TAMPA – Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman started off the 2010 season with a touchdown pass fourth quarter comeback against Cleveland at Raymond James Stadium. Fourth quarter heroics were not needed in the 2010 season home finale in Tampa Bay’s 38-15 victory over Seattle as he threw for a career-high five touchdowns as the Bucs got the ninth win of the season. That ties the franchise record set by quarterback Steve DeBerg in 1987 against Atlanta (September 13) and tied by Brad Johnson in 2002 against the Vikings (November 3).
“Today I just tried to play like I do every other week,” Freeman said. “It was just a combination of great play-calling – obviously we started out a little slow in the first three series and we didn’t do much, but it was a matter of keeping our composure, settling in and going to work and doing what we know we can do. We had a lot of big plays from a lot of big-name guys. Kellen [Winslow] had a great day. LeGarrette [Blount] had another strong performance. Mike Williams had a couple of touchdowns and some pretty great plays. I thought the O-line played tremendous today.”
The victory ensured Tampa Bay of a winning season for the third time in four years, and at least a six-win turnaround from 2009 when the Bucs went a dismal 3-13 during head coach Raheem Morris’ first season. The six-win margin ties the franchise record for the best single season turnaround. More importantly, the victory didn’t eliminate the Bucs from a wild card playoff spot due to the New York Giants losing at Green Bay, 45-17.
Freeman was absolutely sensational against the Seahawks, completing 21-of-26 (80.7 percent) passes for 237 yards and a QB rating of 144.2. After the game, he was unaware he tied Johnson’s record for the most touchdowns in a game by a Bucs quarterback. Johnson was actually at the game watching from a luxury suite and was introduced to the crowd on the Jumbotron during the contest.
“Records – while you are playing and while you are trying to get into the playoffs – it’s not that big of a deal right now,” Freeman said. “I’m sure when I look back and I walk away from the game that I’ll say, ‘That was pretty cool.’ I hope I can go out and throw for another game like that or maybe throw for six.”
In addition to completing passes to 10 different receivers, Freeman hit Winslow and Williams for two touchdowns apiece. Winslow finished with a game-high seven catches for 98 yards, while Williams added 44 yards on three carries.
“He’s a special player,” Winslow said of Freeman. “We needed this game. Coming up on the Saints, we were so disappointed last week in how we played Detroit. We needed this game today.”
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall, who was playing for Arrelious Benn, who injured a knee in the second quarter, caught Freeman’s fifth and record-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Freeman, who now has 23 touchdowns on the season, which is the second-most to Johnson’s 26 from the 2003 campaign, wasn’t the only offensive player that established a career high on Sunday. Rookie running back LeGarrett Blount rushed for 164 yards on 18 carries, averaging 9.1 yards per carry. Blount gained 100 yards on a pair of long runs alone as he keyed two second-half touchdown drives with carries of 48 and 53 yards.
“When you can run the ball effectively it opens up plays for Kellen and plays for Mike,” Blount said. “Play-action was definitely working. They know that Cadillac [Williams] and I are both threats and they have to respect it.”
While Freeman was lighting up the Seahawks defense with play-action passes, Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck suffered with a hip injury after rushing for a 1-yard touchdown to give Seattle a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and did not return. When Hasselbeck left the game, Seattle had generated 62 yards of total offense and led 7-0. The Seahawks were shut out the rest of the first half and gained only 28 yards. Things didn’t improve in the second half and the Bucs outgained the Seahawks 439 to 174 yards in the game.
Charlie Whitehurst replaced Hasselbeck, who completed 3-of-4 passes for 24 yards before he left the game, and didn’t fare well. Whitehurst completed 11-of-18 passes for just 66 yards against the Bucs secondary and top receiver Mike Williams was held in check by cornerback E.J. Biggers. He finished the day with just two catches for 15 yards.
Yet as well as the defense played, this game was all about Freeman.
“No doubt – we’ve got Josh out there throwing for five touchdowns and we’ve got Blount out there running for [164 yards] and [9.1] yards per carry,” said Bucs linebacker Geno Hayes, who finished with a team-high nine tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. “Give them the spotlight. They did a great job. Congratulations to them.”
The 9-6 Buccaneers will get one more chance to fulfill the team’s goal of winning 10 games with the bonus of making the playoffs with a victory in New Orleans against the 10-4 Saints, who play at Atlanta on Monday Night Football. A win against the Saints coupled with losses by Green Bay and the New York Giants will get Tampa Bay a wild card playoff spot.
“We’re excited to be in this situation,” Blount said. “We have a lot on the line. We have the chance to get 10 wins, and that is what we have been aiming for all season. We’ll have a chance to go to the playoffs. We’re going to continue to work hard and try to get into that position.”
Seattle scored first behind a 29-yard run by Marshawn Lynch that got the Seahawks into Tampa Bay territory at the 27. On fourth-and-1 at the Tampa Bay 4, running back Michael Robinson took the snap out of a wildcat formation and twisted his way past Biggers for a 3-yard gain and a first-and-gain at the 1-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 1, Hasselbeck ran for a 1-yard touchdown on a bootleg, but injured his hip on the play. Seattle’s drive covered 62 yards in 11 plays and with 2:50 left in the first quarter, the Seahawks led 7-0.
Tampa Bay answered the Seahawks’ score thanks to a 79-yard kickoff return by Micheal Spurlock, who picked up great blocks by linebackers Adam Hayward and Dekoda Watson, tight end John Gilmore, fullback Erik Lorig, Stovall and Biggers in advancing the ball to the Seattle 17. The Bucs’ drive lost 11 yards and the team had to settle for a 46-yard field goal. With 25 seconds left in the first quarter, the Seahawks’ lead was cut to 7-3.
Tampa Bay’s rookies helped drive the ball downfield. Wide receivers Benn and Williams had catches of 16 and 17 yards, respectively, before Blount ripped off an 11-yard run down to the Seattle 8-yard line. On third-and-goal from the Seahawks’ 11, Winslow beat cornerback Marcus Trufant for a 10-yard touchdown catch. With 12:23 left in the second quarter, Tampa Bay took a 10-7 lead.
The Bucs added to their lead in the second quarter after a nine-play, 59-yard scoring drive. After getting good field position at their own 41, the Bucs marched downfield thanks to a pair of big gains on third down. On third-and-4 from the Seattle 41, Freeman threaded a pass to Winslow for a 21-yard gain. Three plays later on third-and-10 from the 20, Freeman rifled a touchdown pass to Williams, who beat Trufant in coverage. With 6:17 left in the first half, Tampa Bay increased its lead to 17-7.
A 13-yard pass to Dezmon Briscoe picked up a first down out to the Tampa Bay 36. An 11-yard scramble by Freeman advanced the ball to the 47-yard line. On the next play, Spurlock had a 20-yard catch to drive the ball to the Seattle 31. A 9-yard scramble by Freeman set up second-and-1 at the 24, but a botched snap resulted in a 2-yard loss back to the 26. After an incompletion on third down, Barth’s field goal attempt was blocked by defensive tackle Craig Terrill with three seconds left in the second quarter.
The Bucs added to their lead after a 10-play, 98-yard drive. Winslow got the drive started with a 29-yard reception out to the Tampa Bay 32 on second-and-9 from the 3. On third-and-2 from the 40, Freeman hit Preston Parker with a 5-yard gain. On second-and-9 from the 46, Blount ripped off a 20-yard gain down to the Seattle 34. After a 10-yard pass to Stovall, Freeman zipped a 21-yard touchdown pass to Winslow for a touchdown. With 6:38 left in the game, Tampa Bay’s lead swelled to 24-7.
Blount had a 48-yard jaunt in which he hurdled safety Lawyer Milloy before being tackled Seattle 8. Two plays later, Freeman threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game and his second to Mike Williams, which covered seven yards. With 1:28 left in the third quarter, the Bucs covered 56 yards in three plays to go up 31-7 over the Seahawks.
Seattle finally got on the scoreboard again after an 11-play, 54-yard scoring drive, which was capped off by a 16-yard touchdown run by Leon Washington. Ben Obomanu scored on a 2-point conversion pass from Whitehurst. With 10:14 left in the game, Tampa Bay was still in command of the game, 31-15.
However, the Bucs weren’t done scoring as Blount ripped off a 53-yard run down to the Seattle 19 on first down. Three plays later, Freeman threw his fifth touchdown pass of the game, this one to Stovall. After covering 72 yards on four plays, the Bucs led the Seahawks 38-15 with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter.STATS THAT COUNT
Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams broke the team’s rookie record for touchdowns, which were eight by running back Lars Tate in 1988. Williams caught his ninth and tenth touchdown passes of the year against Seattle. With 10 touchdown receptions he tied Joey Galloway for the most by a Bucs receiver in a single season. Galloway accomplished the feat in 2005. Williams has 924 yards, which is the second-most in franchise history for a rookie, on 61 catches and needs just 76 yards in New Orleans to post 1,000 yards on the season. … Tampa Bay rookie running back LeGarrette Blount’s 164 yards rushing was a career high and the second-most by a rookie in franchise history. He now has 941 yards on the season, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and needs just 59 yards in New Orleans to have 1,000 this year. … Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman finished with 237 yards and has now thrown a touchdown pass in 12 consecutive games, tying the most consecutive games throwing a TD in team history with QB Brian Griese (October 10, 2004 – September 11, 2005). Freeman also became the sixth QB in franchise history to post 3,000 yards in a season. He has 3,196 yards in 2010. … Tampa Bay’s 98-yard scoring drive in the third quarter against Seattle was tied for the longest in team history. That also occurred during the 2007 and ’09 seasons. … Bucs rookie wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe caught his first NFL pass, a 13-yard gain that picked up a first down, in the second quarter against Seattle. He finished the game with two catches for 28 yards. … Linebackers Barrett Ruud and Geno Hayes recorded sacks versus Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Hayes recorded two and now has three on the year, while Ruud notched his second sack of the season.SUNDAY’S STARTING LINEUPS
The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Sunday’s game was as follows:BUCS STARTING OFFENSE
WR Mike Williams
LT Donald Penn
LG Ted Larsen
C Jeremy Zuttah
RG Derek Hardman
RT Jeremy Trueblood
TE John Gilmore
WR Arrelious Benn
RB LeGarrette Blount
FB Earnest Graham
QB Josh FreemanBUCS STARTING DEFENSE
LE Tim Crowder
DT Frank Okam
DT Roy Miller
RE Michael Bennett
WLB Geno Hayes
MLB Barrett Ruud
LCB E.J. Biggers
NCB Ronde Barber
RCB Myron Lewis
FS Corey Lynch
SS Sean JonesBUCS’ GAMEDAY INACTIVES
Here is a list of Tampa Bay players that did play in Sunday’s game:
QB Rudy Carpenter
RB Kregg Lumpkin
WR Sammie Stroughter
TE Nathan Overbay
OT James Lee
DE George Johnson
CB D.J. Johnson
S Dominique HarrisBUCS IN-GAME INJURIES
Bucs free safety Corey Lynch injured his knee while blocking on a punt return, but did return to the game.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Arrelious Benn suffered a left knee injury after a 16-yard reception with 14:27 left in the second quarter and did not return. He was seen on crutches at the end of the game
Bucs fullback Earnest Graham suffered a neck injury at the 8:14 mark of the second quarter following a 4-yard catch near midfield and did not return.KICKOFF CONDITIONS
The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Seahawks game at Raymond James Stadium was 46,576, although the actual attendance looked closer to 40,000. The game was played under cloudy skies with cold and breezy conditions and a kickoff temperature of 49 degrees with 56 percent humidity and a wind chill of 43.UP NEXT
The Buccaneers (9-6) travel to New Orleans to face the Saints (10-4) on Sunday, January 2. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET and the game will be seen on Fox.
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