for this game

Garcia, Graham fuel Bucs past Falcons

Nov 18, 2007 - 11:00 PM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers remained perfect against their divisional opponents.

Jeff Garcia threw two touchdown passes and Earnest Graham rumbled for 102 yards and a score to lead the Buccaneers to a 31-7 rout of the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The Buccaneers (6-4) now enjoy a two-game lead in the division after the other three NFC South teams - the Carolina Panthers (4-6), New Orleans Saints (4-6) and Falcons (3-7) - lost on Sunday.

"It's November," Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber said. "It's time to start playing. It's when your players have to start making plays for the (playoff push)."

Garcia, Graham and the Tampa Bay defense quickly dimmed any Atlanta hopes of sneaking into the playoffs.

Garcia, who completed 10-of-20 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, found a wide-open Joey Galloway down the left sideline for a 44-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring with 7:43 remaining in the first quarter.

"(Falcons cornerback) DeAngelo (Hall) broke on the pump fake and Joey went by him," Garcia said. "Once he got the ball in his hands, I don't think anyone is going to catch him."

Tampa Bay extended the lead thanks its defense, which battered the Falcons' offense all night, sacking Atlanta's quarterbacks four times and forcing five turnovers.

Greg White defense forced a fumble by Byron Leftwich that led to Tampa's second score with 10:42 remaining in the second quarter. Cornerback Ronde Barber recovered the loose ball and scampered 41 yards into the end zone to give the Bucs a 14-0 advantage.

"The scoop and score by Ronde was a turning point in the game, no question about it," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "I was very happy to see that."

It was the first defensive touchdown of the year for the Buccaneers, who found the end zone three times on defense last season.

"It's what defines us," Barber said. "That's what good defensive teams do. Good defenses get interceptions, force fumbles and score."

"This is something that has been known about the Buccaneers' defense for years," Garcia added. "Finally, we got one."

Chris Hovan intercepted Leftwich at the Falcons 27 to set up Tampa's next score, when Garcia found Alex Smith for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 4:43 remaining before Graham rumbled for 26 yards on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.

Leftwich made the start at quarterback in place of Joey Harrington, despite the fact that Harrington had rallied the Falcons to two straight victories.

The 27-year-old Leftwich was battered and bruised by the ferocious Tampa Bay defense, completing just 15-of-28 passes for 106 yards with two interceptions.

The quarterback switch came as a welcome surprise for the Tampa Bay defense, which prepared for Harrington in practice this week.

Given the benefit of facing the less mobile Leftwich, the ferocious Tampa Bay defense, pestered the former first-round pick all afternoon. He completed just 15-of-28 passes for 106 yards with two interceptions.

"I knew we were going to get an extra half second with Leftwich's release," Hovan said. "We took advantage of it." "My performance was poor and I will look over things that I didn't do well," Leftwich said. "As the quarterback of this team, I have to set the precedent and put numbers on the board. I just didn't get it done."

Harrington relieved Leftwich and completed 16-of-20 passes for 139 yards, including a 7-yard TD strike to Laurent Robinson with 1:10 remaining, but it was too little, too late.

Leftwich's performance added to the quarterback controversy in Atlanta, which is still struggling at that position since the suspension of Michael Vick. Falcons coach Bobby Petrino refused to name his starter for the Falcons' contest against the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts on Thanksgiving night.

"We have to evaluate the video from today and see who gives us the best opportunity as a team to win the game," Petrino said. "I can not tell you when that decision is going to be made right now."

In a testament to the mediocrity of the NFC South, both clubs endured an embarrassing stretch in the second quarter.

On 3rd-and-7 from the Falcons 41, Leftwich found White down the middle. But Cato June forced White to cough up the football. Brian Kelly recovered the ball and inexplicably lateraled it back to June, who in turn fumbled the ball after he was tripped up by White at the Falcons 42.

Atlanta was unable to capitalize, and saw its drive sputter at the Buccaneers 46 as the unfamiliar chants of "Joey, Joey, Joey" erupted from the restless Georgia Dome crowd.

"I wanted to let Byron come out of the locker room and see if he could get anything going," Petrino said. "We felt that with the way he practiced and moved around that he should start. I don't think you can put all the blame on the quarterback."

Tampa did not do much better on its ensuing possession. Driving into Falcons territory, Garcia called a timeout that he did not have on 3rd-and-5 from the Falcons 40, essentially extinguishing the drive after a five-yard penalty.

Matt Bryant added a field goal for the Buccaneers, who improved to 3-0 against NFC South opponents this season.








  • NFL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    TAMPA BAY 7 7 10 7 31
    ATLANTA 0 0 0 7 7 FINAL
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: TAM - TD, JOEY GALLOWAY 44 YD PASS FROM JEFF
    GARCIA (MATT BRYANT KICK), 7:17.
    Drive: 3 plays, 72 yards in 1:02.
    Key plays: Ruud 5-yard interception
    return to Tampa Bay 28; Garcia
    7-yard pass

    Nov 18 4:24 PM


  • NFL
    TD ATL
    MICHAEL JENKINS 7 YD PASS FROM JOEY HARRINGTON
    (MORTEN ANDERSEN KICK)
    TAMPA BAY 31
    ATLANTA 7 1:10 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Buccaneers vs. FalconsNov 18 4:21 PM


  • NFL
    TD TAM
    EARNEST GRAHAM 26 YD RUN
    (MATT BRYANT KICK)
    TAMPA BAY 31
    ATLANTA 0 14:53 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Buccaneers vs. FalconsNov 18 3:47 PM


  • NFL
    END, 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    TAMPA BAY 7 7 10 24
    ATLANTA 0 0 0 0 END, 3RD QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: TAM - TD, JOEY GALLOWAY 44 YD PASS FROM JEFF
    GARCIA (MATT BRYANT KICK), 7:17.
    Drive: 3 plays, 72 yards in 1:02.
    Key plays: Ruud 5-yard interception
    return to Tampa Bay 28; Garcia
    7-ya

    Nov 18 3:42 PM


  • NFL
    TD TAM
    ALEX SMITH 21 YD PASS FROM JEFF GARCIA
    (MATT BRYANT KICK)
    TAMPA BAY 24
    ATLANTA 0 4:51 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Buccaneers vs. FalconsNov 18 3:34 PM


  • NFL
    FG TAM
    MATT BRYANT 23 YD
    TAMPA BAY 17
    ATLANTA 0 6:35 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Buccaneers vs. FalconsNov 18 3:23 PM
  • 5
    roots
    Dagrims Added 5 roots

    Buccaneers vs. FalconsNov 18 3:21 PM


  • NFL
    HALFTIME 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    TAMPA BAY 7 7 14
    ATLANTA 0 0 0 HALFTIME
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: TAM - TD, JOEY GALLOWAY 44 YD PASS FROM JEFF
    GARCIA (MATT BRYANT KICK), 7:17.
    Drive: 3 plays, 72 yards in 1:02.
    Key plays: Ruud 5-yard interception
    return to Tampa Bay 28; Garcia
    7-yard p

    Nov 18 2:46 PM


  • NFL
    TD TAM
    RONDE BARBER 41 YD FUMBLE RETURN
    (MATT BRYANT KICK)
    TAMPA BAY 14
    ATLANTA 0 10:42 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Buccaneers vs. FalconsNov 18 2:08 PM


  • NFL
    END, 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    TAMPA BAY 7 7
    ATLANTA 0 0 END, 1ST QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: TAM - TD, JOEY GALLOWAY 44 YD PASS FROM JEFF
    GARCIA (MATT BRYANT KICK), 7:17.
    Drive: 3 plays, 72 yards in 1:02.
    Key plays: Ruud 5-yard interception
    return to Tampa Bay 28; Garcia
    7-ya

    Nov 18 1:46 PM


  • NFL
    TD TAM
    JOEY GALLOWAY 44 YD PASS FROM JEFF GARCIA
    (MATT BRYANT KICK)
    TAMPA BAY 7
    ATLANTA 0 7:43 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Buccaneers vs. FalconsNov 18 1:31 PM