Matt Ryan threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns as the Atlanta Falcons snapped a three-game losing streak, holding off Tampa Bay 34-29 Sunday in Jameis Winston’s return as the Buccaneers starting quarterback.
The Falcons (2-4) scored on their first three possessions and held off a wild comeback by Tampa Bay (2-3), avoiding their first 1-5 start since 2007.
Winston and the Bucs almost pulled off a miracle on the final play of the game after driving to the Atlanta 21. With no timeouts, the quarterback took the snap and tried to surprise the Falcons by taking off up the middle of the field. When he was about to be tackled at the 10, he pitched the ball toward receiver Adam Humphries, who couldn’t hang on.
The ball skipped to Mike Evans, who blindly flung it in the direction of DeSean Jackson at the 5. Jackson might’ve had a chance to dive for the end zone, but he couldn’t come up with another bouncing ball. It hopped out of bounds to end the game.
Jackson ripped off his helmet, kicked the pylon in disgust and headed straight for the locker room.
Winston threw for 395 yards and four TDs but also had a pair of interceptions, one a deep ball that was picked off at the Atlanta 1 as well as a deflected pass in the end zone that ricocheted high in the air and was grabbed by Brian Poole to deny another scoring chance.
Ryan’s three TD passes gave him 274 in his career, passing Joe Montana for 16th on the career list.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn made a gutsy call with just over a minute remaining, sending on Matt Bryant to attempt a 57-yard field goal with Atlanta clinging to a 31-29 lead.
Bryant’s kick just cleared the crossbar, extending the Falcons’ lead. The 43-yard-old Bryant put everything into the kick and immediately grabbed his right hamstring before hobbling off the field.
Quinn’s decision paid off, forcing the Bucs to go for a touchdown with their final possession.
Atlanta’s receiving corps took a beating. Calvin Ridley, who was leading the Falcons with six touchdown catches, went out in the first half with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Mohamed Sanu was sidelined in the second half with a hip problem.
The loss of two receivers forced the Falcons to give more playing time to Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall and Russell Gage.
Also, defensive tackle Jack Crawford, who was filling in for injured Grady Jarrett, left briefly with a head and neck problem. After being checked out, he was able to return to the game for Atlanta.
The Bucs lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who walked slowly off the field in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury. Cornerback Ryan Smith was evaluated for a possible concussion.
Buccaneers: Return home next Sunday to host the Cleveland Browns (2-3-1).
Falcons: Host the struggling New York Giants (1-5) on Monday, Oct. 22, to close out a stretch of five home games in the first seven weeks of the season. After a bye week, Atlanta plays six of its last nine games on the road.
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