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              === Falcons edge Bucs in key NFC South showdown ===
 
 Tampa,  FL (Sports  Network) -  Michael Turner  barreled in  for the  go-ahead
 touchdown  midway  through the fourth  quarter, as the Atlanta Falcons escaped
 Raymond James Stadium with a 24-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
 
 The  outcome  gave Atlanta  (10-1) a  stranglehold on the  NFC South and ended
 Tampa  Bay's four-game  winning streak. The Falcons hold a four-game lead atop
 the  division heading into Thursday's showdown against the New Orleans Saints,
 who handed them their only loss on Nov. 11.
 
 Matt  Ryan, coming off a five-interception performance in last week's win over
 Arizona,  turned  it over  twice but  completed an  efficient 26-of-32 for 353
 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown heave to Julio Jones.
 
 Jones,  who  was listed  as questionable  because of a  sore ankle, caught six
 passes for 147 yards.
 
 Doug  Martin, the NFL's leader in yards from scrimmage, ran for two scores but
 was held to 50 yards on 21 carries for Tampa Bay (6-5). Josh Freeman threw for
 256 yards on 19-of-30 passing in defeat.
 
 With Atlanta trailing, 13-10, midway through the third quarter, Jones ran a go
 route,  sped past  rookie  cornerback  Leonard Johnson  and  hauled in  Ryan's
 perfect toss for the go-ahead TD with 8:26 on the clock.
 
 After   trading  punts,  Tiquan  Underwood's  39-yard  catch  highlighted  the
 Buccaneers'  9-play, 82-yard  drive that ended on the first play of the fourth
 quarter via Martin's second 1-yard touchdown run of the day.
 
 On  the ensuing drive, Bucs cornerback E.J. Biggers came in on a blitz and hit
 Ryan  just before he  was about to throw. Gerald McCoy recovered the fumble at
 the Atlanta 36, and Connor Barth made it 23-17 with a 48-yard field goal.
 
 "It  was  frustrating...when we  kicked the  field goal  rather than score the
 touchdown," Freeman said.
 
 Holding  the hosts to  three points proved vital, as the Falcons went down the
 field  in six  plays to  regain the  lead. Jacquizz  Rodgers' 43-yard  kickoff
 return followed by his 32-yard catch-and-run moved Atlanta to the opposing 32.
 
 Two  completions  pushed the ball  to the 10, and  a holding penalty on safety
 Ahmad  Black  on third down  made it 1st-and-goal  from the three. From there,
 Turner bulled his way over the goal line with 7:55 remaining.
 
 The  Bucs moved the  ball to the Atlanta 38, and an incompletion on third down
 brought  out the kicking unit. Barth, who hit a career-long 57-yard field goal
 in Week 4, was short on a 56-yard attempt, giving the ball back to Atlanta.
 
 The  Falcons chewed up  3:24 on the clock, and though Matt Bryant missed a 48-
 yard  field goal,  only  eight  seconds remained.  Freeman,  from just  before
 midfield,  reached the  end zone on the  final play, but the prayer was batted
 down as time expired.
 
 "You  can always count on a close game when you come down to play an NFC South
 game," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. "That was a hard-fought game."
 
 Tampa  Bay's only  touchdown-scoring drive in the first half came on its first
 possession,  as Martin  capped the 10-play, 81-yard march by taking a pitch to
 the left and running in for a 1-yard score and a 7-3 lead.
 
 Atlanta went ahead early in the second quarter when Rodgers got to the outside
 and punched in his first rushing touchdown of the year from five yards out.
 
 Barth booted a 22-yard field goal after Ronde Barber picked off Ryan, then hit
 a 42-yarder on the first possession of the third quarter for a 13-10 edge.
 
 Bryant, who opened the scoring with a 31-yard kick, shanked a 22-yard try wide
 right  just  before halftime.  Bryant had  made 45  consecutive kicks under 30
 yards.
 
 
                                   Game Notes
 
 The Falcons have won seven of the last eight meetings, the lone loss coming in
 a  16-13  loss in Tampa last  season ... Ryan has  led the Falcons to 21 game-
 winning  drives in  the fourth quarter or  overtime, the most in the NFL since
 his  rookie season  ... Ryan has eight  turnovers in his last three games, one
 more  than  he committed in the  first eight weeks combined ... Atlanta's Tony
 Gonzalez  had five catches for 62 yards and became the eighth player and first
 tight  end in NFL history to eclipse 14,000 career receiving yards ... Rodgers
 amassed 152 all-purpose yards ... Barber has 47 career interceptions, tied for
 46th all-time in NFL annals ... Vincent Jackson led the Bucs with 96 receiving
 yards on five grabs.
 
 
 11/25 20:45:57 ET

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