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Third Quarter: A Tenuous Lead


A pessimist would look at the Falcons' third quarter -- one in which they dominated yet failed to score -- and would start to worry about the Buccaneers' two-play, 80-yard touchdown drive from the team's first meeting. Because as much as the Falcons have dominated the game, they lead by only 10-3 entering the fourth quarter.

The Falcons lead in time of possession 28:04 to 16:56. They lead in total yards 283-86. But the Bucs lead in turnovers 2 to 0 and so the Falcons' lead is only seven points.

The Falcons run of successful series came to an end with Tanard Jackson's interception at the Bucs' 28-yard line with 10:56 left in the third quarter. Falcons quarterback Ryan had not thrown an interception since Nov. 15, a run of five straight games and 143 attempts in those games, as Ryan missed two games and most of a third with a toe injury. In his last five games, Ryan had thrown seven touchdowns against no interceptions over 143 attempts without an interception until Jackson's.

Then Corey Lynch blocked a 40-yard field goal attempt after an impressive drive that started at the Falcons' 2.

The fourth quarter will begin ominously with the Bucs driving.

They got a big break when the umpire got in the way of Falcons defensive lineman Trey Lewis, effectively blocking him and allowing Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman to complete a first-down pass under pressure.

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