The Falcons came into Sunday's game with an opportunity to strengthen their hold on the No. 1 seed in the NFC and all but take the Bucs out of the postseason conversation. The Falcons played an uncharacteristic brand of football for most of the game, but they finished it off in true, nail-biting Falcons fashion by coming back to pull off the 28-24 win.
Brent Grimes came up with what looked like an incredible interception in the third quarter, climbing the ladder for one of his patented acrobatic picks. Grimes got off the ground and scampered ahead for a decent return that would have put the Falcons in prime scoring position. As the offense took the field, the Bucs challenged the play. Replays looked inconclusive, and there's some question as to whether there was enough evidence to overturn it, but that's exactly what happened. The Bucs got the ball back and the Falcons lost a prime opportunity to push ahead. But Grimes got the last laugh. After the Falcons went ahead 28-24, Grimes picked off another pass in amazing fashion to end the Bucs' hopes of coming back. After another review, this one stood.
The Falcons entered Sunday's game as the least penalized team in the NFL, and while they weren't called too often during Sunday's game, it was the type of penalties that really hurt the Falcons. Atlanta got called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the first half, and then called again for a personal foul when Kroy Biermann hit Josh Freeman out of bounds on a third down. Those are the types of mistakes head coach Mike Smith wanted to see done away with, and he'll likely address the issue again this week during practice.
The field at Raymond James Stadium is traditionally one of the best surfaces in the NFL, but it was sloppy Sunday afternoon. South Florida and Connecticut played in Ray Jay on Saturday and tore the field up pretty good. When the Falcons and Bucs got on the field Sunday, large chunks of the field were coming up with each step. One play epitomized the conditions and it came in the fourth quarter as the Falcons tried to mount a comeback after being down 17-14. Matt Ryan and the offense took the field after a defensive stop, only to have Ryan throw a pick on the first play after Roddy White slipped and fell on his route. That play led to the Bucs scoring a crucial touchdown that put the Birds down by two scores.
Jason Snelling was ruled inactive prior to Sunday's game after he spent all week trying to recover from a hamstring injury he suffered against the Packers last week. With Antone Smith also recovering from an injury and making his way to the inactive list, Michael Turner and fourth-stringer Gartrell Johnson were the two running backs that looked to carry the load Sunday. But Mike Smith said during the week that fullback Ovie Mughelli might see some action, and he certainly did. Mughelli took a pass in the flat for a 17-yard score during the first half that gave the Falcons their second TD of the game.
Very Special Weems**
Every week, Eric Weems came closer and closer to breaking a kickoff return for a touchdown. Sunday was finally his day to do it. After Tampa Bay scored a touchdown to go ahead 24-14, Weems took a kickoff 102 yards, weaving through defenders and blocks, tip-toeing the sidelines, all the way to the end zone for a clutch touchdown that breathed new life back into the Falcons. The return was a club record for Weems. The previous record was 100 yards held by three separate players.