Posted November 26, 2012 on
AP on Fox
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans Saints
Atlanta coach Mike Smith spoke highly of the Falcons' defense. Without its solid performance, Matt Ryan may not have had an opportunity to lead his latest game-winning drive.
The Falcons (10-1) held off Tampa Bay 24-23 Sunday, overcoming two turnovers by their star quarterback in part because the Buccaneers settled for a pair of field goals rather than touchdowns after Ryan threw a second-quarter interception and lost a fumble on a fourth-quarter sack.
''I thought our defense did an outstanding job again. They were put in some tough situations after turnovers,'' Smith said, adding that limiting Bucs rookie Doug Martin to 50 yards rushing on 21 carries was a key to the game as well.
''We knew it was going to be one of our `musts,' and I thought we did a nice job,'' Smith added. ''I thought we played the run extremely well, controlled the line of scrimmage. That is an outstanding running back.''
Ryan completed his first 10 passes and finished 26 of 32 for 353 yards and one touchdown, an 80-yarder to Julio Jones, who had nine receptions for 147 yards despite playing on a sore right ankle that limited him in practice.
Atlanta got a lift from the return of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who was back after missing three games with an ankle injury.
Josh Freeman threw for 256 yards for Tampa Bay, however he was sacked twice and failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 14 games. Martin scored both of his team's TDs on 1-yard runs and Connor Barth kicked three field goals.
''It's hard to win games by threes,'' coach Greg Schiano said. ''Sevens add up considerably quicker.''
The Falcons (10-1) kept pace with the Houston Texans for the NFL's best record and ended a four-game winning streak by the up-and-coming Bucs (6-5).
''They are playing with a lot of confidence,'' said Ryan, who has won seven of his past eight starts against the Bucs. ''It's always been a tough place for us to come play. They play with great effort, and I think they have a good football team.''
Ryan teamed with Jones on his long TD midway through the third quarter, but the Falcons found themselves trailing 23-17 after the Bucs marched to Martin's second TD, then used a sack-fumble to set up a field goal that left Atlanta needing another fourth-quarter comeback to win.
Ryan obliged by a leading a six-play, 64-yard march that Michael Turner finished with a 3-yard TD run that put the NFC South leaders ahead for good with 7:55 remaining.
Barth missed a 56-yard goal for Tampa Bay in the closing minutes, and the winning streak that's helped the Bucs climb back into playoff contention following a 1-3 start ended when Freeman's desperation pass fell incomplete in the Atlanta end zone with no time left on the clock.
''The last drive, that's something we've done before this season,'' Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said. ''I really think that's a positive for us to be able to come up with plays like that when we have to like that. ... I'm really happy with the way we responded.''
It's getting to be a way of life. Ryan has also led late marches to beat Carolina, Washington, Oakland and Arizona this season and has put together 21 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime since entering the league in 2008 - four of them against the division rival Bucs.
The Falcons won't have long to celebrate this one. They host the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night in a rematch of the only game they've lost.
''Ten and 1 is great, but I'll tell you what I've said since the beginning of the season: We're just jockeying for position,'' Gonzalez said. ''We just want to put ourselves in the best position, playing the best football. Right around this time is when you want to start jelling as a team and take it on into the playoffs because that's the most important thing.''
The win stopped the Bucs, who've won five or seven following a 1-3 start, from tightening the NFC South standings. Turner also scored a fourth-quarter TD that helped the Falcons overcome six turnovers to beat Arizona 23-19 last week.
''It was a hard-fought game by both teams, a very physical game,'' Schiano said. ''But I do think missed opportunities were a big part of it. There were some chances both offensively and defensively, and in the kicking game.''
NOTES: Martin scored on a pair of 1-yard run for the Bucs. ... After throwing seven interceptions in Atlanta's first nine games, Ryan has thrown six the past two weeks. ... Falcons CBs Asante Samuel (shoulder) and Dunta Robinson (head) left the game with injuries in the third quarter, but returned.
Online: http://pro32.ap.porg/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
BEST OF MAXIM
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- Leading the NFC with a 10-1 record isn't nearly enough to satisfy Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith.
His team is playing too many close games and still making too many mistakes for Smith to say that Atlanta is one of the NFL's few elite teams.
He will only say that if the Falcons keep winning, they will put themselves in position to earn a top...
TAMPA, Fla. -- Matt Ryan threw for 353 yards and overcame two big turnovers by leading another late touchdown drive to give the Atlanta Falcons a 24-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Ryan teamed with Julio Jones on an 80-yard TD in the third quarter, but the NFC South leaders found themselves trailing 23-17 after the Bucs marched for a touchdown, then forced a...
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Matt Ryan threw for 353 yards and overcame two big turnovers by leading another late touchdown drive to give the Atlanta Falcons a 24-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Ryan teamed with Julio Jones on an 80-yard TD in the third quarter, but the NFC South leaders found themselves trailing 23-17 after the Bucs marched for a touchdown, then forced...
Are these Atlanta Falcons Dirty Birds? Because it’s hard to imagine Matt Ryan, Michael Turner or Roddy White as one.
When the Atlanta Falcons made their Super Bowl run in 1998 with Chris Chandler and Jamal Anderson, they picked up the nickname “Dirty Birds”. It mostly stemmed from their style of play. Simply put, it was dirty. They would beat you up on offense with their...
The 2012 Atlanta Falcons are currently leading the NFC with a conference best 10-1 record. They have a high powered offense led by Matt Ryan and Roddy White and a defense that adopts a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy at times. They are well on their way to securing a first round bye and clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs.
Sound familiar? It should, as this was the same...
The Atlanta Falcons stumbled into a hole, only to find a way to escape again.
Matt Ryan threw for 353 yards and overcame two critical turnovers by leading another late touchdown drive to rally the Falcons to a 24-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Ryan teamed with Julio Jones on an 80-yard TD midway through the third quarter, but the NFC South leaders found themselves...
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. Falcons head coach Mike Smith presented right cornerback Dunta Robinson with the teams defensive game ball for his performance in Sundays 24-23 win over Tampa Bay.
Robinson ranked second on the team in tackles with six, had one of the units two sacks, registered two tackles-for-loss and added a quarterback hurry.
Earlier this season Robinson had said that he...
NFL Week 13 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:
Saints (5-6) at Falcons (10-1)
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has a 2–7 career...
If week 11 in the NFL had one name assigned to it, it would be Houdini. The smoke and mirrors used by Houston, Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta to magically pull victories out of strait jackets is nothing short of miraculous. The top suicide picks all managed to inch out wins in dramatically late fashion: Matt Ryan throws five interceptions yet the Falcons fly passed the Cardinals...
The Falcons extended their NFL-best record to 10-1 with a win in Tampa Bay on Sunday. But while the standings may tell you Atlanta is the team to beat in the NFC, some glaring flaws could keep them from realizing their championship dreams.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ passing attack rebounded from the five-interception performance of a week ago, airing it out for 353 yards on the...
The Falcons (10-1) are one step closer to the playoffs and the NFC South title after winning yet another close game. This one was against the rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) on Sunday. The Falcons again struggled on offense running the ball in this match-up. Michael Turner yet again was held to under 20 yards on more than 10 carries. This makes three straight game for Turner...
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers miss the playoffs by one game, all they will have to do is point a finger at Sunday’s contest against the Atlanta Falcons. The planets aligned on Sunday for the Buccaneers and with a win, Tampa could have moved into one of the two wildcard seed, instead they remain one game out.
Prior to kickoff, the Buccaneers learned that they would be without CB Eric...
Some Atlanta players seem uncertain about who gave the Falcons' their lone loss of the season.
Did the Saints beat Atlanta, or did the Falcons beat themselves in their 31-27 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 11?
Receiver Roddy White was dismissive of the Saints after the game when he said, ''It's not like they came out here and won a game.''
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Atlanta Falcons escaped a close call for the second consecutive game to remain in the driver's seat in the NFC, outlasting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium for a 24-23 win that came down to the wire. The Buccaneers had a chance to take the lead on Connor Barth's partially blocked field goal attempt a few minutes earlier and...