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.
The Falcons offense didn't skip a beat without Roddy White, who was declared inactive to rest a hamstring injury.
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.
The second quarter belonged to Hester as he scored on a 20-yard end-around and took a punt back 62 yards, high-stepping into the end zone in a tribute to Deion Sanders.
At the half, the Falcons had a commanding 35-0 lead.
The Falcons defense preyed on a struggling Bucs offense, collecting five turnovers (four fumbles, one interception) and notching 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.
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. 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 showed a bit of life in the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns — a three-yard touchdown catch by Vincent Jackson and a 27-yard interception return by Danny Lansanah — to bring the margin down to 42.
The Bucs were without running back Doug Martin, stud defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and starting middle linebacker Mason Foster.
The game was the perfect remedy for a team eager to get rid of the bad taste left by a disappointing showing against the Cincinnati Bengals last week. We'll see if they can keep the good times rolling against Minnesota on September 28th.