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Falcons stay atop division with comeback win over Bucs

Dec 6, 2010 - 2:29 AM Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Matt Ryan threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins with 4:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, as the Atlanta Falcons rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 28-24, in a pivotal NFC South showdown from Raymond James Stadium.

Ryan was 18-of-36 for 205 yards with two touchdowns. He also overcame a pair of interceptions that led to scores for Tampa Bay.

Michael Turner had 88 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries for the Falcons (10-2), who maintained their one-game lead in both the conference and division standings. Atlanta, which erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, has won six games in a row since losing at Philadelphia on October 17.

Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman completed 19-of-38 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown, but his final attempt was picked off by Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes, derailing a potential go-ahead drive late in regulation. Grimes had an interception overturned earlier in the contest.

"We've got to figure out a way to win these games. We made mistakes across the board at the end," said Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris.

The Buccaneers (7-5) dropped to 0-5 against teams with winning records.

Tampa Bay got the ball to begin the second half and Connor Barth made a 33- yard field goal to give the Buccaneers a 17-14 lead.

Grimes grabbed a Freeman pass on the Buccaneers' next possession and returned the ball to the Tampa Bay 23-yard line. The play was challenged by the Bucs and overturned after the official ruled it an incompletion.

Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann was then called for a late hit on third down, giving Tampa Bay a first down at their 40. The Bucs marched to the Atlanta 41 before punting the ball away.

In the fourth quarter, Ryan had a throw picked off by Tampa Bay safety Corey Lynch. Atlanta challenged that it was an incomplete pass, but the play was upheld.

Four plays later, Freeman handed off to Earnest Graham and he found John Gilmore in the end zone for a two-yard touchdown, extending Tampa Bay's lead to 24-14.

Atlanta's Eric Weems returned the ensuing kickoff, dodging several would-be tacklers along the sideline, a club-record 102 yards for a touchdown, which stood following a challenge by the Bucs to determine if Weems stepped out of bounds.

The Falcons got the ball back after a punt and Ryan orchestrated a 10-play, 67-yard drive to recapture the lead.

Facing a 3rd-and-20 from his own 23, Ryan hooked up with Roddy White for a 25- yard gain. Consecutive runs by Turner set up a 3rd-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 43. Ryan's pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez hit the turf, but defensive pass interference moved the chains.

Another personal foul against Tampa Bay gave Atlanta a first down at the 16. Ryan completed a short toss to Ovie Mughelli before Jenkins' TD catch.

Freeman guided the Buccaneers to the Atlanta 27, but he was intercepted by Grimes on the first play following the two-minute warning.

"Sometimes you've got to find a way to win a game when you're not at your best," said Atlanta head coach Mike Smith. "We obviously didn't play our best ballgame today. We were down by 10 points with about 10 minutes to go, but we talk all the time about being resilient and that somebody has to step up and make a play. The play today was the play of our kickoff return team. It was a great individual effort by Eric Weems, but there was also very good blocking that sprung him for the touchdown."

Turner's five-yard touchdown run staked Atlanta to a 7-0 lead, but a six-yard dash to the end zone by Tampa Bay rookie running back LeGarrette Blount tied the game with 25 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Facing a 3rd-and-10 from the Tamp Bay 17, Ryan threw a swing pass to Mughelli, who turned the corner and scored to put the visitors back on top.

Ryan was picked off by Sean Jones on Atlanta's next possession inside the two- minute warning, and the Buccaneers converted the turnover into a one-yard TD pass from Freeman to rookie wideout Mike Williams with 15 seconds left before halftime.

Game Notes

Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib left the game in the second quarter with a hip injury and did not return...Turner surpassed 1,000 yards for the second time in his career...White had 74 yards on seven receptions, including the 400th his career. He has caught a career-high 91 passes this season...Blount totaled 103 yards on 20 carries...Atlanta has won five in a row against Tampa Bay.