Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball as he is pressured by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn (94) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 41-28. (Photo: Kim Klement)
TAMPA -- Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy admitted he had no idea who Bobby Rainey was until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie joined the team about a month ago.
But Rainey, 26, claimed off waivers from the Browns Oct. 21, quickly made McCoy a believer his first few weeks as a scout team running back.
"He shook me so bad one time in practice, I was like, 'If they ever put him in the game, he's going to kill it,'" McCoy said.
Rainey did just that Sunday, rushing for a career-high 163 yards and scoring three touchdowns to lead the Bucs to a 41-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium.
It was Tampa Bay's second straight victory after starting the season 0-8.
Rainey, who went undrafted out of Western Kentucky in 2012, has quickly gone from fourth-string to the forefront, thanks to season-ending injuries suffered by Doug Martin and Mike James.
Rainey scored the go-ahead touchdown in last Monday's 22-19 win over the Dolphins, and had two more rushing touchdowns Sunday - including a season-long run for the Bucs of 43 yards - and caught a touchdown pass. He didn't start, but ended with 30 carries.
"I anticipated me going in and doing my job," Rainey said.
For the reeling Falcons (2-8), it was their fourth straight loss and seventh in their last eight games. The only win came Oct. 20 against the Bucs. Turnovers continued to plague Atlanta, with quarterback Matt Ryan throwing two interceptions and Roddy White fumbling.
"Obviously that's not how we wanted to play," said Falcons veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez. "It's embarrassing, honestly, to tell you the truth, the way we came out and performed, all of us. I'm getting tired of coming in with this excuse, but we've got to play better. We're dropping balls, not executing, picking up blitzes. It's all of us."
Atlanta was down 41-13 before scoring a couple fourth quarter touchdowns.
"Any time you look up and you're down by 30 points, I haven't had my butt kicked like that since Sam Bradford and Oklahoma back in 2008," Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "That was tough."
The Falcons looked poised to score on their opening drive, picking up 52 yards on their first four plays. But on first down from the Buccaneers 35, McCoy recorded sacks on consecutive plays, taking the Falcons out of field-goal range.
The Bucs took advantage on their following possession, going 73 yards on 15 plays, sparked by 44 yards rushing from Rainey. That set up a 30-yard field goal by Rian Lindell to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead.
What Rainey, listed at 5-foot-8, 212 pounds, lacks in size he makes up for in speed and elusiveness, reminiscent of a former Buccaneers and Falcons running back he looked up to, Warrick Dunn.
"I'm small, so I try to avoid hits," Rainey said. "That's how you stay in the league long enough."
The Bucs regained the lead on Rainey's 43-yard scamper. Tampa Bay then tried some trickery, recovering a surprise onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, before failing on a fake field goal minutes later.
But on the next play, Buccaneers linebacker Mason Foster intercepted a pass by Ryan, who was hit as he threw by linebacker Dekoda Watson. Foster returned it 37 yards for a touchdown, putting Tampa Bay up 17-3. The Falcons would turn it over again on their next drive, with White fumbling near midfield, recovered by safety Mark Barron. It took the Bucs five plays to cash in, with Rainey finishing it off with a 3-yard scoring run. Matt Bryant hit a 49-yard-field goal in the final minute of the half to bring the Falcons within 24-6.
The Bucs continued to add on in the second half.
They got receiver Vincent Jackson more involved, with quarterback Mike Glennon -- who went 20-for-23 for 231 yards and two touchdowns -- finding him for a 53-yard reception down the right sideline. That set up a 4-yard touchdown catch by Rainey, just over five minutes into the third, giving the Bucs a 31-6 lead.
Jackson, limited by double teams to five combined catches the previous two weeks, had 10 for 165 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown catch late in the third to make it 38-6.
"He made a lot of tough catches, you've got to give it to him," Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant said.
The Falcons added touchdowns on an 80-yard catch by receiver Harry Douglas, a 50-yard run by Antone Smith and a 6-yard catch by White.
McCoy said coach Greg Schiano issued the team a challenge before Sunday's game, asking if they're going to have a "hangover" from Monday night's first win of the season, or are they going to keep building off the momentum.
Said McCoy: "We came out on fire."
NOTES: Buccaneers linebacker Mason Foster suffered a concussion in the first half and did not return. ... Cornerback Johnthan Banks also suffered a shoulder injury...Buccaneers defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who dealt with concussion-like symptoms last week, was inactive Sunday against the Bucs. ... Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was activated from injured reserve. ... The Bucs had three plays of 40 yards or more Sunday. They had one in the first nine games.