Ugly win sweet for Buccaneers

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:25 PM ET

TAMPA - The win might have been an ugly one but the taste, well, for the Buccaneers there was none sweeter.

Suffering a five-game losing streak to the division rival Atlanta Falcons, the boys from Tampa showed just enough offence throughout the game and a couple of great defensive stops in the final quarter to come up with a 16-13 victory early Sunday evening.

The Falcons? They showed little.

Sleeping walking through the opening three quarters and perhaps worn out from patting themselves on the back for last week's come-from-behind victory over Philadelphia, the Falcons finally came awake in the final 15 minutes with quarterback Matt Ryan coming oh-so-close to pulling out another miracle.

"It's huge," Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman said of the victory." It's about time one went our way. They've been really close games. Since I've been here they've won the first four and they've all been close.

"They're a great divisional opponent and I've got a lot of respect for those guys. They're a good team and I'm looking forward to seeing them again. But today was our day. We got it done."

When it counted most the Bucs defence came up with the plays, made the stops.

Trailing 16-3 and with 13 minutes left in the game, the Falcons went for it on fourth and three at the Tampa seven.

Ryan's pass to Jacquizz Rodgers, though, was knocked down by safety Corey Lynch, giving the Bucs the ball.

Later, when the lead was cut to 16-10, the Falcons drove from their own 32 to the Tampa five.

One first down Ryan was sacked for a 10-yard loss and two incomplete passes later, they had to settle for a field goal instead of punching in the go-ahead touchdown.

"It's the best win this year," said Bucs defensive back Ronde Barber. "This one was huge because it was the one we were playing. It's a divisional opponent that has beat us numerous times in games that we could have won."

In the end it wasn't so much that the Buccaneers won the game as the Falcons lost it.

"We didn't play very well," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "We didn't do a whole lot of good things in the first three quarters and at the end of the day we just dug ourselves too big of a hole and we weren't able to execute that things that we needed to execute at the end of the ball game to give us a chance.

"We can't turn the ball over like we did and have the turnovers in the red zone."

Simply put, the Falcons were brutal and were flat from the first series in the game.

The Buccaneers took a 13-3 lead into the locker room at the half but it should have been a lot more.

It should have been over.

Twice the Tampa Bay defence crushed Ryan inside the Falcons 20 causing two fumbles, both of them recovered by the Bucs.

But instead of two touchdowns, all the Bucs got out of the turnovers were three points.

The game couldn't have started any better for the Bucs as after kicking off on third and three from his own 24, Ryan was sacked by Dakota Watson with Ronde Barber falling on the ball at the Falcons 17.

Two plays later, Tampa had a first-and-goal at the four-yard line but they couldn't take advantage of the opportunity.

On the next play, Freeman rolled left and threw into heavy traffic in the end zone, a pass intended for tight end Kellen Winslow. But it never arrived on target as safety Thomas DeCoud stepped in front of Winslow and picked it off, giving the ball back to the Falcons.

With the game tied 3-3, the Buccaneers put together a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive late in the second quarter that culminated in Freeman scoring on a quarterback sneak from about three inches out.

Despite the fact that Freeman is an imposing 6-foot-6 and weighs just under 250 pounds, it marked the first rushing touchdown of his three-year career.

Following the kickoff, the Bucs got the ball back two plays later when on second and 10 at the Atlanta 20, Ryan was crushed by defensive end Adrian Clayborn, separating Ryan from the ball.

The fumble recover put the Bucs in business with first down at the nine.

On first down, though, LeGarrette Blount ran for no gain and that was followed by Freeman throwing an incomplete pass beyond the line of scrimmage which was a five-yard penalty and loss of down.

Instead of firing into the end zone from the 12, Freeman dumped a pass off to running back Kregg Lumpkin that went for four yards.

The Bucs then settled for a second Connor Barth field goal.

Ryan, meanwhile, had a brutal first half as beyond the two fumbles he completed just 14 of 24 passes for 152 yards.

Fittingly, his final pass of the first half was intercepted by Barber.


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