ATLANTA – Michael Turner kept battering the Bucs. John Abraham ran right through them.
Atlanta Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins (12) eludes Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jermaine Phillips (23) and Cato June in the first quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in Atlanta.
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)
With those two dominating Tampa Bay, the Atlanta Falcons managed to overcome their mistakes.
Turner ran for 152 yards, Abraham had three sacks, and the Falcons finished off a sloppy performance with Jason Elam's 34-yard field goal in overtime Sunday, pulling out a crucial 13-10 victory over the Buccaneers to tighten up the NFC playoff race.
"To win a game like this, when you're not hitting on all cylinders, is huge," said Mike Smith, Atlanta's rookie coach.
Two guys deserved the bulk of the credit. Turner carried a career-high 32 times, including a couple of big runs on the winning drive. Abraham kept coming at Tampa Bay from all directions, including a possession-ending sack in overtime that caused Bucs tackle Jeremy Trueblood to throw up his hands in frustration.
On Abraham's first sack, he shoved a Tampa Bay lineman into Brian Griese. On the second, he crawled under tackle Donald Penn to get at the fill-in quarterback.
"This will be a fun game to sit down and watch on film," said Abraham, who had his third three-sack game of the season, giving him 15 1/2 overall.
Atlanta (9-5) twice turned it over near the Tampa Bay end zone and had a huge breakdown on special teams late in the fourth quarter, allowing the Bucs to block a punt that set up Matt Bryant's tying field goal with 48 seconds left in regulation.
But the Falcons stuffed Tampa Bay's only possession of overtime, then drove 55 yards for Elam's winning kick.
The Bucs (9-5) have back-to-back losses for the first time this season and missed a chance to possibly clinch their playoff berth. They were hampered by 11 penalties for 76 yards.
"I'm not going to take any credit away from Atlanta, but I don't feel like they were the better team," said Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Bryant, who had eight catches for 108 yards and got into a brief confrontation with Smith on the Falcons' sideline.
The Falcons pulled even with Tampa Bay in the NFC South behind first-place Carolina, ensuring their first winning season since 2004.
Turner had his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season against a Tampa Bay defense that was looking for redemption after giving up 299 yards on the ground in a loss to Carolina. The Bucs surrendered 175 yard to the Falcons, most of them piled up by their bull of a running back.
Turner had a 1-yard touchdown early on that gave Atlanta a 10-0 lead. He was running just as hard at the end, breaking off runs of 17 and 9 yards in OT, the latter setting up Elam's winning kick.
"As the game wore on, he got stronger and stronger," Smith said.
The rookie coach laughed off his staredown with Bryant, who had given cornerback Domonique Foxworth a shove in front of the Atlanta bench.
"Antonio was on our sideline and I politely asked him to go back over to his sideline," Smith quipped.
The Bucs had to go without starting quarterback Jeff Garcia, sidelined by a calf injury. Griese completed 26 of 37 for 269 yards, hooking up with Bryant on a 20-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left in the first half.
But Griese also threw an interception and was sacked four times in all. The Bucs converted just 3-of-14 chances on third down.
"We shot ourselves in the foot on offense," he said.
Atlanta overcame a subpar game by Matt Ryan, who threw two interceptions and fumbled twice. But he hit Roddy White with a 14-yard pass on the winning drive.
Late in the fourth, with the Falcons leading 10-7, Brian Clark got around a blocker just enough to get his right hand on Michael Koenen's punt. The Bucs returned the loose ball to the Atlanta 22 and looked to win it, but Abraham put them in a hole by sacking Griese.
Bryant, who earlier in the quarter had missed from 53 yards, kicked a 38-yarder to send the game to overtime.
The Falcons jumped ahead 10-0 in the first quarter, but two turnovers deep in Tampa Bay territory kept the Bucs in the game. Ryan got greedy and went for the touchdown on second-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 34. The pass was underthrown and Aqib Talib picked it off at the 1.
In the third quarter, Ryan found Jason Rader alone down the right sideline, and the backup tight end hauled in the pass and headed for a touchdown. Bucs safety Jermaine Phillips stripped the ball from behind just as Rader was going in, and Phillip Buchanan scooped it up in the end zone.
The officials initially ruled TD, but referee Terry McAulay overturned the call after Tampa Bay challenged, even though replays from several angles looked inconclusive.
Notes:@ NFC South teams are now 11-0 at home in division games. ... Turner broke Jamal Anderson's franchise record with his 15th rushing touchdown of the season. ... Former Falcons RB Warrick Dunn rushed for 40 yards and caught seven passes for 50 yards in his return to the Georgia Dome. ... Elam had the 17th game-winning kick of his career in the final 2 minutes of regulation or overtime.