With little to play for after clinching the NFC South and home field advantage, the Atlanta Falcons dropped a meaningless game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The Falcons fell 22-17 in their last game before heading into a crucial post season.
After their win Sunday, Tampa Bay (7-9) was able to end their season on a positive note and snapped a five game losing streak. The Bucs were in playoff contention earlier, but a 24-23 loss to the Falcons on Nov. 25 quickly started their downward spiral.
Although it was questioned during the week if head coach Mike Smith would play it safe by benching some of his starters or play for the win, it was clear that Atlanta was going for the win, as all of their starters took to the field against the Bucs. Smith’s hope was to gain momentum if the Falcons came away with the win, since they have a first round bye in the playoffs next week. But, Sunday’s gamble came with its share of setbacks as Atlanta’s leading defensive end and pass rusher, John Abraham, left the game with an ankle injury.
Atlanta also lost starting cornerback Dunta Robinson, after he suffered a head injury early in the first quarter and did not return. Robinson’s apparent injury came after helmet to helmet contact on a stop to Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin. Luckily, he was able to walk off the field as he was escorted to the locker room for further evaluation.
After the game, Smith stated that he did not feel the injuries to Robinson and Abraham were serious.
Offensively, the Falcons simply struggled all day and Matt Ryan’s only touchdown came on a 7-yard pass to Harry Douglas with just seven minutes remaining. In a sluggish start, Atlanta’s only first half points came off of a 28-yard field goal from Matt Bryant. However, Bryant’s field goal was his 33rd of the season, setting the Atlanta record. Ryan ended his day going 28-of-44 for 238 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Although they did not take the win, Ryan did set a team record on Sunday as well, with 32 on the season.
For Tampa Bay, Martin led the day with 142-yards against the Falcons defense, w hich included a 40-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Josh Freeman was 19-of-35 for 222-yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Falcons now turn their focus to the playoffs, with their first game coming on January 13th.
About the Author
Written by Ashley Gulick
Sports Journalism is my passion! I keep up with the latest news on pro/college football, NASCAR and baseball....and just about everthing else. I grew up in Talladega, Ala., but moved to Georgia when I was 15. From a young age, I always knew that I wanted to be involved with sports somehow. Once I got into college and completed my degree in Communications, I knew that I had a passion for sports journalism. I have covered sports for the Kennesaw Sentinel (KSU's student paper), Marietta Daily Journal and Douglas County Sentinel.