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Bucs start rookie running back Barber against Falcons

Peyton Barber is brought down on a 3-yard run during the first quarter.
Peyton Barber is brought down on a 3-yard run during the first quarter.
Published Nov. 4, 2016

TAMPA — With their top three running backs sidelined by injuries, the Bucs started undrafted rookie Peyton Barber in Thursday's game against the Falcons.

Barber became the Bucs' fourth starting running back in eight games, with Doug Martin, Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers all sidelined by injuries. Barber rushed for 84 yards in the win at the 49ers two weeks ago, including a 44-yard touchdown run, but he barely played in Sunday's loss to the Raiders, logging only three snaps.

The team used Barber and veteran Antone Smith on the opening drive — Barber had four carries for 11 yards and Smith had two for 14 yards as part of a 75-yard drive that ended with Jameis Winston's 3-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans.

Smith, who fumbled on one of his four carries in Sunday's loss, fumbled Thursday on the opening play of the second drive, setting the Falcons up at the Bucs 14. The defense held the Falcons to a field goal, putting Atlanta up 10-7.

INJURIES: Bucs LB Kwon Alexander rarely comes off the field on defense, but he had to Thursday due to a shoulder injury just before halftime. Daryl Smith filled in for him in the nickel defense, with Adarius Glanton playing strongside linebacker and Smith taking over the middle in the base defense. The team had classified Alexander's chance of returning as "probable."

The Bucs lost C Joe Hawley to a left knee injury in the second quarter, with Evan Smith taking over. He had stepped in briefly in three other games, but Hawley was ruled out for the rest of the game Thursday.

TWO MORE: Evans came into the game tied for the NFL lead with six touchdown catches, and he added two more in the first half from Winston. That gives Evans eight touchdowns in eight games, on pace to break his team record of 12, set as a rookie in 2014.

BEEN A WHILE: The Bucs went 75 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive, the first time they'd done that since Week 7 last season.

INACTIVES: The Bucs had Martin and Rodgers inactive, along with DT Clinton McDonald (hamstring) and WR Russell Shepard (hip). Rookie offensive linemen Caleb Benenoch and Leonard Wester were inactive, as usual, as was No. 3 QB Ryan Griffin.

With Shepard sidelined and WR Vincent Jackson on injured reserve, the Bucs dressed only four receivers, with little depth behind Evans and Adam Humphries. The other two receivers entered the game with a combined one catch this season: Cecil Shorts had one and Freddie Martino none.

Evans had five catches for 45 yards in the game's opening 10 minutes, including his NFL-best seventh touchdown of the season.

THIS AND THAT: RB Mike James rejoined the Bucs on Tuesday as a third back and made his season debut on the opening kickoff. James hadn't been with the team in two months and hadn't had a touch in an NFL game in nearly two years. … Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy was in attendance as part of NBC's crew. He chatted on the field with former players Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, who were on hand to welcome John Lynch into the team's Ring of Honor.