Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Tampa Bay saved their best effort in December for the season finale, grounding the NFC South champion Falcons 22-17, handing Atlanta their first home loss of the season. The Buccaneers victory snaps a five game losing streak.
In the first quarter the Bucs got off to a good start in as the defense forced the Falcons to punt on the opening drive. The Bucs' countered on their first possession, scoring on a Connor Barth 48- yard field goal taking a 3-0 lead.
Atlanta would come right back with a Matt Bryant field goal on their ensuing drive to tie the game at 3-3.
The Falcons defense took a hit, when cornerback Dunta Robinson went helmet to helmet with Bucs' running back Doug Martin. Robinson left the game and wouldn't return.
On their third drive of the contest the Bucs broke the 3-3 tie when Josh Freeman hit Mike Williams for an 8-yard touchdown pass. The score was the Bucs' first in the Red Zone since the Eagles game snapping a 0-5 streak.
On Atlanta's next possession, Dekoda Watson pushed Michael Palmer into the punter's kick giving the Buccaneers the ball on the Falcons 26-yard line. The Bucs' would be forced to settle for another Barth field goal when a third and goal pass from Freeman to Tiquan Underwood fell short of the end zone. At Halftime the Bucs' lead the Falcons 13-3. It's Tampa Bay's first halftime lead since the Broncos game in week 13.
In the third quarter it was a see-saw battle, as the Bucs began the scoring, tacking on a Barth 43-yard field goal to take a 16-3 lead. On the scoring drive Josh Freeman passed the 4,000 passing yards milestone connecting with Vincent Jackson.
On the Bucs' next possession Freeman reverted to his old ways getting intercepted by Asante Samuel. The turnover led to a 17-yard Michael Turner touchdown run as the Falcons closed the gap 16-10.
Tampa Bay would answer on their next possession, Doug Martin broke two tackles and left everyone else behind him in a 40-yard scoring run. The Bucs elected to go for two, but came up short when Freeman over threw Mike Williams. Heading in to the fourth quarter the Buccaneers led 22-10.
In the final quarter of the season the Falcons put the pressure on, scoring on a fourth and goal from the Buccaneers 7-yard line, pulling them with in five.
Atlanta would have a chance to take the lead on their next possession. On a fourth and 10, rookie Mark Barron knocked away a would be first down pass to future hall-of-famer Tony Gonzalez to end the Falcons chances of a comeback.
The Bucs would drive the ball down the field, nearly capping off the season with a touchdown, but a 22-17 win would suffice. The victory snaps a five game losing streak for Tampa Bay and gives them a positive note heading in to next season.
Josh Freeman finished the game with 222 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception. His numbers weren't staggering but the quarterback did set new Buccaneer franchise records for career touchdowns with 78 and touchdowns in a season with 27.