TAMPA — LB Lavonte David couldn't believe QB Matt Ryan threw the ball.
The Bucs' defense had gone nearly two full games without a takeaway, and staked with a 23-19 lead, it needed one more stop against the Falcons' offense Sunday afternoon.
From film study, David knew where the Falcons liked to go in two-minute drills, and he dropped back and waited, expecting a throw to WR Julio Jones.
"I didn't expect him to throw it. I was right there," said David, who made a leaping interception to seal the Bucs' 23-19 win. "I didn't move. I didn't budge. He threw it, and when the ball was in the air, I had my hands ready already."
Bucs coach Lovie Smith said it was "only fitting" that David got the key takeaway, and David said the play "couldn't come at a bigger moment."
Ryan, who lost for the sixth time in seven games, said he needed to make an aggressive throw for a winning drive. "I shouldn't have made that throw," he said.
SHORTHANDED: The Bucs played without DT Gerald McCoy (hand), DE Jacquies Smith (hamstring) and DE George Johnson (calf), injuries that decimated a defensive line that already had DT Clinton McDonald on injured reserve.
"Wednesday I looked over and our entire starting defensive line that we started the season with was standing on the sideline," Lovie Smith said. "Guys really stepped up. … It's an opportunity for some of the younger players to step up."
WELCOME BACK: After missing nine games with a shoulder injury, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins returned, catching three passes for 31 yards, including a first-down catch in Falcons territory on the winning drive in the fourth quarter.
"It really means everything to me," Seferian-Jenkins said. "To be able to get back out here for my team and to win in the fashion we did, it was really special to me. When you're out for a long time, you just miss the game of football. It's tough, and I'm just happy to be back. It's an amazing feeling."
BACK IN THERE: Bucs CB Jude Adjei-Barimah left the game with an elbow injury — his right arm was in a sling after the game — and taking over was Johnthan Banks, who had played only two defensive snaps in the previous four games. Banks had one tackle. The severity of Adjei-Barimah's injury was unknown. Banks could be back in a starting role next week against the Saints.
THIS AND THAT: Rookie QB Jameis Winston's five rushing touchdowns this season match the most by a Bucs quarterback. Steve Young had five in 1986, and Shaun King had five in 2000. … David's interception gives him nine for his career, tied for third in Bucs history and one short of second. Dave Lewis had 10 from 1977-81. Derrick Brooks leads the way with 25. … WR Vincent Jackson had a season-high 87 yards on three catches, including a 22-yard catch on the winning drive. … Sunday's announced attendance was 58,221, the second lowest in six home games this season. Only the Carolina game has a smaller crowd 57,468.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.