ATLANTA — The Bucs had five players out with injury in Sunday's overtime win at Atlanta and finished the game with another key starter — DE Jacquies Smith — wearing a boot on his left foot due to a sprained ankle.
"I was running to the ball, trying to make a tackle, and I got rolled up on," said Smith, who had no tackles but recovered a fumble off a bad snap at the Bucs 4-yard line. "I think it's just a sprained ankle, but we'll see what happens."
The Bucs already had two rookies playing at defensive end. Howard Jones came up with the team's only sack in overtime, forcing a fumble by Matt Ryan that the Falcons were able to recover for a 2-yard loss.
"There's definitely an emphasis here on getting the ball out," said Jones, who has three sacks in his three games. "I was just reaching for the ball."
Another rookie, DE Josh Shirley, made his NFL debut and got one of the Bucs' three tackles for loss.
RED-ZONE STOP: Entering the game, the Bucs had allowed opponents inside their 20-yard line 24 times — and given up points all 24 times, including 18 touchdowns.
Tampa Bay took a big step forward in that department Sunday, holding the Falcons to two touchdowns in five red-zone trips, with Smith's fumble recovery the first time a Bucs opponent came away empty. Another Falcons fumble came at the 20-yard line, inches away from counting as a red-zone stop.
BIG CATCH: The Bucs distanced themselves from the Falcons with a touchdown with 30 seconds left in the first half, with QB Jameis Winston hitting second-year TE Cameron Brate for his first NFL touchdown reception.
"It's cliche, but it's so true in the NFL: next man up," said Brate, who tied for the team lead with 48 yards receiving while filling in as Austin Seferian-Jenkins missed a fifth straight game with a shoulder injury. "Someone goes down, usually a young guy has to step up. Give credit to the coaches and leaders of our offense. (Injured WR) Vincent (Jackson) was awesome this week, even being held out."
RUNNING STRONG: Atlanta came into the game No. 2 in the NFL in running defense, allowing 78 yards per game. The Bucs ran on their first six offensive plays and finished the game with 117 yards — 10 shy of the most allowed by the Falcons this season. RB Doug Martin saw his 100-yard game streak end at three, finishing with 71 yards on 23 carries.
THIS AND THAT: CB Tim Jennings, demoted from a starting role to being inactive last week, was a healthy scratch again Sunday. The Bucs' secondary continued to struggle: Ryan had a 109 QB rating for the game, just under the 110 average for Bucs opponents coming in. … K Connor Barth went 3-for-3 on field goals, including the winning 31-yarder. He's now 9-for-9 on field goals and 8-for-8 on extra points. … Former Bucs first-round pick Adrian Clayborn, in his first season with the Falcons, had one tackle for loss against his old team. … The Falcons lost despite having three players go over 100 yards of total offense, WR Julio Jones (162), RB Devonta Freeman (131) and TE Jacob Tamme (103). The Bucs won despite having only one player go over even 50 yards (Martin).