The Bucs lost a disappointing game in Baltimore the week before they had to face the Atlanta Falcons for the second time. While the Bucs still hadn't beaten a good team, they hadn't managed to lose two games in a row either. So perhaps that evened out, and the Bucs could go on and beat the Falcons after having lost a close game earlier in the season. The Falcons, in the mean while, were 9-2 and were seen as a real Super Bowl contender. This was going to be a tough game for the Bucs, who had a vulnerable secondary with Corey Lynch starting in place of the injured Cody Grimm. However, it was also the throwback game, and in the throwback game the previous year, the 0-7 Buccaneers surprisingly beat the Green Bay Packers in Josh Freeman's first start. Would the good vibes of the creamsicles stay?
Of course, despite all the buildup, the Bucs again didn't get off to a fast start. They forced the Falcons to punt on their first drive, but couldn't get past their own 20-yard line on their own drive. And once the Falcons got the ball back, they scored quickly as the Bucs couldn't stop Michael Turner, at all. Turner started the drive off with a 7-yard run, followed that up with a 10-yard run and a couple plays later pounded the ball into the endzone with a 5-yard run.
Thankfully, the Bucs struck back quickly, relying on their own big back to move the chains, who produced a 20-yard run among others. Freeman did his part with a 16-yard scramble and a few key completions, and Blount finally capped off the drive with a 6-yard run. That tied the game, 7-7, and the Bucs surprisingly weren't down going into the second quarter.
That wouldn't last that long, though, as the Falcons passed the Bucs to death on an 8-play drive, helped along by a dumb 15-yard penalty against Gerald McCoy for Unnecessary Roughness, giving the Falcons an automatic first down when they were facing a 2nd-and-28 situation. When afterwards fullback Ovie Mughelli leaked out of the backfield on a passing play, no one picked him up and he could easily walk into the endzone.
The Bucs needed to strike back, but the offense couldn't get going and had to punt again. Fortunately, the defense stepped up as Sean Jones grabbed his first (and only) interception of the season, giving Josh Freeman a short field to work with. He took 7 plays to traverse 30 yards, and Mike Williams continued to do what he does best: catch touchdown passes. With that, the game was tied again, and that's how it stayed until halftime.
When the second half started, the Bucs wasted no time. Legarrette Blount produced big on another drive, and the Bucs added another field goal after being stopped on third down. The Bucs were now in the lead for the first time in the game. The defense, in the mean time, stepped up, forcing the Falcons to punt. The Bucs and Falcons then traded a number of drives, but the Bucs defense produced another big play: Corey Lynch grabbed his first interception of the season, as Roddy White fell down on a route and Lynch was there to pick up the free ball. Freeman used that field position well, connecting with Arrelious Benn on a smoke route for 28-yards to get the Bucs to the goalline. The Bucs then decided to have a little fun, as a handoff to Earnest Graham turned into a trick play, with the fullback throwing the easy touchdown to John Gilmore. Everything was looking perfect for the Bucs.
And then the pendulum swung the other way. Eric Weems handled the ball on the kickoff return, and he ran by everyone for a 102-yard return for a touchdown. A couple of Buccaneers could have tackled him, most notably Maurice Stovall who missed an easy pushout tackle. The Bucs challenged that Eric Weems stayed in bounds, but the evidence wasn't conclusive. This brought the Falcons back into the game, and broke the Bucs' back. They allowed the Falcons to drive down the field where they had stopped them on previous drives. A 25-yard completion on 3rd-and-20 kept the drive alive, and a 9-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins completed the drive.
The Bucs got one last shot to drive down for a go-ahead touchdown, but they couldn't do it. The Bucs struggled to gain first downs, although Sammie Stroughter did make a phenomenal catch on fourth down. Unfortunately, Brent Grimes ended the drive on the very next play, when Freeman didn't get the ball placement right on an out-route and Brent Grimes could undercut the throw. Freeman then hit Grimes while he went out of bounds, adding an unnecessary roughness penalty, but it didn't matter at that point. The Falcons ran out the clock, and the Bucs again failed to beat a good team.