TAMPA — In his first six games with the Bucs, rookie quarterback Mike Glennon didn't make too many mistakes, completed a lot of passes, spread the football around and played it safe. He demonstrated he has a good head for the position but lacked a willingness to show off his powerful arm.
But sooner or later, you have to stop laying up and take the driver out of the bag. You have to hit on 16 at the blackjack table. And in the NFL, you have to throw caution — and footballs — to the wind.
All of that finally changed Sunday in the Bucs' 41-28 victory over the Falcons, their second straight win in less than a week.
The Bucs (2-8), who had one play of longer than 40 yards over the first nine games, pulled off three on Sunday.
Glennon connected on passes of 53 and 47 yards to Vincent Jackson, who finished with 10 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. And when the Bucs didn't air it out, little-known Bobby Rainey made a name for himself with 163 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including a 43-yard run in the first quarter and 4-yard catch in the third.
Teammates admitted they knew very little about Rainey when he arrived three weeks ago off waivers from the Browns. But it didn't take long for the former Western Kentucky star to make an impression.
"He shook me so bad one time in practice, I was like, 'Man, if they ever put him in the game, he's going to kill it,' " defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.
Rainey, who scored the winning touchdown against Miami, helped the Bucs became only the fourth team in NFL history with three players to rush for 140 yards or more in a season, following in the footsteps of Doug Martin and Mike James.
Like nearly every pass Glennon attempted against the Falcons (2-8), Sunday's game was complete for the Bucs.
Glennon went 20-of-23 for 231 yards and two touchdowns. His 86.9 percent completion rate was second best in team history and highest in the NFL this season.
"He's done it during the week at practice, but we needed to do it in the game," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "And the protection held up, and Mike threw it out there.
"And Vincent Jackson … I mean, a great one-handed catch and then going up and ripping the ball out of the sky. That's what receivers do; the great receivers. And that's what makes quarterbacks have confidence to throw to him."
McCoy, who had three sacks Sunday — tying the team record for a tackle — set the tone early when he dumped Matt Ryan twice on the Falcons' first series.
The Bucs produced three turnovers: a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Mason Foster, a fumble recovery by safety Mark Barron and a pick by safety Dashon Goldson.
Until two garbage time touchdowns in the fourth quarter by the Falcons, the game was never really close. Tampa Bay led 38-6 late in the third and 41-13 midway through the fourth before Antone Smith's 50-yard touchdown run against backups with 5:22 left.
The Falcons, above. 500 in all five of coach Mike Smith's seasons, lost for the seventh time in its past eight games.
"It's embarrassing … the way we came out and performed — all of us," Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said.
McCoy said Schiano challenged his team after it became the last to get a win this season, 22-19 over Miami last week on Monday Night Football.
"He said, 'Are we going to have a Monday Night Football hangover, or are we going to keep building off the momentum from Monday night?' " McCoy said. "It was the perfect setup to come out tired, happy about getting our first win. Coach said, 'Who are you going to be today?' And we just came out on fire."
Schiano also kept the foot on the accelerator by taking chances. The Bucs recovered an onside kick in the second quarter after taking a 10-3 lead. They faked a punt with Michael Koenen firing incomplete to running back Brian Leonard. And Rainey even attempted a pass that fell incomplete.
"We want to be aggressive," Schiano said. "We don't think it's off the wall. We think it's a calculated risk. They're calls or gut feels, and we feel like if you've got something rolling, you go with it."
Sometimes, it pays to take chances.
Rick Stroud can be reached at email@example.com.
Bucs' best completion percentage
|Vinny Testaverde||Sept. 13, 1992||22||25||88.0||363||2||vs. Packers||31-3 W|
|Mike Glennon||Sunday||20||23||86.9||231||2||vs. Falcons||41-28 W|
|Steve DeBerg||Oct. 14, 1984||25||29||86.2||272||1||at Lions||13-7 L (OT)|
|Brian Griese||Oct. 10, 2004||16||19||84.2||194||1||at Saints||20-17 W|
|Trent Dilfer||Sept. 26, 1999||15||18||83.3||135||0||vs. Broncos||13-10 W|
The Bucs offense has only four plays longer than 40 yards this season. All came against Atlanta:
Date Yds. Play
Sunday43Rainey run (TD)
Oct. 20 59Jackson catch (TD)