
 enough to lift Tampa Bay to victory. Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was pleased
 to end the slump.
 "It's a good feeling to be able to stand up here after a win," Schiano stated.
 "I'm really proud of our guys. It had that same feeling going down the back
 stretch, and our guys bowed up and made some plays in the clutch to win the
 game. That's something much needed and something that we'll build on now
 moving forward."
 Tampa Bay, which opened the 2009 campaign 1-12, was able to stop a seven-game
 losing streak at home and amassed 264 total yards versus Miami, a franchise
 that entered Monday's game in turmoil because of the recent bullying scandal
 among two of its offensive linemen. It didn't seem to bother the Bucs, as they
 posted two sacks, an interception and four passes defensed. The Bucs had the
 two sacks on the Dolphins' final drive to thwart any comeback.
 Meanwhile, Tampa Bay seems to have itself a running-back-by-committe going on
 now with Martin and James gone. The Bucs did sign Michael Hill off the
 Packers' practice squad.
 The Falcons and Bucs split two meetings last season, while Tampa Bay has lost
 eight of the last 10 in the series, including a 31-23 setback back on Oct. 20.
 The Bucs are 1-4 at home, while Atlanta is winless on the road this season
 (0-4) and has won three of four at Tampa Bay.
 The all-time series between theses NFC South foes is even at 20-20.
 The Falcons still have to slow down Tampa Bay's solid committee of running
 backs and failed to that against the Seahawks Sunday. Of Seattle's 490 yards
 of offense, 211 came on the ground thanks to Marshawn Lynch, who ran for a
 season-high 145 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Some speculated that
 Atlanta's defense was flat from the start.
 "No, I don't feel like we came out flat," Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux said.
 "First of all, I felt like we had a great week of practice and believed that
 we could get the victory leading into the game. The first couple of series we
 held their offense to just six points. We played hard today but just didn't
 make enough plays in the game to beat that ball club. We just have to continue
 to get better as a football team."
 Babineaux could have his wish granted with the pending returning of star
 linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon has been out since a foot injury in
 Week 2 against St. Louis and NFL rules has kept him sidelined until now. The
 versatile and tenacious Weatherspoon will definitely help a disenchanted
 Atlanta defense and Smith agrees.
 "It'll be a big help to our defense," Smith said. "Sean, through his play
 since he's been here, has earned a leadership role. He is one of our best
 players. He's got a great attitude. He's a guy that can inspire his teammates,
 so it'll be good to have him back out on the field."
 Weatherspoon is expected to practice this week and his return will shake up
 Atlanta's linebacker corps, but only for the better. He has eight tackles on
 the season and registered 96 stops in 2012, one year after a career-high 115
 Tampa Bay played well on defense Monday to reach the win column for the first
 time in 2013. Will the effort carry over against a Falcons team that still has
 enough firepower to rip off a few wins in a row?
 Well, the Bucs allowed just two yards rushing to Miami and the Falcons
 dreadful running the football, so there shouldn't be a problem there. White
 will have another week to heal for Atlanta and hopes to have the same success
 Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews had on Monday, when he caught 11 passes for
 120 yards and a pair of scores.
 The Falcons have the pleasure of facing one of the best in Bucs cornerback
 Darrelle Revis, who feels the team's confidence will grow after the first win.
 "A win cures everything. We've been 0-8 and been struggling to get wins this
 year, but it (feels) good to get our first win. Especially at home, (where)
 the fans were into it, it was Veterans Day," Revis said. "It was an emotional
 game for us and we knew the type of game it was going to be on Monday night as
 well. It's great; it's great for the fans. It's going to give us confidence to
 move forward week in and week out."
 In the week of Oct. 20, Falcons wide receiver Douglas ripped the Bucs'
 secondary for 149 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.
 In a matchup that has no legitimate playoff impact, expect the Falcons and
 Bucs to come out swinging just to save face and restore pride. Atlanta is
 hoping the return of defensive stalwart Weatherspoon will aid them in getting
 back to respectability and that Ryan can continue to protect the football. He
 didn't thrown an interception last Sunday, but had seven in the previous two
 Ryan's 172 yards passing versus Seattle were a season low and the weak ground
 attack prevented the Falcons from stopping their slide. The still-listless
 Bucs are next and it wouldn't be a surprise if Atlanta's offense, which has
 scored no more than 13 points in the past three weeks, comes to life.
 Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 16
 11/15 11:53:57 ET