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DEFENSIVE LINE Defensive end Dewayne White had a pretty good game against Seattle Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, failing to register a sack, but getting a team-high three QB pressures and seven tackles. White missed an easy sack on Seattle’s first series and also missed another one on the Seahawks’ second drive. White did force a fumble in the second quarter when he stripped running back Shaun Alexander of the ball. White, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2007, did line up offsides and had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but also drew a holding penalty when he missed a sack late in the second quarter.
Defensive end Greg Spires was injured early in the third quarter, but returned to get a sack. That sack was Spires’ fourth in the last three games. Spires recorded two against Cleveland last week, and also had one the previous week at Chicago. Spires, who had five stops and a quarterback hurry against Seattle, finished the season with five sacks, which tied White and defensive tackle Ellis Wyms for the team lead.
Wyms finished with three tackles, while reserve tackle Jovan Haye also got three stops.
Nose tackle Chris Hovan also missed a sack on the Seahawk’s first series and finished with six tackles.
Backup lineman Jon Bradley spent some time today at defensive end and had one assist.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line played poorly against the run, especially in the second half when they surrendered 100 out of the 132 yards on the ground to Seattle. The Seahawks also converted 8-of-14 (57 percent) of their third downs. That was not a great showing by the Bucs defensive line.
LINEBACKERS Weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks led the Bucs in tackles with 11, but didn’t make any impact plays. He was blown off the ball at times by Seattle’s offensive line and seemed a step slow in pursuing the ballcarriers.
Middle linebacker Shelton Quarles registered eight tackles and split time with Barrett Ruud in the second half. Ruud finished with two stops. Like Brooks, the linebackers just couldn’t get to Seattle’s running backs until they had gained four yards. Shaun Alexander rushed for 92 yards on 28 carries (3.9 avg.) and scored one touchdown. Tampa Bay’s linebackers couldn’t get the stops on third-and-short, either.
Strongside linebacker Ryan Nece had five tackles and one quarterback hurry.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers played on their heels as Seattle’s offensive line owned the line of scrimmage on Sunday. The Seahawks ran wild in the second half and had drives of 8:12 and 9:33 to control the clock and the game. The linebackers didn’t record a turnover and didn’t make enough positive plays.
DEFENSIVE BACKS Cornerback Ronde Barber had a great pass breakup on third down to force a Seattle field goal attempt in the first quarter. Barber had another pass breakup later in the game and finished with three tackles.
Cornerback Juran Bolden was flagged for an illegal contact penalty in the first quarter, but gave up a big pass play to D.J. Hackett on the play anyway. Bolden got really abused by Hackett in the first half. Hackett finished with four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Cornerback Phillip Buchanon, who played an awful lot at right corner after starting at left corner, continues to be a playmaker, coming up with a turnover in his third straight game. Against Seattle, Buchanon recovered Alexander’s fumble. He also had a great pass breakup downfield in the second quarter. Buchanon finished the game with five tackles.
Reserve safety Kalvin Pearson made a great tackle of Alexander for a four-yard loss in the second quarter. Free safety Will Allen also made a nice tackle for a four-yard loss when he stopped Maurice Morris in the second quarter. Pearson finished with two stops, while Allen posted six tackles.
Strong safety Jermaine Phillips finished the game with eight tackles, but didn’t make any plays in coverage.
Seahawks tight end Jeremy Stevens finished the game with four catches for 54 yards against Tampa Bay’s safeties and linebackers. The Bucs secondary did do a decent job of shutting down Deion Branch (three catches for 38 yards), Bobby Engram (two catches for 27 yards) and Nate Burleson (one catch for five yards). The defensive backs played well against the run, and limited Matt Hasselbeck to 17-of-29 passing for 216 yards and one score. Not great numbers, but Hasselbeck didn’t go crazy against the Bucs secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS Dave Moore and Ryan Nece missed tackles on Nate Burleson’s 25-yard punt return in the first quarer. Punter Josh Bidwell outkicked his coverage with a 58-yarder on that play. Bidwell finished the game with a 52.3 gross punting average and a 37.7 net average with no touchbacks and no punts downed inside the 20.
Torrie Cox got an illegal touching penalty on Bidwell’s second punt, which would have been downed inside the Seattle 20-yard line, which forced a re-kick. Cox made up for it by returning a fourth quarter kickoff 44 yards out to the Tampa Bay 45-yard line. That return was the Bucs’ longest of the season. Mark Jones had one 29-yard kick return, but didn’t return a punt. The Bucs averaged 33.7 yards on kick returns for the day.
Matt Bryant missed a makeable 44-yard field goal wide right in the first quarter. He finished the season connecting on 17-of-22 field goal attempts, which is good for 77.2 percent.
Jamie Winborn was flagged for a 5-yard running into the kicker penalty on a fourth quarter punt that gave Seattle the ball back on a fourth-and-3 situation. After that penalty, which came at the 7:26 mark in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay’s offense could not get the ball back for the rest of the game as Seattle picked up five first downs to close out the game.
Tampa Bay’s coverage units were fair. Seattle’s Nate Burleson averaged 14.7 yards on three punt returns and 23 yards on two kickoff returns.
COACHING Head coach Jon Gruden did a good job of playcalling. He used rookie wide receiver Maurice Stovall on a reverse and a double reverse. Stovall finished with two carries for 29 yards, including a long of 18 yards. Gruden wisely directed most of the carries to Michael Pittman, who ripped off runs of 32 and 15 yards and finished with 12 carries for 73 yards (6.1 avg.). Gruden tried to get Mike Alstott going as a rusher, but he finished with four yards on six carries (0.7 avg.).
Penalties and dropped passes plagued the offense, and Seattle’s defensive adjustments in the second half shut down Tampa Bay’s running game. The Bucs offense had two costly turnovers – a fumble by tight end Dave Moore at the Seahawks’ 4-yard line in the second quarter and Alstott’s third quarter fumble at Tampa Bay’s own 8-yard line – but only had three second-half possessions after racking up 216 yards in the first half.
Monte Kiffin’s defense played terribly in the second half as Seattle owned a 22:19 to 7:41 time of possession advantage. The Bucs defense only had one turnover and one sack in the game. So much for splash plays. Tampa Bay’s defense got blown off the ball and couldn’t stop Seattle on third down.
Rich Bisaccia’s special teams played okay, but didn’t have a command performance on Sunday against Seattle.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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