Graham runs to record
Earnest Graham had the perfect situation to lead Tampa Bay's running attack. Tampa Bay took a 14-3 lead midway through the first quarter and Graham knew his team would be content to pound away on the ground, an ideal situation for any running back. Graham responded by rushing 22 times for 79 yards and one touchdown in Tampa Bay's victory. He has scored a touchdown in six consecutive games, setting a team record for most consecutive games with a touchdown. Errict Rhett, Reggie Cobb and Gary Anderson are tied with five.
Falcons soaring low
Tampa Bay fans may not like Atlanta, but they still have a soft spot for Falcons RB Warrick Dunn, a former Buc. Dunn and his team endured the Vick sentencing and Petrino exit, which was too tough for his team to overcome. "It's just been an emotional week with everything that has happened and to try to come out and play a game, I could tell you it was tough," Dunn said. "We were always supporting each other, we were definitely supporting each other and tried to go out with a clear mind, just go out, have fun and play the game."
Bennett backs up words with solid work
Just when Michael Bennett's frustration had begun to boil over, he found the perfect release. Bennett took his frustration about his playing time out on the Falcons on Sunday, running a season-high nine times for 63 yards and showing an impressive combination of speed and power in averaging 7 yards per carry. "It's great to be a part of this," he said. "I was just really hungry to get out there on the field. I finally didn't feel like I did in weeks past, like I wasn't a part of the winning."
This is Bennett's first chance to be a part of a division-winning team. He hadn't factored heavily in the previous seven games, dating to his acquisition from Kansas City in an October trade. Last week, he voiced his dissatisfaction with his role, acknowledging his lack of command of the offense while claiming enough know-how to be a contributor.
Bennett positioned the Bucs for their final touchdown when he reached the 3, then was replaced by Michael Pittman. Bennett missed the chance to score but treasured what he did get. "I wanted to score, and there was one run at the end where, if I maybe had waited a little longer, maybe I could have popped in the end zone," he said. "But, for me, the main thing was just getting to play. That satisfies me."
This time, it was the other guy who got the worst of a run-in with Jeremy Trueblood. The right tackle, ejected after an altercation with opposing linemen against Arizona last month, managed to avoid an ejection or even a penalty when Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall barreled into him after the whistle on a second-quarter play, touching off a wild fracas. Hall received a personal foul penalty.
There would be more dustups, something that perhaps should have been expected given the Falcons' emotional state. Trueblood gave them credit for caring.
"I have to give those guys a lot of credit," he said. "After going through what that organization has been through all week, they played a tough game. The score is not indicative of how hard they played at all."
Anthony Becht is becoming something of a weapon in the goal-line package. He caught another touchdown, giving him two on just four receptions this season. Sunday's play utilized a call the Bucs borrowed. "We stole that play from the Rams," Becht said. "They ran it against us."
Becht lined up seemingly as a blocker but drifted into the flat, where Garcia found him for the 1-yard score. "It's really hard to defend," Becht said. "It's a big double-team block. Alex (Smith) comes down and smashes the guy that's lined up over me. I just kind of slide over into the flat."
Ronde Barber played in his 159th game as a Buccaneer on Sunday, the sixth-highest total in franchise history. Barber had been tied with FB Mike Alstott for the sixth spot; he needs just one more game played to tie former C Tony Mayberry for fifth place on the list.
Rookie FB Byron Storer made his first NFL start, playing in place of the inactive B.J. Askew. Storer caught his second career pass late in the third quarter.
Jovan Haye recovered Chris Redman's second-quarter fumble, giving him four fumble recoveries on the season, just one shy of the Bucs' single-season record. DT Bill Kollar recovered five fumbles in 1979.