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Bucs best top-seeded Falcons in finale
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Doug Martin carried the ball 28 times for 142 yards and a touchdown to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 22-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Josh Freeman completed 19-of-35 passes for 222 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while Mike Williams had six catches for 65 yards and a score for the Buccaneers (7-9), who failed to reach the postseason for the fifth straight season.
"The win is important in itself. I am glad we could go out with this win," Martin said. "What we wanted to do was end the season off with a win. You have to take your hats off to all these guys being competitors and just fighting for each other. I am proud of these guys."
Matt Ryan was 28-for-44 passing for 238 yards and a touchdown and Michael Turner added a rushing score for the Falcons (13-3), who have already locked up the top seed in the NFC and a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs.
"It's huge (to have a first-round bye), that's our advantage. That is what everyone is playing for," Turner said. "It's the best position in the playoffs as possible, but once you get there it doesn't mean anything. You still have to go out there and do you job and pull out some wins."
Connor Barth's 48-yard field goal put the Bucs up 3-0 in the first quarter, but Matt Bryant's 28-yarder knotted the game up four minutes later.
Freeman's 8-yard touchdown pass to Williams gave Tampa a 10-3 lead near the midway point of the second quarter. Freeman took the snap, spun to his left to avoid the rush, then fired a bullet to Williams who was able to touch two feet in bounds before falling out the back of the end zone.
Barth added a 22-yard field goal with just over three minutes left in the first half to give the Bucs a 13-3 lead at the break.
Tampa stretched its lead to 16-3 on the opening drive of the second half after Barth split the uprights from 42 yards out.
Freeman's pass on the Bucs' next touch was picked off by Asante Samuel at the Tampa 32 and returned to the 21. Two plays later Turner ran it in from 17 yards out to pull within 16-10.
Tampa Bay, though, countered with a 40-yard Martin touchdown run to push its cushion to 22-10. The Bucs attempted a two-point conversion to make it a 14- point game, but Freeman's pass to Williams in the back left corner of the end zone sailed out of bounds.
After exchanging punts, the Falcons pieced together a 9-play, 52-yard drive capped off with Ryan's 7-yard pass to Harry Douglas on 4th-and-goal.
Earlier in the march, Ryan hit Julio Jones on a screen pass and Jones took it 18 yards upfield to the Bucs' 29. A 13-yard completion to Jacquizz Rodgers two plays later got the ball inside the Tampa 10-yard line.
Atlanta had one last chance to win the game after forcing a Buccaneers' punt. Ryan completed three consecutive passes to put the ball at the Falcons' 33. Ryan, though, threw four straight incomplete passes and turned the ball over on downs.
The Falcons not only lost their first game at home this season, but may have lost a key piece on defense as defensive end John Abraham left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. Abraham was helped off the field by trainers and was later carted to the locker room. He did not return to the game.
Tampa Bay holds a 20-19 advantage in the all-time series ... Freeman has thrown for a Buccaneers single-season record 4,065 yards. It was the first time the four-year pro has reached the 4,000-yard plateau ... The Falcons had an 11-game home winning streak snapped ... Atlanta has finished 13-3 in two of its last three seasons.
12/31 00:49:41 ET