TAMPA, Fla. — It looks like Bobby Rainey finally may have found a NFL home.
The diminutive running back, playing for his third team in less than two seasons, rushed for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns Sunday to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the struggling Atlanta Falcons 41-28.
The waiver wire pickup filling in for the injured Doug Martin and Mike James scored on first-half runs of 43 and 3 yards. He then caught a 4-yard TD pass from Mike Glennon in the third quarter to help the Bucs (2-8) win for the second straight time following an 0-8 start.
The 5-foot-8, 212-pound Rainey also rushed for 45 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown in a 22-19 victory over Miami the previous week. He's been with the Bucs just four games after beginning the season as a kick returner and backup running back with the Cleveland Browns.
Matt Ryan threw an 80-yard TD pass to Harry Douglas, extending his streak of consecutive games with at least one touchdown to 16 games. He threw a 6-yarder to Roddy White in the fourth quarter, but also was sacked three times by Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy and had one of two interceptions returned 37 yards for a TD by linebacker Mason Foster.
The Falcons (2-8) have lost four straight by a combined score of 135-61.
Glennon completed 20 of 23 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Vincent Jackson caught a 3-yard TD pass and finished with 10 receptions for 165 yards.
Rainey entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Baltimore after leaving Western Kentucky as the Hilltoppers' career rushing leader. He was released once, re-signed to the Ravens' practice squad and eventually wound up on the active roster before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Baltimore went on to win the Super Bowl, and Rainey received a championship ring despite not appearing in a regular-season game as a rookie.
The Bucs opened the season with eight straight losses, with four of the setbacks coming in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime. They beat Miami to become the last team in the league to win this season, and played again Sunday with a confidence that's been building since an overtime loss at Seattle two weeks ago.
In addition to running the ball effectively for the third straight game, the Bucs recovered an onside kick, picked up a first down on a play that began with a direct snap to running back Brian Leonard and pulled a couple more trick plays out their playbook that didn't work — a halfback pass and punter Michael Koenen's long, cross-field throw on a fake field goal.
And that was in the first half alone, while the Bucs were building a 24-6 lead.
Rainey came off the bench after James broke his ankle during Tampa Bay's opening possession against Miami. He had a 31-yard run before finishing a fourth-quarter, go-ahead drive with his first NFL touchdown. With Martin and James both sidelined for the year, the Bucs will count on Rainey heavily for the remainder of the season.
Ryan completed 19 of 36 passes for 254 yards. He was replaced by Dominique Davis midway through the fourth quarter, but re-entered the game after the backup limped off the field with an injury.
The Falcons trailed 41-13 before Antone Smith scored on a 50-yard run and Ryan threw his TD pass to White.