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Atlanta Falcons - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-16 - Dominant defense gives Buccaneers division lead

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got four sacks. They pressured the quarterback all day. They forced three turnovers. They held the opponent to thirteen points. Their huge running back got 24 touches at 3.4 yards per carry. Their quarterback looked a little off with his throws, throwing two interceptions. And the Bucs squeezed out a three-point victory on the back of an excellent defense. 

And somehow, it was not 1999. 

The Buccaneers set the tone for the entire game very early. On the first play of the game they pressured Matt Ryan into an incomplete pass. On the second play of the game they stuffed Michael Turner for a three-yard loss. And on the third play of the game Dekoda Watson came screaming around the edge, forced a fumble on Matt Ryan which was recovered by Ronde Barber.

And then, the offense decided to throw the points away as Josh Freeman threw an ugly endzone interception to Thomas Decoud. This would be a theme all game as the Bucs seemingly couldn't score in the red zone. 

Not to worry, though, as the Bucs defense got right back to it. The Bucs spotted the Falcons 14 yards before shutting them down, as they got good pressure on the quarterback. The Bucs and Falcons traded possessions another time, before the Bucs got a 37-yard drive going to put the first points on the board and go up 3-0. 

The Falcons struck back with an 84-yard drive, but the Bucs defense held on in the red zone as the Falcons had to settle for a game-tying field goal. And then the Bucs started their only complete drive of the game, even though it was pretty ugly. Somehow the Bucs managed to get down to the goalline, where Josh Freeman sneaked it in for the touchdown. Luke Stocker had two catches for 33 yards on the drive, showing his receiving prowess. 

And the defensive line continued its dominance afterward. Another sack-fumble, this time on a huge hit by Adrian Clayborn, and the Bucs got the ball in the red zone again. And again, they failed to capitalize and had to settle for a field goal. As the Bucs handed the ball back inside the two-minute warning to the Atlanta Falcons it looked like Ryan would march downfield, but Ronde Barber put an end to that with an interception as time expired. 

In the second half, things started out the same. The Bucs took eight minutes off the clock with a run-heavy drive, but stalled inside red zone to take a 16-3 lead. The Falcons then got down to Tampa Bay territory, but a bad snap gifted Mason Foster his second career sack and ended that drive. And then the offense did something stupid again: after moving downfield, Freeman threw an interception on a high ball behind Arrelious Benn.

An exchange of possessions later Matt Ryan took two plays to go 60 yards for a touchdown: one deep to Julio Jones who had gotten behind everyone, and one to Tony Gonzalez for the touchdown. The Bucs couldn't get anything going on their next drive, and the Falcons then marched downfield to add another field goal. Ryan repeatedly victimized E.J. Biggers on that drive, who was covering Roddy White. But in the red zone Biggers managed to two pass deflections to keep the Falcons to a field goal. 

With the score 13-16, the Bucs offense had to show up and they finally did. The Bucs rode Legarrette Blount to two first downs, and finished out the game with a beautiful play on fourth-and-one. They got the Falcons to jump offside, giving the Bucs the first down and allowing Josh Freeman to kneel out the game. 

 

This win was a defensive win more than anything. With three turnovers, four sacks, seven tackles for loss and many more quarterback hurries and hits the defense probably had its most complete game in Raheem Morris' tenure. Outside of one drive, the defense was dominant. The offense was surprisingly quiet, but just like in the old days they did just enough to win the game. 

The win didn't come without a price. Geno Hayes and Cody Grimm both left the game and wouldn't return. Hayes seems to be okay as he had a head injury, likely a concussion. Cody Grimm, on the other hand, was immediately ruled out for the game and carted off the field. He may have sustained serious ligament damage to his right knee. An MRI will be performed tomorrow to determine the extent of the injury. 

They are now tied for the division lead with the New Orleans Saints, as both teams are 2-1. Next week the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are featured on Monday Night Football as the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts come by to visit Raymond James Stadium. The Colts may be the worst football team in the league right now, and the Bucs should be able to pull out a win in their first Monday Night Football game since 2008.