In many ways, this game is the Falcons' worst nightmare: arguably their two most important players, quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner, have left the game with injuries, not to return.
The third quarter was a tempest of bad news for the Falcons: In addition to Turner's injury, they allowed a block punt and lost a fumble that caused them to fall behind 17-13 at the end of th eperiod.
Entering the third quarter, neither team had forced a turnover or a game-changing type of play other than the Bucs' 42-yard touchdown reception by Antonio Bryant in the second quarter. That ended when the Bucs' Corey Lynch blocked Michael Koenen's punt with 11:53 left in the quarter. The Bucs took over at the Falcons' 8 and punched it in two plays later on Cadilac Williams' short reception.
At that point, the Bucs had scored 17 unanswered points.
The Falcons responded with a nine-play drive for a field goal, making kicker Jason Elam 2-for-2 today after missing four of his previous 10 attempts. The key plays were an 18-yard run by Turner -- who left the game soon after -- and an 18-yard reception by Michael Jenkins.
Thus, if the Falcons' rally is to be complete, it they will have to do it without Turner, who left the game with 10:58 left in the quarter after a 3-yard run, and Ryan, who left in the first quarter. Turner had 33 rushing yards on 12 carries before gettng injured at that point and had reeled off his longest run of the day, the 18-yarder, on the play before he left the game. Stylez G. White -- who was in on the sack that injured Ryan -- had Turner low and then linebacker Barrett Ruud delivered a high, hard hit that bent Turner backwards. He remained on the field for several minutes before walking off on his own power without any visible limp.
With the Falcons looking as if they were poised for another scoring drive, Jason Snelling fumbled after a hit by Ruud at the Bucs' 32-yard line with 3:10 left in the period. Tim Crowder, who has had a big game, recovered it at the 25.