Devin Hester set a new NFL record with his 20th return touchdown and Matt Ryan broke the Falcons franchise record for completion percentage with 87.5 en route to a 56-14 dismantling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Atlanta came storming out the gate right from the opening kickoff, putting together a six-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that lasted just under three minutes and set the tone for the remainder of the game.
An eight-yard touchdown reception by Julio Jones and a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown by Kemal Ishmael gave the Falcons a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
And the Falcons did it without wide receiver Roddy White, who was declared inactive after not practicing all week while he nursed a hamstring injury.
The Falcons defense preyed on a struggling Bucs offense, collecting five turnovers (four fumbles, one interception) and three sacks. Tampa Bay didn’t pick up a first down until late in the second quarter with Mike Glennon replacing an injured Josh McCown.
At the half, the Falcons had already built an insurmountable 35-0 lead.
Things didn’t get much better for the Bucs in the third quarter. Atlanta put up 21 additional points — highlighted by a 40-yard touchdown catch by Jones — to take a 56-0 lead into the final quarter.
Matt Ryan finished the game with 286 yards and three touchdowns on 21 of 24 passing. The return of Jake Matthews was evident as Ryan was given a clean pocket to operate from. The offensive line surrendered just one sack.
Julio Jones was the Falcons’ leading receiver with nine grabs for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Backup quarterback T.J. Yates relieved Ryan with 4:59 to go in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay’s defense, without stud defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and starting middle linebacker Mason Foster, was unable to slow down Atlanta’s offense.
Offensively, the Bucs were without running back Doug Martin.
The Bucs showed a bit of life in the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns to bring the margin down to 42.
The game was the perfect remedy for a team looking get rid of the bad taste left by a poor showing against the Bengals in Cincinnati last week.
Atlanta will get an extended rest before heading to Minnesota to take on the Vikings on September 28.