Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback E.J. Biggers fully understands why Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan tried to pick on him like a bully at recess.
"If you got Ronde (Barber) and Aqib (Talib) out there, I wouldn't go at them either," Biggers said. "I'd go after the next guy, too. That is what I would do if I was a quarterback.
"I'm the next guy. I would go at me, too."
Atlanta receiver Roddy White was targeted 17 times, including nine in the second half, and finished with nine catches for 140 yards as Biggers attempted to cover him. Biggers had his moments – some good, some bad – as Tampa Bay pulled off a 16-13 victory.
"We put a lot of pressure on him," Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber said of Biggers. "E.J. is still a young corner. To put him in man situation against their best wideout, I think he stood up. He did what he had to do."
The Falcons used three-receiver formations for much of the game, which put Barber in the slot position. Talib spent most of the game matched against rookie receiver Julio Jones, who finished with six catches for 115 yards.
For the day, Ryan completed 26 of 47 passes for 330 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The interception came in the second quarter, on a pass over the middle intended for White that Biggers tipped away, allowing Ronde Barber to make the interception off the deflection.
Ryan, however, was undeterred.
When the Falcons went to a hurry-up offense in the second half, White was Ryan's main target. White was targeted six times on one drive in the fourth quarter, with Biggers getting beat on several of those plays as White caught passes for 15, 14, and 15 yards.
"We knew they were going to complete some balls, but E.J. plays hard, with a lot of heart and it will pay dividends for him," Barber said. "This is just an early challenge for him. He'll be alright."
Despite losing several battles against White, Biggers, who finished with seven tackles and two pass defenses, stepped up during that same fourth-quarter drive.
Atlanta faced second-and-goal on Tampa Bay's 15-yard line when Ryan attempted a pass to White in the back of the end zone, but Biggers broke up the play. Ryan went to White again on the next play, throwing under pressure for the back corner of the end zone, and Biggers came down with the ball out of bounds.
Atlanta settled for Matt Bryant's 33-yard field goal and trailed 16-13 with 4:11 minutes remaining.
The Falcons never got the ball back as the Bucs ran out the clock.
"It was a great learning experience for him," Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib said. "We tell him to stand up when it's time to stand up.
"When it's time to stand up, my man stood up."