The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t need a pretty win. They just needed a win.
And that’s what they got on Sunday, defeating the Atlanta Falcons, 24-9, on Sunday.
Of course, it helps when RB Earnest Graham rushes for 116 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. That ended Atlanta’s (1-1) hopes of a comeback.
And it helps when Atlanta QB Matt Ryan makes two early turnovers, which the Buccaneers (1-1) turned into 10 points.
All of that added up to a .500 record two games into the season, but kept the Bucs behind Carolina (2-0).
Ryan failed to complete his first nine passes of the game, and two interceptions put the Bucs on top 17-0 in the second quarter.
Aqib Talib's interception on Atlanta's third play set up Griese's 5-yard TD throw to John Gilmore, and Sabby Piscitelli's second-quarter pick positioned the Bucs for a field goal that made it 17-0.
In between, veteran Warrick Dunn scored his first touchdown in his second stint with the Buccaneers, a 17-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
QB Brian Griese, who started for the Bucs in place of the injured Jeff Garcia, certainly wasn’t spectacular, completing 18-of-31 passes for 160 yards and a TD. But he was able to deliver two things Garcia was not able to last week — no turnovers and a victory.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden hinted that Griese could be the starter next Sunday, but said he wanted to speak to both players first before making a decision.
Ryan led the Falcons on three drives that yielded field goals to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 17-9 in the fourth quarter.
Falcons RB Michael Turner, who rushed for a franchise-high 220 yards last week, gained just 42 yards against Tampa Bay’s defense.
Also, the Bucs will have to wonder about WR Joey Galloway, who sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter. He missed all of the preseason with a groin injury.
Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of Bucsblitz.com.