Harry Douglas made the most of his long-awaited opportunity to be more than a complement to star receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White in Atlanta’s offense.
Douglas had seven receptions for a career-best 149 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown catch, to lead the Falcons to a 31-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Matt Ryan also threw two touchdown passes to Jacquizz Rodgers as the Falcons (2-4) snapped a three-game losing streak.
Douglas flourished as Ryan’s No. 1 target with Jones out for the season with a foot injury and White inactive for the first time in his nine-year career due to hamstring and ankle injuries.
"I’m the type of person that I never shy away from it," Douglas said. "Julio went down. Roddy wasn’t playing. I wanted the challenge. I’ve always been like that my whole life."
Ryan completed 20 of 26 passes for 273 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Ryan said he expected a big game from Douglas, a fifth-year receiver who has never reached 500 yards receiving or had more than one touchdown catch in a season.
"I don’t think anyone in our locker room was surprised by his play," Ryan said. "It’s what he’s capable of doing. You may not know that about him because we’ve had those other guys."
Atlanta managed only 18 yards rushing as running back Steven Jackson missed his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury.
The loss left the Buccaneers (0-6) still looking for their first win.
"Nobody wants to be in this situation," said Tampa Bay defensive end Adrian Clayborn. "We’ve got to deal with it."
Trailing 31-17, the Buccaneers held the ball for 18 plays and over 9 minutes in a marathon fourth-quarter drive that produced a first down at the Falcons 5. Four penalties on the possession, including a facemask call against Jackson that pushed the Bucs back to the 15, helped force Tampa Bay to settle for Rian Lindell’s 41-yard field goal with 5 minutes remaining.
Lindell added his third field goal of the game, from 36 yards, with 2 minutes remaining. The Falcons ran out the clock after recovering an onside kick.
Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin left the game early in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. Martin had 11 carries for 47 yards before he was injured while attempting to catch a 16-yard pass near the left sideline.
A side judge threw a penalty flag for an apparent unnecessary roughness on Falcons safety William Moore, but referee Walt Anderson withdrew the flag.
Martin lay on his back for several minutes before walking off the field under his own power. He said X-rays "look fine" and the shoulder is not separated.
"We’re still evaluating what it is," Martin said. He said he is "not sure yet" if he would play in Thursday night’s game against Carolina. "Just have to hope for the best," he said.
Moore sacked Mike Glennon to force a fumble on Tampa Bay’s first possession. Safety Thomas DeCoud returned the fumble recovery 30 yards for a touchdown.
Glennon, making his first road start, completed 26 of 44 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns to Vincent Jackson.
"He went on the road and showed he can handle the pressure on the road," said Tampa Bay receiver Mike Williams of Glennon. "As a team, we’ve got to help him and make more plays for him."
Jackson, targeted on 22 passes, had 10 catches for 138 yards, including touchdown receptions of 59 yards in the second quarter and 1 yard in the third quarter.
Jackson’s second scoring catch was Tampa Bay’s first third-quarter touchdown this season. Entering the game, the Buccaneers had only 13 second-half points.
Tampa Bay was called for 11 penalties for 103 yards.
Following DeCoud’s touchdown, the Falcons stretched their lead to 14-0 on Ryan’s first touchdown pass to Rodgers, a 19-yarder early in the second quarter. Douglas added a 37-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter as the Falcons led 24-7 at halftime.
After Tampa Bay cut the lead to 24-17 on Jackson’s second touchdown catch, the Falcons answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive which ended with Rodgers’ 8-yard catch over the middle.
NOTES:Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan worked the game from sideline instead of the press box level, where he had been stationed this season. … Tampa Bay moved center Jeremy Zuttah to left guard where he started for Carl Nicks, who was out after undergoing surgery for MRSA infection. Ted Larsen started at center and drew a personal foul for unnecessary roughness in the second quarter. … The returned fumble recovery was DeCoud’s first career touchdown.