WHAT HAPPENED IN TAMPA BAY’S 22-17 WIN AT ATLANTA?
Tampa Bay’s late-season skid finally stopped in the final week of the 2012 campaign with a much-needed 22-17 win over Atlanta, which is the best team in the NFC. The Falcons, 13-3, wrapped up a first-round bye and homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs last week, and there was talk that Atlanta head coach Mike Smith might rest his starters. Instead, Smith played his starters and the Bucs scored a quality win over a Super Bowl-contender – not the Falcons junior varsity squad.
“I’m glad they did, but that’s their business,” Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said. “I’m glad they did because our football team wanted to play their whole team. It was good.”
The move might have been a mistake for the Falcons as Smith lost two defensive starters, defensive end John Abraham (ankle) and cornerback Dunta Robinson (head), for an extended period of time due to injury.
It was a total team win for the Buccaneers, who finished the season with a 7-9 record and a fourth-place finish in the NFC South thanks to a 4-8 record in the NFC. The Saints and Panthers also finished with a 7-9 mark and all three teams were 3-3 in the division. However, the Saints and Panthers had a 5-7 mark in the NFC, which was one win better than that of the Buccaneers.
“I’m really proud of our guys for locking in this week and going out and focusing on the number one seed in the playoffs and playing them in their place,” Schiano said. “I was very proud of the way our team fought today.”
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman was instrumental in the win and it was the bounce-back game both he and the franchise was looking for. Freeman became the most decorated quarterback in Bucs history on Sunday in Atlanta. His 8-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams in the second quarter gave him a career-high 27 TD tosses on the season, which broke Brad Johnson’s mark of 26 set in 2003.
In addition to helping the Bucs to a 13-3 halftime lead, that scoring strike also set the all-time franchise for touchdown passes, giving Freeman 78 in his four-year NFL career, surpassing Vinny Testaverde, who had 77 in his career with the Buccaneers. In the third quarter, Freeman went over the 4,000-yard mark for the first time in his NFL career and also became the first Buccaneers QB to go over the 4,000-yard passing mark. He finished the 2012 season with 4,065 yards passing.
“I thought Josh did a good job of moving in the pocket as well, feeling the rush and not looking at it,” Schiano said, noting that Freeman wasn’t sacked by the Falcons. “It goes hand-in-hand. And without a doubt I felt we were firm up the middle, which gave him a chance to step up in the pocket.”
Against Atlanta, Freeman finished the game completing 19-of-35 passes for 222 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Williams played a huge role in Freeman’s big day with six catches for 65 yards, and he almost went over 1,000 yards receiving on the year. Williams finished with 996 yards receiving, and with just four more yards he would have given the Bucs a pair of 1,000-yard wide receivers for the first time in a single season as Vincent Jackson, who had three catches and 50 yards against the Falcons on Sunday, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark a month ago.
Freeman threw his lone interception to Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel in the third quarter at the Tampa Bay 21 that led to a 17-yard touchdown run by Michael Turner that cut into the Bucs’ 16-10 lead. However, rookie running back Doug Martin answered with a huge 40-yard touchdown run, spinning and bouncing off tackle attempts by Falcons safeties Chris Hope and Thomas DeCoud. Martin rushed for 142 yards on 28 carries and posted his fifth 100-yard game of the season.
Martin, a Pro Bowl alternate, finishes an impressive rookie season with 1,454 yards rushing, 1,926 total yards, 11 rushing touchdowns and 12 total touchdowns, which are all Bucs rookie records.
“He ran the ball extremely hard,” Schiano said. “I was really happy with him and I’ve been happy with him. He’s done a really good job.”
As well as Martin, Freeman and Williams played on offense outgaining Atlanta 366-278 yards, the real story for the game was Tampa Bay’s third down defense. Atlanta was an abysmal 3-of-14 (21 percent) on third down against Tampa Bay thanks to some big performances by Bucs defenders.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed just 28-of-44 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown while being sacked twice. Ryan had three possible interceptions dropped by Tampa Bay defenders.
“I thought our defense played well and created some pass rush which is what you need to do against Matt Ryan,” Schiano said. “I thought our back end (the secondary) played well. It comes down to pass rush and pass coverage and Mark Barron makes a really nice play on the back end.”
After Ryan threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Harry Douglas on fourth-and-goal, he had a chance to drive the Falcons for the game-winning touchdown. But rookie strong safety Mark Barron broke a fourth down pass intended for tight end Tony Gonzalez and that gave the ball back to Tampa Bay with 2:02 left in regulation.
“We had an opportunity to bow our neck and win a football game on a final drive,” Schiano said. “And we did it and that’s what this league is about.”
Ryan needed to throw for 251 yards for Tampa Bay to have been the league’s worst-ever pass defense, but the Bucs thankfully finished just 13 yards shy of that dubious distinction.
Tampa Bay’s defense was paced by middle linebacker Mason Foster, who had 12 tackles, including 11 solo stops, and weakside linebacker Lavonte David, who had six tackles, a tackle for loss and his second sack of the season. Defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim had the Bucs other sack, which was his fourth of the season.
The Bucs also received stellar play from their special teams as field goal kicker Connor Barth was a perfect three-of-three on his attempts, and linebacker Dekoda Watson blocked a punt to set up one of those field goals prior to halftime.HOW DID THE TEAMS SCORE? – BUCS vs. FALCONS SCORING SERIES
First Quarter – Buccaneers 3, Falcons 0
Josh Freeman started off the game completing 4-of-5 passes for 34 yards but had his throw on third-and-2 batted down by defensive end John Abraham. Mike Williams had three catches for 27 yards and Doug Martin ran three times for 26 yards in a nine-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 48-yard field goal by Connor Barth.First Quarter – Buccaneers 3, Falcons 3
Jacquizz Rodgers had a 16-yard run and Jason Snelling had a 7-yard run and a 9-yard catch to get the Falcons into Buccaneers territory. After completing his first three passes on the drive for 33 yards, Ryan misfired on his last two as the Falcons drive stalled at the Tampa Bay 10. Matt Bryant’s 28-yard field goal tied the game at 3-3 with 2:24 left in the first quarter.Second Quarter – Buccaneers 10, Falcons 3
Freeman hit tight end Luke Stocker with back-to-back passes covering 17 and 26 yards off play action. Freeman then hit Erik Lorig for a 12-yard gain down to the Atlanta 11. Three plays later on third-and-7, Freeman hit Williams for an 8-yard touchdown to give the Bucs a 10-3 lead.Second Quarter – Buccaneers 13, Falcons 3
Linebacker Dekoda Watson bull-rushed tight end Michael Palmer into the punter and blocked a punt. The Bucs took over at the Atlanta 26. After a 7-yard pass from Freeman to Williams, Martin picked up eight yards on third-and-2 down to the Atlanta 10. But the drive stalled at the 3-yard line thanks to a holding penalty on fullback Erik Lorig. Barth’s 22-yard field goal increased Tampa Bay’s lead to 13-3.Third Quarter – Buccaneers 16, Falcons 3
The Bucs started the second half with another scoring drive. Freeman hit Williams with a 23-yard strike to start the drive, and then picked up two more first downs on third down passes to Martin and Vincent Jackson, covering 12 and 16 yards, respectively. But the drive stalled at the Falcons 24 and the Bucs had to settle for Barth’s 42-yard field goal to increase the team’s lead to 16-3.Third Quarter – Buccaneers 16, Falcons 10
Atlanta got some much-needed momentum when Asante Samuel stepped in front of Tiquan Underwood and picked off Freeman at the Tampa Bay 21. Two plays later, Michael Turner ripped off a 17-yard run to cut the Bucs’ lead to 16-10 near the end of the third quarter.Third Quarter – Buccaneers 22, Falcons 10
Tampa Bay answered Atlanta’s first touchdown of the game with a 40-yard scoring blast from Martin, who bounced off safeties Chris Hope and Thomas DeCoud. The Bucs went for a two-point conversion, but Freeman’s pass to Williams in the end zone was incomplete. Tampa Bay’s lead increased to 22-10 heading into the fourth quarter.Fourth Quarter – Buccaneers 22, Falcons 17
Tampa Bay defensive end Da’Quan Bowers had a big sack and a hard hit on Matt Ryan nullified by a defensive holding call on free safety Ronde Barber. That gave the Falcons’ drive new life. On fourth-and-7, Ryan found a wide-open Harry Douglas for a touchdown to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 22-17.WHAT WAS NOTABLE ABOUT SUNDAY’S GAME FOR THE BUCS?
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman set franchise records for the most touchdown passes in a career with 78 breaking Vinny Testaverde’s old mark of 77. Freeman also broke Brad Johnson’s single-season touchdown mark of 26 (set in 2003) with his 27th touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter. … Bucs tight end Luke Stocker caught a career-high three passes for 50 yards on Sunday. … Tampa Bay linebacker Dekoda Watson was credited with his second blocked punt of the year in the second quarter when he pushed Falcons tight end Michael Palmer into the punter. That blocked punt set up a field goal. … Buccaneers rookie linebacker Lavonte David capped off a stellar rookie season with six tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack. That gives him the team lead with 139 tackles, two sacks and one interception on the season. … Free safety Ronde Barber recorded his 215th consecutive start in Sunday’s game, tying defensive tackle Alan Page for the sixth-longest streak in the NFL.WHO WAS THE PEWTERREPORT.COM BUCS MVP?
After being held to just 36 yards on 11 carries (3.3 avg.) in the first half on Tampa Bay’s 22-17 win at Atlanta, rookie running back Doug Martin exploded for 106 yards in the second half, including a key 40-yard touchdown run that proved to be the game-winner. For his efforts, Martin is this week’s PewterReport.com Bucs MVP.
Martin finished the game with 142 yards on 28 carries (5.1 avg.) and had long runs of 24 and 19 yards, in addition to his 40-yard scoring jaunt in which he bounced off safeties Chris Hope and Thomas DeCoud. He also added 18 yards receiving on four catches, including a 12-yarder that picked up a first down on one of Tampa Bay’s field goal drives.
Martin’s 142-yard rushing performance was the fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season, which matches a team record.WHICH BUCCANEERS WERE INACTIVE?
Bucs' inactives against the Falcons were: Bucs' inactives: CB Eric Wright, RB Michael Smith, G Roger Allen, WR Chris Owusu, LB Jacob Cutrera, DT Corvey Irvin and DT Matthew Masifilo.
Falcons inactives against the Bucs were: QB Dominique Davis, S William Moore, C Joe Hawley, G PhillipKeith Manley, G Harland Gunn and DT Travian RobertsonWHICH BUCS GOT HURT?
• Bucs weakside linebacker Lavonte David was shaken up on the first play of the game, but returned a play later. He was replaced momentarily by rookie Najee Goode.
• Bucs free safety Ahmad Black suffered a right leg injury in the second quarter and did not return until the second half.
• Tampa Bay defensive end Michael Bennett suffered an injury to his right shoulder right before halftime, but returned to action.
• Tampa Bay center Ted Larsen injured his left leg in the third quarter and was replaced by Jeremy Zuttah. Cody Wallace replaced Zuttah at left guard.
• Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was shaken up in the fourth quarter, but returned.WHAT WILL UPSET GREG SCHIANO WHEN HE WATCHES THE FILM?
• Bucs QB Josh Freeman had three batted balls at the line of scrimmage on third down. Defensive end John Abraham knocked down two of them from rushing from the left side unblocked.
• Freeman’s momentum-changing interception to Asante Samuel in the third quarter at the Tampa Bay 21. That set up Michael Turner’s 17-yard touchdown run.
• A defensive holding call on Ronde Barber nullified a big sack by Da’Quan Bowers and a big hit on Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter. That gave the Falcons a first down and new life on their fourth quarter touchdown drive.
• On fourth-and-7 in the fourth quarter, cornerback Anthony Gaitor lost Harry Douglas in coverage and allowed a key touchdown.WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR THE BUCS?
Tampa Bay finishes the 2012 season with a 7-9 record, which is what PewterReport.com forecasted at the start of the season. The Bucs finished in fourth place in the NFC South.
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.