Persistance pays off
Kalvin Pearson has been cut three times, twice by the Cleveland Browns and once by the Bucs, but he kept coming back for more. On Sunday, he was rewarded for his perseverance with his first NFL start. In the lineup in place of injured safeties Will Allen and Dexter Jackson, Pearson had seven tackles. Pearson, who was released by Tampa Bay before the start of the regular season and signed to the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster, cramped up early in the fourth quarter and was carted off the field and replaced by rookie S Donte Nicholson.

Pearson returned and made a key play on the Falcons' final drive when he tackled WR Michael Jenkins after a 19-yard reception. Pearson's tackle kept Jenkins in bounds and forced Atlanta to call its final timeout. With Allen and Jackson deactivated, Nicholson was active for only the third game this season and got his first NFL snaps with the defense. Nicholson dressed for the games against San Francisco and Carolina, in which he played on special teams.

Revolving receivers
Entering Sunday's game, no Bucs receiver was hotter than Joey Galloway, who was averaging 5.6 receptions and 95.7 yards per game -- on pace to shatter his career highs. Against Atlanta, Galloway didn't record a statistic. It was the second time this season he failed to produce a catch. The first was against Buffalo in Week 2. Atlanta CB DeAngelo Hall said he got some safety help in defending Galloway. Chris Simms threw Galloway's way four times, but was unable to connect. WR Michael Clayton, TE Alex Smith and Williams led the Bucs with three receptions each. Two of Clayton's catches picked up first downs, including a 27-yard reception in the middle of the third quarter that kept a scoring drive alive. Clayton had been averaging less than three receptions a game, and his team-high 48 receiving yards Sunday were his third-highest total this season.

Injury update
Backup Todd Steussie replaced LT Anthony Davis late in the fourth quarter. Davis injured his left ankle when Simms rolled into him. Davis returned for the Bucs' final offensive series. Two defensive players succumbed to cramps in the second half, Pearson and SLB Ryan Nece. LB Marquis Cooper replaced Nece in the fourth quarter. TE Anthony Becht injured his right knee late in the fourth quarter when he was hit from behind. He said he heard something pop, but should be OK. DT Anthony McFarland injured a shoulder early in the third quarter. Ellis Wyms replaced him for a couple of plays, but McFarland returned later in the quarter.

Buc notes
A week after scoring on the winning 2-point conversion play, FB Mike Alstott became the first non-kicker in Bucs history to reach the 400-point mark. Alstott scored from the 1-yard line by leaping over the pile near the end of the third quarter.

The Bucs' starting defensive unit ran onto the field before the game as a group, instead of being introduced individually.

The Bucs had eight penalties for 55 yards. The Falcons were penalized 11 times for 87 yards.

The Buccaneers have had Atlanta’s number in recent years. The Bucs have now won eight of their last 10 games against the Falcons, including five of the last six games played in Atlanta. Overall, the Bucs are 8-9 against the Falcons in the all-time series.

Tampa Bay’s win improved the Bucs’ record to 7-3, equaling the second-best start in franchise history. The 1979 and 1997 teams also won seven of their first 10 games. The best 10-game start in franchise history was the 8-2 opening to 2002, the Bucs’ Super Bowl Championship season.

Simeon Rice’s sack in the first quarter was the 113th of his career, tying him with Sean Jones for 13th place on the NFL’s all-time list.

Jon Gruden has had little success with replay challenges this season; he was zero-for-six when throwing the red flag coming into Sunday’s game. However, he pulled the flag out in an unusual and intelligent way against the Falcons and it worked. The Bucs used replay to prove their opinion that Atlanta had 12 men on the field when Vick scrambled for 11 yards, effectively costing the Falcons 16 yards and a first down.