2015 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

Tyler EifertJul 30 03:23p

Cincinnati Bengals TE Tyler Eifert said he is 100% healthy for the first time since the beginning of last offseason.

LeGarrette BlountJul 30 01:22p

New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount was placed on the Non-Football Injury list because he was not able to complete the conditioning test at the start of training camp. [ More ]

Kelvin BenjaminJul 30 01:02p

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (hamstring) said his hamstrings are fine and that he is 100% healthy entering training camp.

Terrance WestJul 30 12:52p

Cleveland Browns RB Terrance West worked with the first-team offense during team drills Thursday, July 30. Head coach Mike Pettine said several running backs will see time with the starters during training camp.

Trent RichardsonJul 30 10:22a

Oakland Raiders RB Trent Richardson is rumored to being unimpressive with his new team.

Tom BradyJul 30 10:12a

Updating an ongoing story, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's lawsuit was transferred to Manhattan, N.Y., by a Minnesota judge Friday, July 30.

Tom BradyJul 30 09:52a

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has filed a lawsuit against the NFL asking a Minnesota federal court for penalties against Brady to be vacated. The suit alleges that [ More ]

Jake LongJul 30 09:42a

Free-agent OT Jake Long (Rams) left his visit with the New York Giants Wednesday, July 29, without a deal. It was his second visit with the team without a [ More ]

Joseph RandleJul 29 08:43p

Dallas Cowboys RB Joseph Randle received strong praise from team owner and general manager Jerry Jones Wednesday July 29. 'We have a player (in Randle) that has the potential [ More ]

Joique BellJul 29 07:23p

Detroit Lions RB Joique Bell (undisclosed) was placed on the physically unable to perform list Wednesday, July 29, as he recovers from offseason surgery. It is unclear what the [ More ]

James WrightJul 29 06:43p

Free-agent WR James Wright (Bengals) was placed on Reserve/Injured Wednesday, July 29.

Jordan ReedJul 29 05:43p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (knee) has been cleared for full participation in training camp, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

Chase CoffmanJul 29 04:53p

Free-agent TE Chase Coffman (Titans) re-signed with the Tennessee Titans Wednesday, July 29, according to a source.

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 29 04:33p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) can be placed on the Non-Football Injury list if/when he signs his franchise tender. Owner John Mara said the team would like [ More ]

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 29 04:23p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) is receiving his own medical treatment and rehabilitation at his home. There is currently no timetable for his return. Pierre-Paul, however, could [ More ]

Roddy WhiteJul 29 03:43p

Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White (knee) had his left knee drained before minicamp, and he could have it drained again before the season ends. White isn't concerned about it, [ More ]

Ryan KerriganJul 29 01:43p

Washington Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan signed a five-year contract extension Wednesday, July 29, worth $11.5 million per season, according to a source. The deal includes a $16 million signing bonus.

Cyrus GrayJul 29 01:13p

Kansas City Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray was released Wednesday, July 29.

Carlos HydeJul 29 11:13a

San Francisco 49ers RB Carlos Hyde is not believed to be injured and shouldn't be on the non-football injury list for long. Hyde suffered a calf injury during spring [ More ]

Tom BradyJul 29 09:23a

Updating previous reports, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady posted on Facebook that he replaced his broken phone with a new one after his attorneys told the NFL 'my [ More ]

Tom BradyJul 29 01:53a

Updating a previous report, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady could have had his suspended reduced based on a series of conditions. According to a source with knowledge of [ More ]

Eric BerryJul 29 01:43a

Kansas City Chiefs SS Eric Berry (illness) has been cleared to take the practice field with the team Wednesday, July 29. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in December [ More ]

Geno SmithJul 28 08:03p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith could be benched if he struggles early in the season, according to head coach Todd Bowles Tuesday, July 28. 'If you feel that [ More ]

Ryan WilliamsJul 28 05:53p

Dallas Cowboys RB Ryan Williams (knee) was placed on Reserve/Injured Tuesday, July 28.

Brodrick BunkleyJul 28 05:43p

New Orleans Saints DT Brodrick Bunkley (undisclosed) was released with a failed physical designation Tuesday, July 28.

James WrightJul 28 05:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR James Wright (knee) was waived with an injured designation Tuesday, July 28.

Darrin ReavesJul 28 05:33p

Carolina Panthers RB Darrin Reaves was waived Tuesday, July 28.

Tom BradyJul 28 05:13p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is facing a four-game suspension, but the Patriots have done fairly well without him. In games Brady has missed since he became a [ More ]

Tom BradyJul 28 04:53p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has given permission to the NFL Players Association to appeal his case in federal court, according to a source. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell [ More ]

Lamar MillerJul 28 03:43p

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Miller may see an increase in carries in 2015, according to head coach Joe Philbin. 'If he's cranking and he got it 24 times a [ More ]

Le'Veon BellJul 28 03:03p

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell's original three-game suspension has been reduced to a two-game suspension Tuesday, July 28.

Tom BradyJul 28 02:53p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's four-game suspension has been upheld by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell Tuesday, July 28.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group