TAMPA — Because he was experiencing concussion-like symptoms, Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster didn’t talk to reporters after Sunday’s victory.
His play, however, spoke rather loudly.
In notching his second interception return for a touchdown this season, Foster helped Tampa Bay break open a tight game against the Falcons.
“That just shows you that Mason knows what to do with the ball,’’ fellow linebacker Lavonte David said. “He made his one cut, found daylight and scored. That’s just a trait he’s got.’’
Trailing 10-3, the Falcons had just completed a defensive stand, stopping the Bucs at the Atlanta 34-yard line on fourth down after Tampa Bay recovered an onside kick.
But that momentum crumbled on the next snap as Foster stepped in front of Matt Ryan’s pass intended for fullback Patrick DiMarco in the flat and returned the theft 37 yards for a score. Dekoda Watson’s pressure off the left edge contributed to the critical turnover.
In Week 2 against New Orleans, Foster returned a Drew Brees pass 85 yards for a touchdown.
Foster is the first Bucs linebacker to return two picks for scores in the same season since Derrick Brooks brought three interceptions back to the house during the 2002 championship season. Foster, who has four career interceptions, is one of only nine players in team history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a season.
“It was a heck of a play,’’ Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “Mason made a great catch and then, ensuing, a great run. That’s the second time now that he’s scored touchdowns that were not easy runs, where he made people miss and kept the ball. It was certainly a big play at that point in the game and we’re grateful for it.’’
Isn’t that special?
Tampa Bay’s special teams played a significant role. Dekoda Watson’s blocked punt in the third quarter led directly to a touchdown that put the Bucs ahead 38-6. Rookie wide receiver Russell Shepard grabbed Michael Koenen’s onside kick out of the air in the second quarter and a punt coverage unit that had been exploited in recent weeks performed well.
“Special teams came alive today,’’ said linebacker Adam Hayward, captain of coach Dave Wannstedt’s unit.
Watson added to his reputation as one of the NFL’s premier punt blockers by knifing in and deflecting Matt Bosher’s kick with his left hand.
“It wasn’t even a block call on the play,’’ said Watson, who has three punt blocks in the past two seasons. “I knew the guy in front of me was going to try and chop me. He got a little piece, but I cut the corner and got there. We pride ourselves on special teams around here and we’ve had a few returns against us in the last two games. That’s not us at all.’’
For the record book
Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon was 20-for-23 passing for an 87.0 completion percentage that ranks second in team history to Vinny Testaverde’s 88.0 percent (22-for-25) against Green Bay on Sept. 13, 1992. Glennon also threw two touchdown passes, giving him 11 for the season, to break Josh Freeman’s Bucs rookie record of 10 in 2009.
Staying the course
After Tampa Bay’s second straight victory after an 0-8 start, right guard Davin Joseph credited coach Greg Schiano’s resolve.
“There was a time there a few weeks ago when it could not have gotten any worse at One Buc (Place),’’ Joseph said. “It was the worst it’s ever been, and I’ve been here for eight seasons. ... But he stuck with it. He stuck with what he believes and now it’s starting to pan out. All of a sudden, it’s like a light’s been turned on.
“He said we all just need to keep pushing hard, keep working hard and now we see it. He stayed tough, but now it’s just different. It’s starting to feel like we have something here.
“Today is a good day to be a Buccaneer, but next week we have another stiff challenge (at Detroit) and we know he’s going to push us this week. But it’s different when you see that hard work turn into something. Now we believe.’’
The Bucs had been outscored 39-10 in the third quarter before scoring two touchdowns Sunday. ... Tampa Bay registered its highest-scoring game against the Falcons since a 48-10 triumph in 1987 that marked the first game for coach Ray Perkins on the Bucs sideline. ... Former Florida State standout Antone Smith had fourth-quarter runs of 38 and 50 yards for the Falcons. ... After averaging 11 points during an 0-4 September, the Bucs have scored at least 20 points in five of six games.