Not many people around the country saw this one coming, but the Tampa Bay Bucs just put the league on notice: They’re in the hunt.

And it’s not just afterthought teams like San Francisco and Chicago that the Bucs are able to hang with anymore. Sunday’s 14-5 statement home win over the Seattle Seahawks comes one week after their original statement win of the season in Kansas City.

At 6-5, the Bucs assured the fan base it will have winning football team when the calendar flips to December for the first time since being 6-5 in 2012.

Tampa Bay raced out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead Sunday and never looked back. Both scores came on passes from quarterback Jameis Winston to wide receiver Mike Evans. A 3-yard score capped the game’s opening drive and a 23-yarder finished off the Bucs’ second drive.

The Bucs never scored again, but they also didn’t need to with their defense turning in its best all-around performance of the season.

An extra field goal or touchdown would have relieved some stress, though. Tampa Bay spent the entire second half preserving its small 14-5 lead and the team succeeded. Icing the game for good was safety Bradley McDougald intercepting Wilson at the Bucs 2 with less than two minutes remaining. The play put a bow on a fantastic effort from McDougald. After returning the pick 32 yards, Winston and the Bucs were able to erase the final 1:19 in the victory formation.

Tampa Bay should have put the game away a few minutes earlier, but an ill-timed illegal hands to the face penalty from right tackle Demar Dotson wiped out Winston’s 10-yard touchdown strike to tight end Cameron Brate.

It was the dominant first period that truly set the tone. Tampa Bay outgained Seattle 150-23 in those first 15 minutes and that trend held throughout the majority of the game. At halftime the Bucs held a yardage advantage of 238-70 and Seattle was credited with just one single net passing yard because of the 19 deducted sack yards.

Bucs defenders made Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s cross-country trip to Tampa Bay a miserable one by taking him down six times and hitting him on five other occasions. Players spread the sack-generating love around Sunday, with Noah Spence and Gerald McCoy leading the way with 1.5 each. Also walloping Wilson were Kwon Alexander, Robert Ayers Jr. and Ryan Russell.

Offensively, the Winston-to-Evans connection led the way once again. Plenty of talk entering Sunday focused on the Mike Evans vs. Richard Sherman battle that turned into a one-sided affair.

Winston completed 21 of 28 pass attempts for 220 yards and the two scores. One of the few blemishes came after Dotson’s late penalty when Winston tossed up a jump ball to Evans in heavy coverage in the end zone and Seahwaks safety Kam Chancellor came down with the interception.

Evans got 11 balls thrown his way and the third-year pro caught eight for 104 yards. He entered the game with 916 yards and successfully surpassed 1,000 yards for the third time in as many pro seasons. Evans became just the fourth receiver in NFL history to hit that milestone the first three years of his career, joining current Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green and former stars John Jefferson and Randy Moss.

The game’s feel-good moment came late in the first half. Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner, playing to honor the life of his father who passed away two days ago, jumped a Wilson pass intended for Paul Richardson for his first interception of the season. He returned the pick 16, stepped up with diving pass breakup early in the third quarter and logged a pair of tackles.

Seattle’s only points came in the second quarter and it was a Bucs penalty that got the Seahawks started. After scoring on their first two drives, Tampa Bay got pinned at the 4-yard line to start its next effort. Two plays later, tight end Luke Stocker dragged down Seattle defensive end Frank Clark in the end zone for a safety. Without the infraction, Winston and the Bucs have a new set of downs at the 16 because Winston hooked up with Evans for a 12-yard gain.

The Seahawks struck again after the free kick, but had to settle for a 43-yard Steven Hauschka field goal. Nearly 11 minutes remained in the second quarter, but that kick represented the game’s final points.

One of Tampa Bay’s other close calls came about six minutes later in the second, but revitalized kicker Roberto Aguayo couldn’t convert from 48 yards. The rookie’s kick sailed wide right and snapped a streak of hitting seven straight. Aguayo is now 13 of 19 on field goal attempts this season (68.4 percent). He did manage to make both 33-yard extra points and is 22 of 24 in that department.

Tampa Bay will now prepare to push its winning streak to four next week on the road in San Diego. The Chargers improved to 5-6 this year by beating the Houston Texans on Sunday, 21-13. The current three-game win streak is the first of its kind since 2013. The year prior marked the Bucs’ last four-game run of success, which included a 34-24 win over San Diego at home.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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seat26
seat26
5 years ago

I am officially a believer. That is two very good teams we have beaten in a row. We have a chance at being something special. No doubter here.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

The Defense needed to show up and well it did. The first half we saw many blitzes which dominated the scene. Coach Smith did a good coaching job. The defensive players are healthy and believe in this system. Jameis Winston was fantastic! Time Management seems to still be a problem with the end of the first half not taking a shot for a field goal. Of course what can I say about our field goal kicker, but better luck next time. That was a pressure kick and I think we might have to look for another kicker in the off… Read more »

SCLOBERNOCKER
SCLOBERNOCKER
5 years ago

Huge win against the #2 seed in the NFC.

pinkstob
pinkstob
5 years ago

Now that was an $$ whoppin’, especially defensively. That was the best defensive performance in my opinion in recent memory. Once again from beginning to end we controlled the game. The turnovers we created on defense came at the best possible time. I don’t think the Seahawks got in the red zone all game. I never seen Pete Carroll look so baffled during an NFL game on the sideline. Offensively we came out like gangbusters then did enough to stay in the game. Really though the defense earned this win against a great team. Go Bucs!

e
e
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

It was also fun watching Sherman whining to the officials…

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  e
5 years ago

Yeah I thought him and Pete Carol were going to have to rent space in the refs pockets they were bitching so much.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

Pink, I’m trying not to live in the moment, but that honestly might be the best defensive performance I’ve seen from a Bucs team. That was incredible. From pressure to the DB’s locking down the receivers, that was insane.

chefboho
chefboho
5 years ago

I’m truly in disbelief. It feels like it’s been so long that we’ve seen a bucs team believe in each other like they do mows Jameis’s “winning mentality” is starting to show for this team. I’m so happy with these last two wins. My only issue is the continued lack of respect shown still. Rodney Harrison said that Seattle is a much better team, and that they just didn’t show up focused. What a douche. 2 wins in a row against two of the top teams in the NFL! I haven’t been this happy since our super bowl run. Go… Read more »

Dbuc63
Dbuc63
5 years ago

Great Win, I have no voice either. Good to be a Buc fan. I still feel sickened that we don’t have a good FG kicker. I’d hate to lose a playoff game because we missed a 30 yard FG with 10 seconds left in the game. Great win Bucs!!

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Would like to know where all those Seattle fans came from. Let me guess, Valrico, Brandon. Riverview, Lakeland? You can bet none of the front running fans came from the Seattle area. Guess they might have to put those jerseys away for another four years. What we saw is what happens when you don’t invest any money in your offensive line and spend it all on the defense. I think Wilson is a top 5 QB in the NFL but he may not last the season if he takes anymore beatings like he did today. The Bucs defense simply abused… Read more »

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

Great game. Really enjoyed being there the stadium was rocking. I lost my voice a bit. Like I said dr.d we won’t miss Jude. In fact Verner played way better than Jude has all year. Jude has not played at a high level and my point was whoever comes in likely will play better. Looks like I was correct. Defense was just excellent. Special teams did great except for Aguayo. That was a horrible attempt on that 48 yard FG. He babied it so much barley got there. Don’t know about that guy. Winston and whole offense did great except… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
5 years ago

Don’t know where to start here, it was all so good. That’s the best defensive performance I’ve seen in some time. The front four was nasty and was in his face all day. The secondary was smothering, on a side not , if Vernor keeps playing like he has, he should keep the job. And Mike Smith is calling some fantastic games right now. Imagine that, they move the scheme a bit more to the players needs and things work out. Lavonte is still a little too quiet for my taste at 10 million a year. Kudos to Gerald for… Read more »

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

What an incredible defensive performance. There was your pass rush Horse. But let’s not forget to give credit to the secondary that caused Wilson to tuck the ball and run more often than throw. Totally agree on the bogus officiating. On the safety, Stocker got bull rushed and was falling down backwards his arm ended up on the defender’s chest but he did not grab. On the sideline catch,Brate was shoved out of bounds and the clock should have stopped allowing a FG attempt. I didn’t get a good look at Dotson’s hands to the face call. On Winston’s interception… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Scubog, yes it was certainly there. We turned the corner!

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Watched the head of officiating explain the halftime Brate catch ruling and it was the right call. If a player continues going forward or sideways, the clock would’ve stopped. HIm going backwards means forward progress is stopped and that’s why the clock wasn’t. However the fact that ref decided to take about 15 seconds to get the ball back to the LOS, now that was a joke.
As for the rest of those calls, Seattle travels well, that’s all I’ll say.

surferdudes
5 years ago

I have to watch it again, but to me, I thought Stocker did grab inside the shoulder pad as he was falling. Check the replay angle. What they did show of Dotson, I did not see hands to the face. He had his man blocked, thought that was a bogus call. This could’ve been a real beat down had we cashed in on some blown opportunities. What’s great is, we can finally beat a quality team without having to play perfect.

macabee
macabee
5 years ago

Don’t know about the penalties. I know we beat (not just won, but beat) one of the best teams in the NFL. We shocked the world! Rumble, young men, Rumble. Can’t tell the future, but we should have the confidence that we can beat anybody we play. Go Bucs!

wnb0395
wnb0395
5 years ago

So where are all the posters demanding we change our defensive coordinator now? 4 weeks ago all I read is we need to fire Mike Smith and now all I read is Smith is a defensive genius. It helps to have healthy players. All schemes take time and it was only a matter of time before they started playing like they should. Win lose or draw we need to stick with our coaches for at least another 2 years and give them a chance. The coaching carousel never works. Look at the best teams in the league and they have… Read more »