FALCONS 24 BUCCANEERS 14 Chris Draft scooped up the ball, fell down, got back up and didn't stop running until he reached the end zone with teammate DeAngelo Hall draped over his back.
All for naught.
The officials took away the apparent defensive touchdown, but the Atlanta Falcons didn't let it keep them down. Four plays later, they were back in the end zone again -- and this time it counted.
Michael Vick connected with Alge Crumpler on a 49-yard touchdown pass with just less than 10 minutes remaining, the decisive blow in Atlanta's 24-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
"What this team has learned to do is play down to down," Falcons Coach Jim Mora Jr. said. "When something negative happens, we go back to the huddle and put it behind us."
That attitude paid off in this game, which was defined by a wacky play in the fourth quarter.
On third and one at the Atlanta 28, Michael Pittman was stopped short of the first down by a horde of defenders. Before he went down, Travis Hall stripped the ball loose.
Draft picked up the ball and -- despite being tripped by one of his teammates -- ran some 60 yards the other way, believing he had scored a touchdown. Hall even jumped on his back to celebrate.
Not so fast.
While the Falcons (7-2) sent their extra point team on the field, Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden threw a red flag to signal he was challenging the call.
The officials huddled, finally announcing they had whistled the play dead because Pittman's forward progress was stopped.
"Man, they didn't blow that thing dead," Draft said. "It's a conspiracy. They saw me working so hard, they didn't want to give me that thing."
But the Falcons didn't have long to pout. Rather than attempting a tying field goal, the Bucs went for it on fourth and one. This time, Pittman held on to the ball but was stuffed for a two-yard loss.
Gruden defended his decision.
"We had less than a yard to go," he said. "It would have been a 46-yard field goal. There was no guarantee."
Atlanta took over and quickly drove for the clinching touchdown.
T.J. Duckett broke off a 21-yard gain, then Vick found his Pro Bowl tight end breaking free down the middle. With linebacker Shelton Quarles in hopeless pursuit, Crumpler caught Vick's pass without breaking stride and didn't stop running until he was in the end zone.
"It was a situation where we needed a big play," said Crumpler, who had four catches for a career-high 118 yards.
Tampa Bay (3-6) lost for only the second time in five games, but this one could be a crushing blow for a team that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
Gambled on fourth down and got busted