TAMPA, Fla. – Bobby Rainey has always believed in himself.
He just needed a NFL team to do the same.
The running back and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whom the second-year pro has helped win the past two games, appear to be a good match.
Rainey rushed for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns, pacing a 41-28 victory over the struggling Atlanta Falcons, who've lost four straight.
"I expect to go out and do my job. If those stats come with it, I will take it," said Rainey, who also scored the go-ahead TD in Tampa Bay's victory over Miami the previous week.
Picked up on the waiver wire last month, Rainey is playing for his third team in less than two seasons. The 5-foot-8, 212-pounder whose lack of size hurt his chances of being drafted coming out of Western Kentucky is making his mark while filling in for the injured Doug Martin and Mike James.
"That's my motivation, when people tell me what I can and cannot do," Rainey said after scoring on runs of 43 and 3 yards, then adding a third TD on a 3-yard pass from Mike Glennon. "No man can tell you what you can't do."
The Bucs (2-8) have won two straight following an 0-8 start. The Falcons (2-8) have been outscored by 74 points during their losing streak.
Matt Ryan threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns for Atlanta. But he 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 went an NFC-best 13-3 and finished one victory shy of the Super Bowl last season.
Owner Arthur Blank said he still has confidence in coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
"I absolutely do. And, they've earned it over the past five years," Blank said. "It's a tough business. We've had a lot of injuries, and issues on top of the injuries. These guys are proven leaders and proven by success. ... They'll do the work that has to be done with my full support."
The Bucs insist they aren't surprised by Rainey, who is Western Kentucky's career rushing leader.
Rainey entered the league as an undrafted free agent with Baltimore in 2012. He was released, 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.
"I think preparation meets opportunity. ... He's not lucky. This guy worked his tail off, he trained to do all the right things, and here comes his chance and he's ready for it," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "So good for us, good for him."
Five reasons the Bucs are riding a two-game winning streak and the Falcons continue to struggle:
KEEP IT ON THE GROUND: Tampa Bay rushed for 186 yards and has posted three of its top four performances of the season over the past three weeks. Rainey carried 30 times, providing the type of balance the Bucs need to take some of the burden off rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, who completed 20 of 23 passes for 231 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.
PASS HAPPY: Falling behind early during the losing streak has forced the Falcons to rely too much on Ryan. They rushed for 154 yards Sunday, but most of that production came in the fourth quarter after Tampa Bay went up 41-13. Antone Smith scored on a 50-yard run and gained 38 on his only other carry. Steven Jackson rushed for 15 yards on his first carry and finished with 41 yards on 11 attempts.
TURNOVERS: The Bucs intercepted Ryan twice, recovered a fumble and blocked a punt. Foster became the first Bucs linebacker since Derrick Brooks in 2002 to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same season. The Atlanta defense didn't force any costly mistakes by Tampa Bay.
ONE-MAN WRECKING CREW: McCoy tied a Bucs record for sacks by a defensive tackle in a single game. Warren Sapp and Brad Culpepper each had three sacks in a game twice during their careers. Two of McCoy's sacks came on Atlanta's first possession of the game, setting the tone for a long day for the Falcons offense.
NO TIME TO GIVE UP: The Falcons dropped into a tie with the Bucs for last place in the NFC South. "Clearly, we're 10 games into this thing and certainly far, far away from where we want to be," Ryan said. "We've got six games to go. It's about going out there and taking pride in what you do, and knowing that if we do play without the mistakes, without those kind of things, we're capable of getting the job done."
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