Falcons beat Bucs to improve to 3-6

Steven Jackson had his best game of 2014 as the Falcons beat the Bucs.

Thank goodness for the Bucs.

It was a struggle, and the win showed how tough even the most-expected easy games can be for a team that has had a rough six weeks. But the Atlanta Falcons beat the inferior Tampa Bay team 27-17 Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

A 3-6 record certainly sounds much better than 2-7. It’s been more than seven weeks since the Falcons won a game, but a win is a win. The five-game losing streak is over.

For now, the talk about changes will subside. Instead, new life has been breathed into a team that obviously still believes it can compete in the NFC South. Why not? The Saints lost 27-24 Sunday to the 49ers to fall to 4-5. The Panthers, next week’s opponent, face the Eagles in Philadelphia Monday night.

Let’s not get crazy, considering the fact two of the three wins for Atlanta have come against the lowly Bucs. But since the Falcons are only a game out of first place, next week’s game against Carolina could be important, especially if the Panthers lose to the Eagles.

Atlanta did a few things Sunday that have not happened a lot this year. They won the turnover battle – forcing three turnovers and not turning the ball over on offense. They sacked Bucs quarterback Josh McCown four times. They entered the game with a NFL-low of seven sacks.

The Falcons also had only five penalties, a low mark for the season.

Atlanta actually got a season-high rushing total from Steven Jackson, who had 81 yards. That’s the most Jackson has had since the 84 he had against Buffalo last December.

The Bucs actually scared the Falcons when they grabbed a one-point lead at the beginning of the 4th quarter when McCown threw a touchdown pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Falcons bounced back with an impressive 10-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White. Ryan then made a pass to Harry Douglas for the two-point conversion to give the Falcons a 24-17 lead.

Atlanta’s defense then stopped the Bucs on the next drive. Osi Umenyiora sacked McCown on 3rd down and 2 to end Tampa Bay’s attempt at a comeback. Matt Bryant then added a 33-yard field goal to ice the game with 4:15 left.

The Falcons will now prepare for the road game in Charlotte next Sunday against the Panthers, and you can bet as they look at the standings they will realize the importance of the 10th game of the season.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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