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Braves Aren't the Only Atlanta Team on a Roll

October 23, 1995|From Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — Sunday was moving day for Atlanta and Tampa Bay. The surprising Falcons moved into first place and the improved Buccaneers moved out.

Jeff George threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns and Morten Andersen kicked a game-winning 30-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter as Atlanta (5-2) claimed a share of the NFC West lead with a 24-21 victory that ended the Buccaneers' two-week reign atop the NFC Central.

Tampa Bay is now 5-3.

The Falcons, off to their best start since they were 5-1-1 after seven games in 1986, also stopped Tampa Bay's bid to match the franchise-record five-game winning streak the Buccaneers put together at the start of the 1979 season.

"It was a good, tough football game between two good teams," said Tampa Bay Coach Sam Wyche, who has been critical of the way his team has been portrayed while fattening its record against one of the weakest schedules in the NFL.

"We feel lousy," Wyche added. "That's how you feel when you're used to winning."

Atlanta, which hadn't beaten a team with a winning record until Sunday, has been the target of similar criticism.

"We can't worry about that," George said. "All we can do is keep winning and make the playoffs."

George threw touchdown passes on plays covering 32 and 30 yards to Bert Emanuel, and Eric Metcalf scored on a 62-yard pass play. Both receivers finished with more than 100 yards, with Emanuel catching nine passes for 121 and Metcalf gaining 106 on four catches.

The Atlanta quarterback scrambled out of the pocket before finding the open receiver on both Emanuel touchdowns. Metcalf beat Tampa Bay safety Tony Bouie over the middle near midfield and outran the pursuit on his touchdown.

"Jeff made a couple of throws that only he could have made," Atlanta Coach June Jones said. "That's why he's our quarterback."

Errict Rhett scored on runs of one and two yards for Tampa Bay, which took a 7-0 lead when defensive tackle Warren Sapp intercepted a shovel pass intended for Craig Heyward and returned it five yards for a score.

The Buccaneers' offense, which has struggled all season, wiped out two Atlanta leads with scoring drives but managed only one first down in two possessions after Andersen put Atlanta ahead for good with 7:18 to go.

"At the end of the game, we just didn't get it done," Tampa Bay receiver Alvin Harper said. "We need to hurry up and explode. We can't let the defense go out there and make all the plays."

George topped the 290-yard mark for the fourth time this season, completing 24 of 37 attempts. He was sacked four times.

The interception Sapp returned for Tampa Bay's first touchdown was the only turnover of the game.

The Falcons, tied with San Francisco and St. Louis atop the NFC West, also got 69 yards rushing for Heyward, who picked up two first downs on Atlanta's last possession to run out the clock. His backup, Jamal Anderson, gained 56 yards--27 of them on the drive leading to Andersen's game-winning field goal.

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