Matt Ryan powers short-handed Falcons past Bucs


One knock on Matt Ryan goes like this: Instead of lifting up the play of those around him, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback looks better than he is because there's so much talent at his disposal.

With Roddy White and Julio Jones out of the lineup, that theory was put to the test Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Instead of folding, Ryan turned nobodies into playmakers in a 31-23 win that saw Falcons wideout Harry Douglas haul in seven receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown. With double coverage swallowing up tight end Tony Gonzalez, Ryan also made the most of running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who caught another eight balls for two scores.

Atlanta scrapped the ground game from the start, using aggressive downfield passes to fend off a Bucs offense that hung around behind rookie passer Mike Glennon. It's a disappointing season for the Falcons, but Sunday made it clear Atlanta hasn't mailed it in.

Here's what else we learned:

1. Glennon moves to 0-3 as Tampa's starter, but we saw progress. Buried in a 24-10 hole, Glennon strung together a patient nine-play scoring drive that ended with his second touchdown of the day to Vincent Jackson. It's a lost season for the Bucs, but Glennon's decision-making improves weekly. He throws a nice deep ball, too, especially to Jackson, who was targeted 22 times on Sunday.

2. Lost in Tampa's terrible start is the play of linebacker Lavonte David. All over the field, his 10 tackles were twice as many as any other Tampa defender.

3. From the trainer's room: Bucs running back Doug Martin left the game with a shoulder injury and didn't return. We were impressed with the play of his backup, Mike James, who runs with a mix of power and vision and blocks well on passing downs.

4. Asante Samuel missed part of the game with a thigh injury, and probably wishes he never got out of bed. Glennon's prettiest pass came with Samuel matched one-on-one with Jackson. The secret MVP on the play? Like we were saying: James, who neutralized Desmond Trufant's corner blitz and gave Glennon that extra second to throw.

5. Atlanta's biggest problem this season is an offensive line that can't keep Ryan out of trouble. We'll need to check the All-22, but Sunday's numbers were better. The Bucs didn't record one sack and Ryan was hit just twice against a pretty good Tampa front seven.

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