The Falcons managed to beat one of the NFL's worst teams without Matt Ryan and Michael Turner.
It'll be tough to keep winning if two of their best offensive players remain on the sideline for an extended period.
While backup quarterback Chris Redman rallied Atlanta to a 20-17 victory Sunday over the one-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the level of competition goes up significantly the next two weeks with playoff-contending Philadelphia and unbeaten New Orleans visiting the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons (6-5) are right in the thick of things despite winning just two of the last six games, and their playoff chances will likely be determined by the seriousness of injuries to Ryan and Turner.
"Those guys are our franchise players," receiver Roddy White said.
Starting offensive linemen Harvey Dahl and Sam Baker also went down with injuries against the Bucs (1-10). Atlanta _ playing with a bunch of backups _ pulled it out when Redman threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to White with 23 seconds remaining.
"Obviously, you'd like to have everybody suited up and read to play," center Todd McClure said. "But it's not always like that. You've got to have guys ready to step in and make plays."
Redman sure came through on a drive that saved the Falcons' season, at least for now.
After Tampa Bay's Connor Barth just missed a 51-yard field goal attempt with 2 1/2 minutes remaining, Atlanta got the ball back with no timeouts and needing a touchdown.
Redman completed four passes to Tony Gonzalez for 34 yards, and the Falcons got a big break when Bucs cornerback Derrick Roberson was called for holding on an incomplete pass to the other side of the field.
Still, Tampa Bay was one stop away from just its second win after Redman threw three straight incomplete passes from the 5. Down to his final try, Redman spotted White in single coverage against Roberson and delivered a perfectly thrown pass on a slant.
Not bad for a guy who had played only one game the last two years _ and even then, just a handful of plays at the end of a blowout.
"I'm always ready at any time," said Redman, who started for the Falcons in 2007 after Michael Vick was suspended but lost the job when Ryan arrived. "That's what I'm here for."
Ryan hurt his big right toe on the opening series of the game, apparently when he was sacked by Stylez White and Tim Crowder. Turner, the NFL's second-leading rusher last season, reinjured a sprained right ankle in the third quarter, a problem that had already kept him out of the previous game and limited him in practice during the week.
A blocked punt by Corey Lynch set up Josh Freeman's 8-yard touchdown pass to Carnell Williams early in the third quarter, putting the Bucs ahead 17-10.
It almost held up.
"You've got to make that last play at the end of the game," cornerback Aqib Talib said.
While White was mobbed in the end zone by teammates Gonzalez and Eric Weeks, Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris kneeled down in disbelief.
The embattled Morris had taken over defensive playcalling duties earlier in the week after demoting coordinator Jim Bates. The move nearly paid immediate dividends. Instead, the Bucs had another crushing loss in a season filled with them.
"We were a 1-9 team, and now we're a 1-10 team," Morris said. "It's never a step forward when you lose."
Despite being sacked five times, Redman completed 23 of 41 for 243 yards, including a quick flip to Jerious Norwood that was little more than a handoff but wound up being a 22-yard touchdown, giving the Falcons an early 10-0 lead.
The Bucs fought back to tie the game before halftime. Freeman went deep down the left sideline to Antonio Bryant, who leaped up to snatch the ball away from Falcons cornerback Tye Hill and rolled into the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown. Barth booted a 39-yard field goal late in the half.
Freeman, coming off a four-turnover performance in a 31-point loss to New Orleans, bounced back nicely in his fourth career start. He was 20 of 29 for 250 yards and didn't have any turnovers, managing to recover a fumble that was his only major mistake.
The Falcons have another concern beyond the injuries. Kicker Jason Elam had another crucial miss _ this one from 43 yards with 6 1/2 minutes remaining _ and he's just 8 of 15 on attempts of 30 yards and longer. The Falcons tried out four kickers last week, and Elam had predicted that one more miss might be his last in Atlanta.
"I can't remember the last time I walked off the field feeling good about my performance," he said. "It's very frustrating."