TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Matt Ryan threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns, helping the Atlanta Falcons tighten their grip on first place in the NFC South with a 43-28 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
Julio Jones had eight receptions for 111 yards and a TD as the Falcons (6-3) avenged a season-opening loss to the Bucs (3-5). Tampa Bay has dropped two straight on the heels of a three-game winning streak that got them back to .500.
Jones, who’s closing in on another 1,000-yard receiving season with 970 through nine games, caught a 3-yard scoring pass in the third quarter, when Ryan led TD drives of 86 and 82 yards to break it open.
Levine Toilolo, Patrick DiMarco and Austin Hooper also caught TD pass from Ryan, who leads the NFL with 2,980 yards and 23 touchdowns vs. four interceptions.
Jameis Winston threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns for Tampa Bay, including scoring passes of 3 and 24 yards to Evans, who had 11 receptions.
Both of Tampa Bay’s young stars finished the game on the sideline, with Evans being evaluated for a possible concussion and Winston limping off after being shaken up when he was tackled trying to score on a two-point conversion play with just under seven minutes remaining.
Winston was tackled around the ankle by Atlanta’s Brooks Reed and also hit by cornerback Jalen Collins.
Mike Glennon finished up for the Bucs, taking his first regular season snaps since 2014. He threw a late TD pass to Cameron Brate to cut into a 23-point deficit.
RING OF HONOR: The Bucs inducted former safety John Lunch into the team’s Ring of Honor. Together with Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, Lynch formed the foundation of a dominating defense that helped transform Tampa Bay from the laughingstock of the NFL into a Super Bowl champion. A nine-time Pro Bowl selection and a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame last winter, Lynch played for the Bucs 1993 to 2003 and the Denver Broncos from 2004 to 2007. He was inducted into the Broncos Ring of Honor earlier this month.
NO CONFIDENCE?: The Bucs defense yielded 626 yards , including 513 passing, during last week’s 30-24 overtime loss to Oakland. That may have contributed to the decision Thursday night to decline a 15-yard face mask against the Falcons, settling for Matt Bryant kicking a 41-yard field goal for a 13-7 Atlanta lead instead of giving Ryan a chance to convert third-and-22 from the Tampa Bay 38
MATTY ICE: Ryan has thrown for 1,344 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions in his last four games against the Bucs, who had won three straight in the division rivalry. The Bucs lead the all-time series 24-23.
GOTCHA: Bucs DT Gerald McCoy talked this week about his admiration for Ryan , but reiterated that good sportsmanship should never be confused with a lack of commitment to do whatever to necessary to win. He said he’d shake the quarterback’s hand before and after the game, but spend the rest of the night trying to make the NFL passing yardage leader uncomfortable. McCoy sacked Ryan in the second quarter, forcing a fumble that led to Winston’s second TD pass to Evans.
INJURIES: With Doug Martin (hamstring) and Jacquizz Rodgers (foot) inactive, rookie Peyton Barber became the fourth different starting running back for Tampa Bay this season. Bucs C Joe Hawley left with a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return. Falcons CB Desmond Trufant left with a shoulder injury in the first half and did not return.
UP NEXT: The Falcons travel to Philadelphia, while the Bucs finish a three-game homestand against Chicago on Nov. 13.