Falcons hold off Buccaneers on MNF

Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Patrick Murray misses a game tying field goal against the Atlanta Falcons as time expired during the second half of an NFL football game Monday Dec. 18 2017 in Tampa Fla. Atlanta won 24-21

Falcons hold off Buccaneers on MNF

A move bound to confuse at least some fans of Tampa Bay as Hawley was expected to replace Ali Marpet until an illness forced him to miss the game in Green Bay earlier this season. In that scenario, the Falcons would have a season split with the Panthers but a better division record, with the Panthers having lost two NFC South games to the Saints.

The Falcons tacked on a 57-yard field goal by Bryant with 3:12 remaining in the half for a 17-7 lead.

Should the Bucs win, that would drop Atlanta back into a four-way tie with Detroit, the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

NOTES: The Bucs played without DT Gerald McCoy (biceps), LB Lavonte David (hamstring) and CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring).

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman runs past Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Keith Tandy left and linebacker Riley Bullough for a 32-yard touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game Monday Dec. 18 2017 in Tampa F

Now, the Falcons need the win to stay in the playoff hunt, and they're 4.5-point favorites to win the game. Already missing several starters, including their two defensive leaders, the Bucs lost tight end O.J. Running back Devonta Freeman, who also caught five passes for 68 yards, ran for 126 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Even Ryan got into the act against the decimated Bucs, with 29 yards on three rushes, as the Falcons ran for a season-high 201 yards on Monday. Matt Ryan looked better against the Buccaneers than he did last week against the Saints and showed some nifty footwork running the ball, but he still isn't the MVP-caliber player that folks saw last season. The Bucs actually did a good job defending Falcons receiver Julio Jones, limiting him to three receptions for 54 yards.

But poor tackling and shoddy special-teams play will catch up to the Falcons if they don't get them corrected.

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