2013 DRAFT GUIDE
Tampa Bay ends tough season on high note

By GEORGE HENRY - Associated Press
    2012-12-30 18:09

ATLANTA (AP) - Compared to the last five miserable weeks, Tampa Bay rookie running back Doug Martin sensed something different this time.

Martin got all the proof he needed when the Buccaneers, though out of the playoffs for the fifth straight year, needed just 2 minutes to respond to a fourth-quarter touchdown by Atlanta.

``I could see it in everybody's eyes out there,'' Martin said. ``They weren't going to let that happen. Everybody just started to show up.''

Martin rushed for 142 yards, Josh Freeman and Mike Williams connected on a short touchdown pass and Tampa Bay snapped a five-game losing streak to end the season with a 22-17 victory Sunday.

Despite falling short of their postseason goals again, the Bucs at least were able to leave the Georgia Dome feeling some self-respect.

That was hardly the case last season, when they suffered a 10th straight loss in a Falcons rout and learned the next day that Raheem Morris had been fired as head coach.

Atlanta, just like this year, was on its way to the playoffs.

``We were on a losing streak last year, obviously, and it did not feel good walking out of this locker room, regardless of the situation,'' safety Ronde Barber said. ``I think everybody doesn't feel great about the season, of course, but we'll definitely be proud of the way we played this last game.''

Tampa Bay (7-9) relieved some frustration against an NFC South rival that had ended its four-game winning on Nov. 25.

The Bucs had not won since, but on Sunday they answered appropriately each time the Falcons (13-3) threatened to take the lead.

Martin's 40-yard touchdown late in the third quarter was significant because Atlanta had cut the lead to six after Asante Samuel picked off Freeman and Michael Turner scored on a 17-yard run.

``Erik Lorig, our fullback, did a good job of staying on his guy, and also Donald Penn, our left tackle, stayed on his guy,'' Martin said. ``I just pressed it and bounced it out and then broke two tackles, and it was off to the races.''

The score was important, too, because it helped restore Freeman's confidence. The fourth-year quarterback had thrown four interceptions in each of the last two weeks as New Orleans and St. Louis outscored the Bucs by a combined 69-13.

That wasn't the case this time.

``Any time you have a turnover, you have to respond,'' Freeman said. ``It's happened a number of times this year. A lot of times we responded. Sometimes we didn't respond, but especially when you're on the road and the team is as good as the Falcons are or really any team, it's crucial to respond.''

Tampa Bay's defense began the game ranked first against the run and last against the pass, but the Bucs were stout in both facets.

They played lots of zone coverage and let their linemen and occasional blitz packages keep pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

The Falcons' 275 total offensive yards were their second-fewest this season as defensive ends Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Michael Bennett combined with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David with two sacks for minus-25 yards and six quarterback hits.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster finished with 12 tackles, 11 of them solo stops, and safety Mark Barron made arguably the Bucs' defensive play of the game when he knocked down a fourth-down pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez with 2:02 remaining.

``The few pressures we did bring really were run stoppers,'' Barber said. ``We did a good job of first and second down to what we thought were manageable third downs to get off the field. It's been a problem for us all year, but it's how you win football games in this league.''

Offensively, Freeman surpassed 4,000 yards passing for the first time in his career. Martin, who began the game ranked third in NFL yards from scrimmage, averaged 5.1 yards on 28 attempts, and Williams beat Samuel in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard score that gave Tampa Bay a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter.

Dekoda Watson sparked the special teams by blocking a second-quarter punt that led to the second of Connor Barth's three field goals.

The Bucs played their best against Atlanta's starters for four quarters. Despite having the NFC's No. 1 seed and homefield advantage in the playoffs clinched last week, Falcons coach Mike Smith kept his first-string players on the field for the entire game.

``This team, I think, never really takes it for granted that they get to do this (for a living),'' first-year Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said. ``It's a good thing to be able to use all of your cumulative experiences and make up who you are and what you do.''

Freeman said he would take some satisfaction in the victory even though it came too late to save the season.

``If you end the year without winning the Super Bowl, your season can't be considered a success,'' Freeman said. ``But certainly I'm optimistic. We've got a lot of pieces and a number of guys we'll get back on the team this offseason. Looking forward, I'm really excited.''

NOTES: Martin was the only Tampa Bay running back with a carry. WR Tiquan Underwood and Freeman each had one carry for 1 yard. ... Bryant's first-quarter field goal was his 33rd of the season, setting a Falcons record. Jay Feely had 32 field goals in 2002. ... Tony Gonzalez reached 90 catches to become the first NFL tight end with five seasons of 90 or more receptions. ... Ryan's TD pass gave him a team-record 32 for the season. Steve Bartkowski threw 31 TD passes in 1980. ... Jacquizz Rodgers had a game-high eight catches for 50 yards and led Atlanta with 28 yards rushing on five carries.

---

Follow George Henry at http://www.twitter.com/georgehenryAP

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Aldon SmithApr 17 09:32p

The San Francisco 49ers do not plan on releasing LB Aldon Smith this offseason. Smith is expected to be suspended at the beginning of the season, but the length [ More ]

Chris JohnsonApr 17 08:52p

New York Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee) said he expects to receive medical clearance to resume football activities in the near future. He underwent knee surgery in January but [ More ]

Sebastian VollmerApr 17 08:42p

New England Patriots OG Logan Mankins said OT Sebastian Vollmer (leg) has looked good this offseason while he recovers from the broken leg he suffered during the 2013 season.

Chris SneeApr 17 07:32p

New York Giants OG Chris Snee (hip, elbow) is expected to participate when offseason workouts begin next week even though he is not 100 percent.

Rolando McClainApr 17 06:02p

The Baltimore Ravens reinstated LB Rolando McClain from the reserve/retired list Thursday, April 17.

Russell AllenApr 17 05:02p

The Jacksonville Jaguars released LB Russell Allen, WR Jabin Sambrano and DEs Will Pericak and D'Aundre Reed Thursday, April 17.

Chad JohnsonApr 17 02:22p

Free-agent WR Chad Johnson (Patriots) signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League Thursday, April 17.

Brian CushingApr 17 01:32p

Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing (knee) was medically cleared Thursday, April 17.

LaMichael JamesApr 17 10:04a

According to a league source, the San Francisco 49ers have been shopping RB LaMichael James. He finds himself behind RBs Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and perhaps Marcus Lattimore on [ More ]

Mike BrownApr 16 11:33p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Mike Brown signed his exclusive-rights free agent deal Wednesday, April 16.

Eli ManningApr 16 11:33p

Former New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said in a radio interview this week that it is 'ludicrous' to say QB Eli Manning is declining. 'There's been no [ More ]

Sidney RiceApr 16 08:03p

The Seattle Seahawks are re-signing WR Sidney Rice to an undisclosed one-year deal Wednesday, April 16, according to sources.

Dwayne BoweApr 16 07:03p

Kansas City Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe pleaded guilty Wednesday, April 16, after being arrested last November for marijuana possession. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges of littering and defective [ More ]

Arian FosterApr 16 04:53p

The Houston Texans may consider selecting a running back during the middle rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft that could become RB Arian Foster's backup in the future.

Chris JohnsonApr 16 04:43p

The New York Jets signed RB Chris Johnson to a two-year deal worth $8 million, with another $1 million in incentives available.

Terrelle PryorApr 16 04:33p

The Oakland Raiders hope to trade QB Terrelle Pryor before the start of the offseason program Monday, April 21.

Clay MatthewsApr 16 04:13p

Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews (thumb) said he likely will be limited during offseason workouts because of his surgically repaired thumb.

Chris JohnsonApr 16 03:53p

The New York Jets will use RBs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory as a tandem this upcoming season and have them split carries. RB Bilal Powell will be the team's No. 3 running back.

Dan SkutaApr 16 03:33p

San Francisco 49ers LB Dan Skuta (foot) is not expected to need surgery on the foot injury that bothered him during the 2013 season. Skuta met with a foot [ More ]

Gus BradleyApr 16 02:53p

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley watched Georgia QB Aaron Murray participate in his pro day Wednesday, April 16.

Reggie BushApr 16 02:13p

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said RBs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell likely will receive similar workloads this upcoming season than they did during the 2013 season. Bush [ More ]

Cheta OzougwuApr 16 01:53p

The Chicago Bears have waived DE Cheta Ozougwu.

Mike JamesApr 16 12:53p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Mike James (ankle) said he is happy with the progress he has made in his recovery from an ankle injury and that he has been [ More ]

Carson PalmerApr 16 12:43p

Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer said he would understand if the team selects a quarterback during the 2014 NFL Draft, because he knows the team has to think about [ More ]

Josh FreemanApr 16 12:23p

The New York Giants have agreed to terms with free-agent QB Josh Freeman (Vikings). Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Rolando McClainApr 16 12:13p

Updating previous reports, retired LB Rolando McClain failed his conditioning tests during his workout with the Baltimore Ravens. The test consisted of six timed 150-yard runs.

Golden TateApr 16 10:53a

Detroit Lions WR Golden Tate said he thinks he can be a 'more explosive Lance Moore,' referring to the former New Orleans Saints receiver. Moore caught 65 passes for [ More ]

Matt FlynnApr 16 10:01a

Green Bay Packers QB Matt Flynn is expected to compete with QB Scott Tolzien for the backup quarterback job, but head coach Mike McCarthy anticipates keeping three QBs on [ More ]

Rolando McClainApr 16 12:03a

Retired LB Rolando McClain (Ravens) worked out for the Baltimore Ravens Tuesday, April 15, as he attempts a comeback. The workout wasn't a smooth one in terms of conditioning, [ More ]

Chris JohnsonApr 16 12:03a

The New York Jets are sticking to their budget/value system. While they want free-agent RB Chris Johnson (Titans), they will not 'overpay' for him. The depressed running back market [ More ]

Aldon SmithApr 16 12:03a

San Francisco 49ers LB Aldon Smith hasn't only lost the benefit of the doubt with the team, but he probably won't play with the team in 2014, according to [ More ]

Malcom FloydApr 15 11:53p

San Diego Chargers WR Malcom Floyd (neck) continues his rehab from a neck injury, but his status is still uncertain. When the team begins voluntary workouts April 22, Floyd [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group