With the game in the balance, 43-year-old Matt Bryant made a 57-yard field goal in the closing minute. He was injured on the kick with an apparent hamstring injury. He was taken to the locker room where he was dejected and blocked from talking to the media by team officials.
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“I can’t say enough about Matt Bryant and the kick that he had,” coach Dan Quinn said. “In that moment, that’s exactly who he is. He’s definitely one of the mentally tough players that I’ve have a chance to coach. I have a lot of respect for him.”
The Falcons were not in the clear until Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston’s ran a scramble play, tossed to wide receiver Mike Evans, who tried to toss it to DeSean Jackson, but the ball went out of bounds as time expired. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was on the field playing defense and force Winston to lateral.
Here are the five things we learned from the victory:
1. Passing fancy: Ryan tossed two touchdown passes in the first half to move into 15th place on the all-time touchdown pass list, tied with Joe Montana at 273.
Ryan tossed a 35-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu in the first quarter and a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper in the second quarter to give the Falcons a 21-6 over Tampa Bay.
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He moved pass Montana with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman in the fourth quarter to put the Falcons 31-22.
“That drive, you have to come away with a touchdown right there,” Ryan said.
Vinny Testaverde is next for Ryan with 275 touchdowns and then Johnny Unitas with 290.
Montana, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, played from 1979-94 for the 49ers and Chiefs. He led the 49ers to four Super Bowl titles in the 1980s.
Sanu’s touchdown grab was a nifty catch-and-run after Ryan faked the ball to Coleman and to Calvin Ridley on an end around.
He connected with Sanu, who was running a crossing route, at the 20-yard line. Sanu turned the ball upfield and ran over safety Justin Evans at the 3-yard line and dove into the end zone.
2. Swimming Poole: Falcons nickel back Brian Poole, who blasted Winston on the sideline in the second quarter and touched off a mini-riot, had two key plays in the third quarter.
He lost Buccaneers wide receiver Adam Humphries on a crossing route that went for a 51-yard gain.
With the score 24-13 and the Bucs threatening to score, Poole came up with a big interception in the end zone. Winston tried to force a pass intended for Chris Godwin. The pass hit linebacker Duke Riley in the back and popped up. Poole came over from the slot where he was defending a running back at the 2-yard line and made the interception.
3. Defense gets two picks: The Falcons defense continued to give up yardage, but had two turnovers for the first time this season. The Bucs became the fourth team to amass more than 400 total yards against the Falcons this season.
Interceptions by free safety Damontae Kazee and Poole helped to end two possessions deep in Falcons territory.
Peyton Barber, who played at Milton High and Auburn, rushed for 82 yards, including a 28-yard gain.
The Falcons gave up 232 yards to the Eagles in the season opener.
» Photos: Falcons defense holds up against Bucs
The Panthers (439), Saints (534), Bengals(407) and Steelers (381) have all moved the ball on the Falcons.
New Orleans, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh all scored five touchdowns against the Falcons. The Bucs scored four touchdowns and amassed 512 total yards.
“It was just good to get the win,” Riley said. “It shows the fans and everybody that we are not giving up. We are not going out like that. Just because people are out doesn’t mean we can’t still win. “
4. NFC South: The Saints are in first place at 4-1. They had a bye this week. The Falcons are now three-and-half games behind with 10 to play. The Panthers loss 23-17 to the Redskins to drop to 3-2.
5. Injury update: In addition to Bryant's injury, Ridley left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return.
Sanu left the game with a hip injury in the third quarter and did not return.
Also, defensive tackle Jack Crawford left the game with a neck/head injury. He returned to the game and had a sack in the third quarter.
Ridley had three catches for 47 yards before leaving. He entered the game leading the Falcons in touchdown catches with six.