Tampa Bay - 37 Atlanta - 21 Bucs Pull Away Late and Clinch the #6 Seed in NFC Playoffs In a game that would decide the final Wild Card spot in the NFC, Tampa Bay fought off a ferocious 2nd half comeback by the Falcons, and pull away late to win 37-21. The Bucs would jump out to a big lead early on, led by their defense, who intercepted Matt Ryan 5 times on the day, one of them being a Pick 6 by the RE Adrian Clayborn. On the play, DT Gerald McCoy busted through, up the middle and hit Ryan just as he was getting rid of it... the ball popped up in the air, Clayborn went up and grabbed it and would rumble 20 yds in the endzone. Tampa would go on to a 17-0 lead after 1 quarter. Late in the 2nd, Matt Ryan would get the Falcons into the endzone and on the board for the first time in the game. A much needed TD right before half, and with the Falcons getting the 2nd half kickoff, the Dome had signs of life. 51 seconds were still on the clock, and Josh Freeman would lead Tampa down the field and get a last second FG by David Buehler to make it 23-7 at the half and take a little bit of air out of Atlanta's sails. But the Falcons wouldn't go down without a fight. Behind an all out aerial assault, Matty Ice and the Falcons scored 14 unanswered points and cut the lead down to 2 at the end of the 3rd quarter, 23-21. Ryan had 344 yds passing on the day, and is the NEW NFL record holder for Most Passing yards in a Season with 5,664, passing Drew Brees' mark of 5,476. Congrats to Matty Ice!! With the lead cut to 2, and the thoughts of the game, playoffs and season slipping away, the Bucs relied on their 2 most valuable veterans to thwart the Falcons comeback. Freeman would hit a big pass to Dallas Clark down the right sideline to get it inside the 10, with about 6 minutes to go. A few plays later, Freeman connected with Ol' Reliable Vincent Jackson for the TD on an inside slant with very tight coverage. Clutch catch by Jackson to make it a 9 point game, 30-21. It was Jackson's 14th TD of the season. He has been everything that the Bucs hoped he would be, when they acquired him. On the insuing possession, MLB Mason Foster would intercept Ryan and get a big return, deep into Atlanta territory. A couple plays later, rookie sensation Doug Martin would break one on the right side, and go in for a 20 yd TD run that would effectively put the game out of reach, 37-21 for the final score. Tampa Bay has exceeded all expectations after going 4-12 in 2011. They enter the 2012 Playoffs as the Cinderella story of the year. It appears that Tampa will be facing either the Eagles or the Niners in the Wild Card Round, depending on what the Eagles do in their Week 17 match vs the Giants. Tampa will be keeping a close eye on that matchup for sure. A few notes from the game/season..... Tampa Bay Josh Freeman finished just 2 yds shy of the 4,000 milestone at 3,998. Vincent Jackson finished just 4 yds shy of the 1,500 milestone at 1,496 ...but did end up w/ 14TDs!! Doug Martin finished with 1,117 yds and 12 TDs and 367 yds receiving and 2 TDs. Tampa Bay's Defense finished with 46 Sacks, 30 INTs, 17 Forced Fumbles, and 4 Defensive TDs Atlanta As stated, Matt Ryan finished the year with 5,664 passing yards. NEW NFL Record for a Single Season. Michael Turner finished with 1,238 yds and 15 TDs. Roddy White would finish with an impressive 1,734 yds and 10 TDs Chad Johnson finished with 1,286 yds and 11 TDs. Atlanta's Defense finished with 32 Sacks, 27 INTs, 6 Fumbles, and 4 Defensive TDs GG Hokie, take care and I look forward to playing you again next season. Should be a heck of a fight in the NFC South in 2013.