Falcons vs. Buccaneers game recap: Atlanta holds off Tampa, all but wraps up NFC south with 24-23 win

J. Meric

Matt Ryan and the Falcons finally fizzled the Bucs' streak with a 24-23 win in Tampa

This week, there would be no fourth-quarter magic for the Buccaneers as the Atlanta Falcons edged the red-hot Bucs, 24-23, and all but assured themselves of the NFC south title.

The scorching Bucs and the Falcons battled from the first snaps of the day -- the first three drives of the game all resulted in scores -- and, as anticipated, the game came down to the final play.

After Julio Jones hit pay dirt with an 80-yard catch and run for a touchdown late in the third quarter, the Buccaneers made their routine late charge in the beginning of the fourth quarter.

First, Doug Martin scored his second touchdown of the day at the beginning of the quarter, and then a Falcons fumble led to a field goal that gave Tampa Bay a 23-17 lead.

However, the Falcons instantly answered back with an authoritative touchdown drive to grab back the lead when Michael Turner went off the left side and into the end zone for a score.

The Buccaneers had their chance to respond, reeling off a nine-play, 43-yard drive to give themselves a chance to regain the led, but Connor Barth couldn't connect on a 56-yard field goal, just missing his fourth field goal attempt of the afternoon.

Atlanta then did what elite teams do -- reeled off an efficient drive to bleed the clock to the final seconds, and when a Tampa Bay hail mary fell dead in the end zone as time expired, the Falcons extended their record to 10-1 and (basically) wrapped up the NFC South title.

The big winners of the day, the 10-1 Falcons, now face a quick turnaround and must welcome the Saints into the Georgia Dome on Thursday. That could prove to be a challenge for Atlanta due to the fact that cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel were both injured Sunday. The 6-5 Buccaneers now travel to Denver to face the Broncos, another hot team that could all but erase the Bucs' midseason surge with a victory next Sunday.

Fantasy studs: Jones had the best day, with 147 receiving yards and a touchdown thanks to an 80-yard touchdown catch. Doug Martin was, of course, a stud, with two touchdowns on the ground. Vincent Jackson also had a solid 96 receiving yards.

Fantasy duds: Josh Freeman became a victim of his own raised expectations. He threw for 256 yards, but no touchdowns.

Did they cover?: The Falcons were 1.5-point favorites and did not cover.

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