Atlanta, GA (SportsNetwork.com) – The Atlanta Falcons made a statement with a
56-14 beatdown of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
It was a record-setting night for Atlanta wide receiver Devin Hester, who
passed Hall of Famer and former Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders for most
return touchdowns in NFL history.
With a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, Hester broke
a tie with Sanders at 19 career touchdown returns. Hester now has the record
all to himself with 20.
Hester paid tribute to Sanders with an extended high step into the end zone.
Sanders, now a television analyst, was in attendance at the Georgia Dome.
Earlier in the game, Hester took an end around and went 20 yards for the first
rushing touchdown of his career.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Hester signed with the Falcons in the offseason. He
spent the first eight years of his career with the Chicago Bears.
Matt Ryan completed 21-of-24 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns for the
Falcons (2-1), who bounced back from a 24-10 loss to the Bengals. Julio Jones
caught nine passes for 161 yards and two scores.
Steven Jackson carried the ball 14 times for 54 yards and a touchdown for
Atlanta, which racked up 488 yards of total offense. Antone Smith rushed for
50 yards and a score on four carries.
The Falcons scored the second-most points in team history and did so without
wide receiver Roddy White, who sat out with a hamstring injury.
Buccaneers starting quarterback Josh McCown completed 5-of-12 passes for 58
yards and interception before leaving with a right thumb injury. Mike Glennon,
who started 13 games last season, connected on 17-of-24 passes for 121 yards
and a touchdown.
Running back Doug Martin (knee) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand)
missed the game for the Lo vie Smith-led Bucs (0-3).
The Bucs should have waved the white flag after it took the Falcons less than
three minutes to a score a touchdown on the game’s opening possession. Ryan
completed all four of his passes during the drive, including two to Jones.
Harry Douglas capped the quick series with a 3-yard TD catch.
Atlanta got a bit lucky on its next possession. Tight end Levine Toilolo
caught a 13-yard pass before fumbling, but Hester ran down Mark Barron and
stripped the ball from him to give the Falcons the ball back. Jones made
the Bucs pay with an 8-yard score.
The ball continued to bounce the Falcons’ way on the ensuing Bucs possession.
Kemal Ishmael picked off McCown and raced 23 yards the other way for a
Atlanta got the ball right back after Bobby Rainey fumbled. On 3rd-and-17,
Jones caught a 17-yard pass to move the chains. On the first play of the
second quarter, Hester recorded his 20-yard TD run.
The Bucs went three-and-out after the Falcons turned the ball over. Hester
followed with his record-breaking return that made it 35-0 with 7:06 left in
Tampa Bay finally got a first down before Jonathan Massaquoi got Atlanta’s
first sack of the season.
Falcons kicker Matt Bryant missed a 59-yard field goal before the break. The
35-point outburst in the first half tied a franchise record.
Ryan and Jones hooked up for a 40-yard score with 8:23 left in the third
quarter. Another turnover by the Bucs — this one on a high snap — led to
Jackson’s 2-yard TD run.
The Falcons took a 56-0 lead on Smith’s 38-yard score with 1:47 remaining in
the third stanza.
Tampa Bay finally got on the board when Vincent Jackson caught a 3-yard TD
pass early in the fourth. Danny Lansanah added a 27-yard interception return
for a touchdown to account for the final margin.
Atlanta’s 42-point edge stands as the Buccaneers’ third-largest margin of
defeat … Ryan set a franchise single-game record, completing 87.5 percent of
his passes … The Bucs had five turnovers and 110 yards in penalties …
Douglas left the game with a foot injury … Rainey carried the ball 11 times
for 41 yards … Atlanta quarterback T.J. Yates completed 3-of-4 passes for 64
yards and an interception … Hester missed most of the second half with