TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Josh Freeman scored the first rushing touchdown of his career and Tampa Bay’s defense forced three turnovers and sacked Matt Ryan four times in its best performance of the season, helping the young Buccaneers end three years of frustration against the Atlanta Falcons with a 16-13 victory on Sunday.
The normally unflappable Freeman did a little bird dance in celebration of his quarterback sneak that snapped a 3-3 tie in the second quarter, and the Bucs (2-1) went on to end a five-game losing streak in the series between NFC South rivals. Four of those losses were by six or fewer points.
Tampa Bay’s defense forced two first-half fumbles with sacks. Ronde Barber intercepted a pass to stop an Atlanta threat just before halftime, and the Falcons (1-2) were stopped on downs inside the Bucs 10 early in the fourth quarter. Still, Ryan nearly pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback from a double-digit deficit for the second straight week.