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: December 30, 2012, 04:43:41 PM

              Bucs finish season with 22-17 win over Falcons

A five-game losing streak, which drove the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from a surprising 6-4 to fully out of the playoff picture, ultimately defined the 2012 season for the team and first-year coach Greg Schiano.

But Sunday reaffirmed things seem headed in the right direction.

The Bucs built a 13-point lead then held on for a 22-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome finish the season at 7-9.

The Falcons are 13-3 and still have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but were roundly outplayed by the Bucs while playing their starters all day.

As has often been the case for Tampa Bay, however, it wasn't easy.

Ahead 13-3 at halftime, the Bucs went back to work with an 11-play drive that ended with Connor Barth's 42-yard field goal to maintain momentum and built a 16-3 advantage.

The Bucs defense stopped the potent Atlanta defense once again, but QB Josh Freeman then threw an interception to Falcons CB Asante Samuel, who returned it to the Tampa Bay 21-yard line. Two players later, RB Michael Turner charged through the heart of the Bucs defense for a 17-yard touchdown to make the score 16-10 with 3:45 left in the third quarter.

The Bucs responded emphatically, driving 80 yards in four plays, including RB Doug Martin's 40-yard scoring burst for a 22-10 edge (after a failed 2-point conversion pass) with 1:43 remaining in the third quarter.

Atlanta pulled to within five at 22-17 on Matt Ryan's 7-yard scoring toss to WR Harry Douglas on fourth-and-goal with 7:02 to go.

Ryan, in only his fifth year in the league, has already developed a reputation as a master of the comeback, but his final pass of the day, to venerable TE Tony Gonzalez on fourth down, was broken up by Bucs rookie S Mark Barron to secure the outcome.

The Bucs showed signs of their early-season success in the second quarter. With the game tied, 3-3, after the first 15 minutes, QB Josh Freeman capped a solid drive with an 8-yard touchdown toss to WR Mike Williams to pull the Bucs ahead, 10-3, with 8:43 to go in the first half.

They then capitalized on a blocked punt from LB Dekoda Watson, which set up a 22-yard field goal from Barth and 10-point edge with 3:03 remaining in the half.

The Bucs started their first drive of their game at their own 10-yard line, and drove to set up a 48-yard Barth field for a 3-0 lead with 6:24 left in the first quarter.

The Falcons responded with a 28-yard kick from former Buc Matt Bryant to tie the game with 2:24 left in the opening quarter.

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