Final

Buccaneers 17

(1-10, 0-5 away)

Falcons 20

(6-5, 5-0 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, November 29, 2009

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 

1 2 3 4 T
TB 0 10 7 017
ATL 0 10 3 720

Top Performers

Passing: J. Freeman (TB) - 250 YDS, 2 TD

Rushing: M. Turner (ATL) - 12 CAR, 33 YDS

Receiving: A. Bryant (TB) - 3 REC, 91 YDS, 1 TD

Buccaneers-Falcons Preview

STATS LLC

The Atlanta Falcons are struggling to stay in the playoff hunt, but three straight games at home could be what they need to get back on track.

Facing the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday would also seem to help, but while the Falcons have a stellar record at Georgia Dome over the past two seasons, the Buccaneers gave them all they could handle in the previous matchup there.

After making its first playoff appearance in four years in 2008, Atlanta seemed prime for a return to the postseason after a 4-1 start. The Falcons, however, have dropped four of five since then, including last week's 34-31 overtime road loss to the New York Giants.

Their second straight defeat pushed them one game behind the Giants, Green Bay and Philadelphia, who they face Dec. 6, in the NFC wild-card race.

"We've got to win, man," wide receiver Roddy White said. "That's the biggest thing for us right now."

Victories have been frequent at the Georgia Dome since the team hired Mike Smith and drafted quarterback Matt Ryan with the third overall pick in 2008. Atlanta (5-5) is 11-1 at home over the past two seasons with a 4-0 mark this year.

The Falcons could get another boost if leading rusher Michael Turner is ready to return from a high right ankle sprain. Turner, who had three straight 100-yard games before suffering the injury Nov. 15 against Carolina, returned to practice Wednesday but was limited.

"Hopefully we'll get a good read on him after practice and then tomorrow," Smith told the team's official Web site.

Even if Turner returns, the Falcons' homestand won't be easy. After facing the Buccaneers and Eagles (6-4), they finish up against possibly unbeaten New Orleans on Dec. 13.

That makes Sunday's matchup critical as the Buccaneers (1-9) are one of three losing teams Atlanta will face over its final six games.

The Falcons will play Tampa Bay again to wrap up the regular season Jan. 3 and visit the New York Jets on Dec. 20. Their only other home game against a losing squad comes Dec. 27 versus Buffalo.

"We can't have no setbacks. We've got to go out there and win six games," White said. "If we win six games, we'll control our own destiny."

After seeming to show signs of improvement over the previous two weeks, the Buccaneers (1-9) absorbed a 38-7 defeat to the visiting Saints last week as rookie quarterback Josh Freeman had a season-high three interceptions and a fumble in the third quarter.

New Orleans converted those miscues into 17 of its 38 unanswered points.

"It's just one of those days," Freeman said. "An off day. ... I don't see it as a problem going forward."

Ryan had a couple of off days against the Buccaneers last season with four interceptions and no touchdowns in two meetings. He completed 50 percent of his passes for an average of 182 yards.

Tampa Bay also held Turner to 42 yards on 14 carries in a 24-9 home win last season, but allowed him to rush for 142 in their meeting at the Georgia Dome.

That was enough to help the Falcons escape with a 13-10 overtime victory on Jason Elam's 34-yard field goal.

Elam, however, has struggled this season in converting just 6 of 12 attempts from 30-plus yards. His miss from 35 yards cost the Falcons a chance to win in regulation last week.

Ryan rallied the team from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter with a pair of touchdowns in the final 6:01, including an 11-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez with 28 seconds left that sent the game into overtime.

The Falcons, however, lost the coin toss and the Giants converted a 36-yard kick for the victory.

Atlanta brought in four kickers for a tryout Tuesday but decided to stick with the three-time Pro Bowler as it tries to avoid its first three-game skid since losing six in a row Oct. 18-Dec. 23, 2007.

"I've had slumps before," Elam said. "Over 17 years, you have some hiccups at various times. I've always been able to kick my way out of it. Hopefully, that's what will happen this time."

Tampa Bay has won 12 of 17 over Atlanta dating back to 1997, but the Falcons are 3-2 at home against the Buccaneers since 2004.

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Passing Leaders

Tampa BayCMP%YDSTDINT
M. Glennon57.098673
J. McCown63.242024
AtlantaCMP%YDSTDINT
M. Ryan64.02078137
T. Yates75.06401

Rushing Leaders

Tampa BayCARYDSAVGTD
B. Rainey542624.91
D. Martin481392.91
AtlantaCARYDSAVGTD
S. Jackson772853.72
A. Smith161368.52

Receiving Leaders

Tampa BayRECYDSAVGTD
V. Jackson2534413.82
M. Evans2125812.32
AtlantaRECYDSAVGTD
J. Jones4967613.83
R. White2835312.63

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

TEAM OFFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Total YardsTB
 
 288
ATL
 
 340
Yards PassingTB
 
 186
ATL
 
 223
Yards RushingTB
 
 102
ATL
 
 117
TEAM DEFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Yards AllowedTB
 
 366
ATL
 
 349
Pass Yds AllowedTB
 
 207
ATL
 
 242
Rush Yds AllowedTB
 
 158
ATL
 
 107

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

Tampa Bay leads 9-7
Dec 14, 2008TB 10, @ATL 13
Sep 14, 2008TB 24, ATL 9
Dec 16, 2007TB 37, ATL 3
Nov 18, 2007TB 31, @ATL 7
Dec 10, 2006TB 6, ATL 17
Sep 17, 2006TB 3, @ATL 14
Dec 24, 2005TB 27, ATL 24
Nov 20, 2005TB 30, @ATL 27
Dec 5, 2004TB 27, ATL 0
Nov 14, 2004TB 14, @ATL 24
Dec 20, 2003TB 28, ATL 30
Sep 21, 2003TB 31, @ATL 10
Dec 8, 2002TB 34, ATL 10
Oct 6, 2002TB 20, @ATL 6