As "Movember" and "No-Shave November" get into full swing, past Falcons have provided some inspiration as we dive into the vault and pull the best examples of facial hair we could find.
The Falcons evened the series at 21 victories each in their first game against the Buccaneers this year in Week 3 with a convincing 56-14 win. Atlanta will now try to take over the series lead this Sunday.
On December 20, 2003, the Birds took flight to Raymond James Stadium looking to halt a two-game losing streak in Tampa. The fans in attendance got their money's worth in this divisional contest right before Christmas that had serious ramifications for one team.
Atlanta started the game strong with an 11-play, 56-yard opening drive, chewing 5:24 off the clock before stalling and settling for the first points of the afternoon with a short 26-yard field goal.
LB Keith Newman then came up with the first big play by the Falcons defense later in the opening quarter, stepping in front of Buccaneers WR Kennan McCardell for an interception and returned the pick 29 yards to place the Birds in perfect field position for a scoring opportunity. An unnecessary roughness penalty on McCardell helped moved Atlanta to the six-yard line.
TE Alge Crumpler was the beneficiary of the opportunistic defensive play as he hauled in a 6-yard scoring pass for a 10-0 Falcons lead.
A furious scoring barrage in the second quarter by Atlanta ensued and staked the Birds to a nice early margin lead.
WR Brian Finneran snagged a 13-yard scoring strike and CB Juran Bolden added a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown off the hand of Bucs QB Brad Johnson for early scores in the quarter. A 38-yard field goal with no time on the clock increased Atlanta's lead to 27-7 at intermission.
The Birds grabbed first half interceptions by Newman, S Keion Carpenter, and S Bryan Scott, in addition to Bolden's first-ever scoring theft, to thwart Tampa Bay scoring opportunities, and to aid the strong defensive cause.
Tampa Bay mounted a comeback with two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, one on a 76-yard strike to McCardell. But it was too little too late as the Falcons prevailed 30-28.
RB T.J. Duckett bulldozed his way for 93 yards on the ground to help the Birds total 148 rushing yards to control the clock at key moments and the four big turnovers by the defense were the impetus for the win.
The victory knocked the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs out of the playoff picture for the 2003 season.
For the Falcons, they claimed their first win on the road in Tampa Bay since both teams were placed in the newly-formed NFC South Division a year earlier.