The Falcons (10-1) are one step closer to the playoffs and the NFC South title after winning yet another close game. This one was against the rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) on Sunday.
The Falcons again struggled on offense running the ball in this match-up. Michael Turner yet again was held to under 20 yards on more than 10 carries. This makes three straight game for Turner with less than 50 yards rushing and in two of those games he could not gain more than 20. This begs the question, "What is wrong with Turner?" Even with Matt Ryan throwing for over 300 yards a game, the Falcons are still struggling to score in the red-zone because of this lack of run game.
One bright spot in the run game is Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers was able to gain 49 yards on 10 carries with a rushing touchdown. He also added 2 receptions for 30 yards and 73 return yards in this game.
Matt Ryan bounced back to have a good performance by completing 26-32 for 353 yards with one long touchdown to Julio Jones. Ryan did have an interception but it was more of a great play by Ronde Barber than a bad throw by Matt Ryan.
The best part of the Falcons game against the Bucs was the defense. They stepped up big when they needed to and kept the Falcons in the game. I counted 4 big moments by the Falcons defense in this game. The first was a goal-line stop to force a field goal after Tampa had intercepted a pass from Matt Ryan. By forcing the Bucs to kick a field goal, the defense basically took 4 points off the board. That is 4 points that the Falcons desperately needed.
The second one came in the second half. On the Falcons first play of the second half, Matt Ryan hit a streaking Julio Jones on a beautifully thrown ball for an 80 yard touchdown and a 7 point lead. Following this touchdown, the defense was able to force a 3-and-out by the Bucs and move momentum back to the Falcons.
The third big moment came after Matt Ryan was strip-sacked and the Bucs fell on the ball for a turnover late in the 4th. With the ball deep in Falcons territory, the Bucs had a great opportunity to score a touchdown and to possibly extend their lead to 27-17. However, the Falcons defense stepped up yet again and held the Bucs offense to another field goal and in essence another 4 points off the board.
The final moment that helped win the game occurred on the Bucs 2nd to last drive. The drive started on their own 20. After a couple plays, the Bucs found themselves on the Falcon side of the 50. However, the drive stalled at the Falcons 38 and the Bucs were forced to attempt a 56 yard field goal for the win. Their kicker, Connor Barth, had already hit 3 field goals on the day. With everything riding on his leg, Barth put all he had into the kick. The kick initially looked good off his foot but eventually would fall short and to the right.
The Falcons were able to win this game mostly because of their defensive play. They were able to hold the rookie phenom, Doug Martin, to 50 yards on 21 carries. His 2nd worst game this year. They also were able to hold Josh Freeman 256 yards passing and no touchdowns for the first time this season.