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Falcons vs. Buccaneers, Week 12: Tampa Bay falls 'just a little short'

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a great chance to steal a game against the Atlanta Falcons, but the Bucs came up just a little short in a 24-23 loss.

Al Messerschmidt

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly made the NFC South much more interesting on Sunday, but Michael Turner's fourth-quarter touchdown gave the Atlanta Falcons a 24-23 win over the Bucs. The Falcons now hold a commanding four-game lead in the division with just five games to play.

Tampa Bay played Atlanta tight all game, and the lead changed hands numerous times. The Bucs led 23-17 in the fourth quarter before Turner's score, and Tampa Bay could not manage any more points.

While Tampa Bay struggled to contain Matt Ryan and Doug Martin failed to get going on the ground, the Bucs still had plenty of opportunities to steal the win. But as Sander Philipse of SB Nation's Bucs blog Bucs Nation notes, they came up short on several key plays and drives throughout the game:

And yet, the Bucs didn't lose this game because of the Atlanta passing game. They didn't lose it because their run defense struggled to contain Jacquizz Rodgers. They didn't lose because their rushing offense couldn't get going. They lost because they came up just a little short on numerous plays throughout the game. And all of that happened despite a very good start.

Tampa Bay's normally explosive offensive managed just two touchdowns on the day, settling for three field goals that would help prove to be its undoing. Just turning one of those field goals into another touchdown likely would have changed the outcome.

The Bucs are still in the thick of the NFC Wild Card race, although grabbing one of those slots will be tough. Chicago and Green Bay seem to have a stranglehold on one of those Wild Cards, while several other teams, including the Bucs, will likely fight for that second spot.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.