Regular season week 3- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16 Atlanta Falcons 13-September 25, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. -- Josh Freeman pushed his way into the end zone, scrambled to his feet and flapped his arms in celebration of the first rushing touchdown of his career.
The little bird dance seemed uncharacteristic for Tampa Bay's usually unflappable 23-year-old quarterback. It also spoke to how much beating the Atlanta Falcons means to a young Buccaneers team that ended three years of frustration against their NFC South rivals with a 16-13 victory on Sunday.
Tampa Bay's defense forced three turnovers and sacked Matt Ryan four times in its best performance of the season. Freeman's 1-yard sneak snapped a 3-3 tie in the second quarter and Connor Barth kicked three field goals as the Bucs (2-1) stopped a five-game losing streak in the series. Four of those losses were by six or fewer points.
"It's huge, and it's about time one went our way. They've been really close games since I've been here," the third-year pro said. "They're a great divisional opponent. I've got a lot of respect for those guys, offense and defense. They're a good team. We'll get to see them again. I'm looking forward to that, but today was our day. We got it done."
As good as it felt, though, don't try to tell the NFL's youngest team that it has arrived.
"I just told the team we didn't come into the season to beat the Atlanta Falcons. We came into this season to win the division. They just happen to be a team that's in our division," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "We've got to beat those guys just like we've got to beat everybody else in our division and try to win this thing so we can go to the playoffs, and then compete for a championship."
Tampa Bay won 10 games a year ago, but lost twice to the Falcons with both games being decided in the closing minutes. When his players convened for training camp, Morris delivered a simple message: The goal this year is to win the NFC South, regardless of how many wins it takes. That will ensure a postseason berth.
The Bucs forced two first-half fumbles with sacks. Ronde Barber intercepted a pass to stop an Atlanta threat just before halftime, and the Falcons (1-2) were stopped on downs inside the Bucs 10 early in the fourth quarter. Still, Ryan nearly pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback from a double-digit deficit for the second straight week.
The Falcons drew within 16-13 on the 91st TD reception of Tony Gonzalez's career with just under 10 minutes to go. They drove to the Tampa Bay 5 before Matt Bryant's 33-yard field goal made it a three-point game with 4:06 left. Ryan and his supporting cast of playmakers never got the ball back.
Last edited by Colts01; 09-26-2011 at 05:45 PM.
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