There were more fireworks in the second half than the first, but the Falcons couldn't seem to ever generate enough of a spark on Sunday against Tampa to get their 14th win of the season.
Down 16-3 after Tampa's third-quarter-opening possession, Asante Samuel picked off a Josh Freeman pass on Tampa's side of the field to give the Falcons a short field for their first touchdown of the game. In two plays, running back Michael Turner covered 21 yards to allow the Falcons to post double digits on the scoreboard for the first time, closing the gap to six points.
The Bucs answered with a touchdown from Doug Martin, who had 142 yards on the day. After that there wasn't much to go Atlanta's way on Sunday.
After losing Dunta Robinson in the first half to a head injury, Atlanta's starters continued to play in the second half, finishing the game in an effort to get the win they said they were playing for all season. Defensive end John Abraham left the game halfway through the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. Like Robinson, he did not return.
Matt Ryan hit Harry Douglas for a 7-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, narrowing the score to 22-17. That TD pass was Ryan's 32nd of the season, setting the Falcons franchise mark for touchdown passes in a single season. Ryan finished his final game of the regular season with 238 yards and one touchdown.
A late surge by the defense stopped a Tampa drive and got the Falcons offense the ball back with time to score again, but a failed fourth-and-10 conversion lost the ball on downs for the Falcons and lost the game as well.
Atlanta's running back Jacquizz Rodgers had one off his best games, leading the team in both rushing yards and receiving. He five times for 28 yards and caught eight passes for 50 yards.