Buccaneers 21

(5-3, 3-1 away)

Falcons 27

(6-2, 4-0 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, November 7, 2010

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 

1 2 3 4 T
TB 0 14 7 021
ATL 7 10 10 027

Top Performers

Passing: M. Ryan (ATL) - 235 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: M. Turner (ATL) - 24 CAR, 107 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: M. Williams (TB) - 4 REC, 89 YDS, 1 TD

Falcons take over first as late defensive stand holds off Bucs

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- With a powerful running back, a balanced passing game and a gutty goal-line stand, the Atlanta Falcons showed they're the best in the NFC South.

At least for this week.

The Falcons overcame a dismal display on special teams and the boasts of Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris, coming up with a huge defensive stop in the closing minutes to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-21 Sunday and take over sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Michael Turner rushed for 107 yards and two early touchdowns, and the Falcons (6-2) compensated after Roddy White went out for a while with a knee injury. Tony Gonzalez had eight catches and undrafted rookie Michael Palmer scored his first career TD.

"We know how to win," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "This team has done a great job of finishing. When our backs are against the wall, we can find a way to win the football game."

Their backs were certainly against their own goal line when the Buccaneers (5-3) drove down to the Atlanta 2 with less than 3 minutes left, facing fourth-and-1.

Josh Freeman faked a handoff to Ryan Purvis, a tight end lined up at fullback, and then gave it to LeGarrette Blount for a run over right tackle. But safety Thomas DeCoud charged up to stuff the slow-developing play, and Coy Wire finished off Blount to make sure he couldn't stretch out for the first down.

"I told the defensive line, 'Get penetration, get penetration,' and the guys in the back will come up to make the play," linebacker Mike Peterson said.

That's just what happened. The ball went over to the Falcons, who ran out the clock after Turner picked up the necessary first down with three straight runs totaling 14 yards, leaving him with 24 carries and his fourth 100-yard performance in the past six games.

Give the Bucs credit. Morris had proclaimed his team the best in the NFC, and it looked like Tampa Bay might back him up. Micheal Spurlock returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown in the final minute of the third quarter and Freeman threw a pair of touchdown passes.

The Falcons held at the end, though.

"They're a good football team, make no mistake about that," Morris said. "We were big-time resilient against a big-time team."

The Falcons thoroughly dominated much of the game and Freeman -- who had been doing a good job not turning the ball over -- had a pair of interceptions. Spurlock was Tampa Bay's most dangerous weapon, also returning a kickoff 66 yards to set up Freeman's first TD pass.

"We lost by a yard," Bucs rookie Gerald McCoy said. "That's what this league is about."

Turner scored on runs of 2 and 10 yards to stake the Falcons to a 14-0 lead. Freeman cut the gap to 17-14 by halftime with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Arrelious Benn and a 58-yarder to Mike Williams.

On the third play of the second half, Freeman threw a wobbly pass under pressure from Kroy Biermann and it landed right in the arms of defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. That set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Palmer, the first career score for the undrafted rookie.

Matt Bryant added his second field goal, pushing the Falcons ahead 27-14.

Back came the Bucs.

The ensuing kickoff landed between Spurlock and Maurice Stovall in an apparent mix-up. But Spurlock picked up the bouncing ball at the 11, slipped through a hole, somehow stayed inbound when kicker Michael Koenen took a dive at him along the sideline and streaked the rest of the way for the touchdown that again made a game of it.

Trying to seize on that momentum, Tampa Bay appeared to get the ball back when kicker Connor Barth recovered an onside attempt. But the Falcons challenged, and the replay showed that the ball touched Barth's left knee just before it covered the necessary 10 yards, giving it over to Atlanta.

The Falcons got a big scare in the first quarter when White, leading the NFL with 54 receptions through seven games, twisted his right knee making an 11-yard catch along the sideline.

White limped off the field, got treated on the sideline, then went back in the game. His return didn't last long, and he walked slowly to the locker room late in the first half.

After everyone had emerged from the tunnel for the second half, White finally came trotting back out. He made a couple of sharp cuts on the sideline to test the knee, ran on the field after Babineaux's interception and made a crucial catch for first down at the 1.

"I came down kind of funny," said White, who finished with four receptions for 49 yards. "[The medical staff] did some good things for me, put my brace [on] and just see if I can go. I went out there and didn't feel much pain, so I kept going."

Unlike Morris, the Falcons were making no boasts about being best in the NFC.

"We definitely feel good to be number one in our division," Robinson said. "But we won't be determining the best team until [early] next year."

Game notes

The Bucs came up on the wrong end of turnovers in a game for the first time this season because of Freeman's interceptions. Tampa Bay had been plus-8 in turnover margin, ranking second in the league. Atlanta didn't have any interceptions or fumbles. ... The Bucs converted 8 of 13 third downs, while the Falcons were 8 of 14. Atlanta also converted its only try on fourth down. ... Blount was held to 46 yards on 13 carries after totaling 192 the two previous games.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1426
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays5069
Total Yards278365
Yards per play5.65.3
Total Drives910
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-22-4
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs10

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

atlTD8:10Michael Turner 2 Yard Run (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 14 plays, 61 yds, 6:54
atlTD13:44Michael Turner 10 Yard Run (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 99 yds, 3:59
tbTD12:18Arrelious Benn 14 Yard Pass From Josh Freeman (Connor Barth Kick is Good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 32 yds, 1:29
atlFG5:31Matt Bryant 31 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 11 plays, 72 yds, 6:43
tbTD2:16Mike Williams 58 Yard Pass From Josh Freeman (Connor Barth Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 90 yds, 3:21
atlTD10:34Michael Palmer 5 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 30 yds, 3:03
atlFG0:50Matt Bryant 41 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 11 plays, 59 yds, 5:54
tbTD0:46Micheal Spurlock 89 Yard Kickoff Return (Connor Barth Kick is Good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 89 yds, 0:00

Research Notes

Entering the day Mike Williams was 2nd in the NFL in targets, tied for 6th in receptions and 5th in TDs on throws 15+ yards. Josh Freeman looked for Williams 3 times today on throws 15+ yards, but they were unable to land receptions on any of those plays.
Josh Freeman wasn't able to rekindle the fourth quarter magic on Sunday against the Falcons. Freeman entered the game with a 134.9 passer rating and no interceptions against a five-or-more man pass rush in the fourth quarter when the game is within eight points this season. Trailing by six in the fourth, Freeman threw his first interception against a five-or-more man pass rush in a one score, fourth quarter situation and went just 3-for-6 overall in the quarter.
LaGarrette Blount couldn't convert on 4th-and-1 on Atlanta's two-yard-line with 2:44 remaining to effectively seal the win for the Falcons. The Bucs have been successful needing one yard for a first down this season, going 14-for-19 rushing and 3-for-3 on 4th-and-1. Blount was 4-for-5 picking up the first down needing one yard prior to his failed attempt.
Michael Turner was able to attack the Bucs defensive front regardless of how many defenders were thrown into the box. Against 8+ defenders in the box Turner averaged 4.3 yards per rush and against 7 or less he managed 4.6. Entering the day Turner had averaged 3.11 yards per rush against 8+ defenders in the box.
The Falcons used their big men well on Sunday, averaging 6.6 yards per play with two-or-more tight ends on the field, 2.3 yards per play more than when they used one or fewer tight ends. They also scored all three of their touchdowns with two or more tight ends in the game.

ESPN Stats & Information