The Buccaneers lost more than their 2007 season opener at Seattle, 20-6. Tampa Bay lost starting running back Cadillac Williams and quarterback Jeff Garcia in the third quarter. Garcia, who was shaken up after a big hit from Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill, missed two offensive series and eventually returned in the fourth quarter to try to mount a comeback, but it was too little too late for the Bucs’ new starting signal caller, who finished 19-of-27 for 201 yards.

Williams’ status for next week’s game at New Orleans is uncertain as he did not return from a rib injury he suffered from a shot to the ribs by Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu.

The Buccaneers’ revamped offensive line did not perform as well as expected against a stingy Seahawks defense, creating just 90 yards rushing and allowing five sacks and 12 quarterback pressures as Garcia was under siege in quarters 2-4. How disappointing was the offensive line? Tampa Bay’s best lineman, right guard Davin Joseph, was flagged for four penalties – two holding, one illegal chop block and one false start – even though Seattle only accepted two of them.

The Bucs had trouble stopping Seattle’s Pro Bowl running back, Shaun Alexander, in the second half as he collected 66 of his 105 rushing yards on the day, including a game-high 21-yarder in the fourth quarter as the Seahawks rolled up 343 yards of total offense.

Despite a banged up offense that couldn’t find the end zone, and a defense that couldn’t stop Seattle’s potent offense in the final three quarters, the most disappointing unit was Tampa Bay’s special teams. A holding penalty and a block in the back penalty negated punt returns of 47 and 42 yards, respectively. Tampa Bay finished with just 40 yards worth of punt returns on five opportunities as a result.

Add a muffed kickoff return by Earnest Graham that backed Tampa Bay up inside their own 20 to the special teams’ woes. Four plays later, the Bucs gave up a 56-yard punt return to Nate Burleson that set up Seattle’s first touchdown and gave a 10-6 lead that the Seahawks wouldn’t surrender.

The only bright spot for the special teams was kicker Matt Bryant going 2-for-2 in the contest and accounting for all of the Bucs’ points.

Tampa Bay’s first offensive possession ended in a fumble when Williams lost the ball after a catch near mid-field. But the Bucs would strike first on their second offensive possession, taking a 3-0 lead at the 8:56 mark of the first quarter on a 38-yard field goal by Bryant. The big play on the drive was a 49-yard pass to wide receiver Joey Galloway, who beat Seattle cornerback Kelly Jennings down to the Seattle 25. On third-and-2 at the Seahawks 37, Garcia held on to the ball too long and was sacked for a 3-yard loss by defensive ends Darryl Tapp and Patrick Kerney, which led to Bryant’s field goal.

At the end of the first quarter, Bryant added another field goal, this time from 32 yards out, to give Tampa Bay a 6-0 lead. To start the Bucs 11-play, 76-yard drive, Galloway had a 47-yard punt return negated by a 10-yard holding penalty on cornerback Ronde Barber in the first quarter. Instead of starting in Seahawks territory, the Bucs started at their own 10-yard line. But Garcia moved the ball with ease through the air finding wide receiver Ike Hilliard and tight end Alex Smith for gains of 28 and 17 yards, respectively. The key play of the drive was a 15-yard roughing the passer foul on Hill on third-and-7 kept Tampa Bay’s third drive alive and allowed Tampa Bay to move into field goal range.

Seattle would answer with 2:39 left before halftime with a 28-yard field goal from Josh Brown, capping off a 12-play, 69-yard scoring drive. The key play on the drive happened on third-and-12 at the Seattle 44-yard line when wide receiver Bobby Engram hauled in a 48-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck, who finished the game 17-of-24 for 222 yards and a touchdown, at the Tampa Bay 7-yard line. Engram beat middle linebacker Barrett Ruud and strong safety Jermaine Phillips on the play down the middle of the field. But the Bucs stymied the Seahawks inside the 7-yard line, forcing the field goal.

Seattle took a 10-6 lead at the half after a 1-yard touchdown run by Alexander, which capped off a three-play, 14-yard scoring drive. Alexander had initially been given a 6-yard touchdown on the play before, but a booth review showed that his shin was down before the ball had crossed the goal line. The key play on the drive was the 56-yard punt return by Burleson. Burleson would have scored on the play, if not for a touchdown-saving tackle by rookie linebacker Quincy Black at the Tampa Bay 14.

In the third quarter, Hilliard had a 42-yard punt return down to the Seattle 49-yard line negated by an illegal block in the back by rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli. The result was Tampa Bay starting at its own 7-yard line. That was a costly drive for the Bucs as Williams hurt his ribs after a 4-yard gain at the 9:53 mark in the third quarter. On the next play, Garcia was sacked for a 4-yard loss by Kerney, and the Bucs had to punt after a second straight three-and-out series in the third quarter.

On Seattle’s first play on its next possession, Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber forced a fumble after a 15-yard gain by Burleson. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud recovered the loose ball to collect the Bucs’ first turnover of the season at the Tampa Bay 32. The Bucs would lose their second offensive starter in the game when Garcia scrambled for a first down on third-and-2 but took a hit to the back of the head from Hill. Prior to that play, Garcia had been sacked three times, hit five times and hurried seven times. He was replaced by backup quarterback Luke McCown at the 6:48 mark of the third quarter. With McCown at the helm, the Bucs pick up a first down, but later had their drive stall when Julian Peterson sacked McCown on third-and-7 near midfield.

Seattle extended its lead to 13-6 on its next possession with Alexander accounted for 37 of the 52 total yards on the drive, thanks in large part to a 12-yard catch and runs of seven and 15 yards on three consecutive plays. But the Seahawks’ drive stalled on third-and-1 at the Tampa Bay 25 when Alexander fumbled when he was hit by Ruud, but was able to recover the loose ball. On fourth-and-3 at the Tampa Bay 28, Brown connected on a 46-yard field goal to allow Seattle to increase its lead with 14:09 left in the fourth quarter.

Seattle poured in on in the fourth quarter, extending its lead to 20-6 with 7:55 left in the game on a 34-yard touchdown catch by running back Maurice Morris. On third-and-5 from the Bucs’ 34, Morris lined up wide to the left, isolated on 13-year veteran linebacker Derrick Brooks, and outraced him down the sidelines on a fade route for the score. The key play on the drive was a 20-yard pass to Burleson down to the Tampa Bay 39.

Garcia returned with 7:48 left in the fourth quarter and marched the Bucs down the field before Tampa Bay’s second turnover derailed their final drive. A 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard negated a fumble by Tampa Bay tight end Jerramy Stevens on the drive. But two plays later, running back Earnest Graham fumbled on the Seattle 21-yard line after being stripped from behind by Tatupu after a 15-yard reception with just over three minutes left in the game.

IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Tampa Bay couldn’t convert two third down conversions inside Seattle’s red zone in the first quarter. Quarterback Jeff Garcia got sacked for a 3-yard loss on third-and-2 at the Seahawks 17-yard line on one series, while an incompletion on third-and-3 at the Seattle 14 stymied another Tampa Bay drive. Instead of being up 14-0 in the first quarter, the Bucs came away with just two field goals to take a 6-0 lead. The Bucs had to score touchdowns instead of field goals on the road to overcome a hostile Seattle crowd and a tough Seahawks team. After Seattle took a 10-6 lead at halftime, any hope for a Buccaneers comeback was squashed in the third quarter when running back Cadillac Williams left the game with a rib injury, and quarterback Jeff Garcia missed two series after taking a shot to the head from linebacker Leroy Hill.

PEWTERREPORT.COM PLAYER OF THE GAME
To win on the road, Tampa Bay needed to score points at Seattle, but managed only six thanks to the right leg of Bucs kicker Matt Bryant, who was 2-for-2 on the night, drilling field goals of 38 and 32 yards to help his team mount an early, 6-0 lead in the first quarter. For being perhaps the only Buccaneer to play flawlessly in the season opener, Bryant is this week’s PewterReport.com Player of the Game. Bryant also moved into the franchise record books in Seattle as his two field goals moved him into sole possession of fifth place in team history with 40 field goals. He entered the Seattle game tied with kicker Steve Christie, who connected on 38 field goals from 1990-91.

RECORDS AND MILESTONES
Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks marked the second time in Tampa Bay history has closed a season with the same team it opened the following season against. Last year, Tampa Bay lost to Seattle 23-7 on Dec. 31, 2006. In 1990, the Bucs finished the season with a 16-14 loss against the New York Jets before opening the 1991 campaign with a 16-13 loss at New York.

Rookie Tanard Jackson started at free safety for Tampa Bay, marking just the second time a rookie has started on opening day for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The other rookie starter was defensive end Regan Upshaw in 1996. Jackson finished his strong debut with three tackles, two special teams tackles and one pass defensed.

STATS THAT COUNT
Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia and weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks had red patches with a big white “C” affixed to their jerseys, which designated them as team captains. … Tampa Bay recorded its first sack of the season when strong safety Jermaine Phillips sacked quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on a flea flicker pass, setting up a third-and-18 at the Seattle 48 in the second quarter. Phillips finished the game with 10 tackles. … Defensive end Greg Spires got his first sack of the season rushing from the right defensive end spot on third-and-2 in the third quarter when he beat All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones. … Despite missing most of the second half, running back Cadillac Williams led Tampa Bay in rushing with 60 yards on 12 carries (5.0 avg.), and had a 20-yard gain before halftime. … Wide receiver Joey Galloway led Tampa Bay with 72 yards on five catches (14.4 avg.) at Seattle. … Tampa Bay middle linebacker Barrett Ruud led the team with a game-high 13 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. … Quarterback Luke McCown was 1-of-4 for nine yards in his debut as a Buccaneer quarterback. McCown was also sacked twice. … Tampa Bay’s 2007 first-round draft pick, defensive end Gaines Adams, recorded one tackle in his NFL debut. … New defensive end Kevin Carter notched two tackles in his debut with the Bucs, while new strongside linebacker Cato June recorded three tackles in his first game with Tampa Bay.

BUCS STARTING LINEUPS AT SEATTLE
Starting offense:

WR Joey Galloway
LT Luke Petitgout
LG Arron Sears
C John Wade
RG Davin Joseph
RT Jeremy Trueblood
TE Alex Smith
WR Ike Hilliard
FB Michael Pittman
RB Cadillac Williams

Starting defense:
LE Greg Spires
UT Jovan Haye
NT Chris Hovan
RE Kevin Carter
WLB Derrick Brooks
MLB Barrett Ruud
SLB Cato June
LCB Brian Kelly
FS Tanard Jackson
SS Jermaine Phillips
RCB Ronde Barber

Starting specialists:
K Matt Bryant
P Josh Bidwell
LS Andrew Economos

TAMPA BAY’S INACTIVES
The Buccaneers declared the following players inactive for the 2007 season opener at Seattle: middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, cornerback Anthony Madison, defensive tackle Ryan Sims, guard Dan Buenning, guard Anthony Davis, defensive end Patrick Chukwurah and quarterback Chris Simms. Bruce Gradkowski was named the emergency quarterback.

The following Bucs were active, but did not play at Seattle: wide receiver David Boston.

BOSTON, STEVENS ACTIVE IN SEASON OPENER
Despite recent legal woes surrounding tight end Jerramy Stevens and wide receiver David Boston, both players traveled with the team and suited up for Tampa Bay in the 2007 season opener at Seattle. Stevens missed Wednesday and Thursdays practices while attending his trial for a DUI arrest and marijuana possession on March 13 in Scottsdale, Arizona, and was found guilty on Friday. In addition to likely facing at least 30 days in jail due to the conviction, Stevens is subject to an NFL suspension for violating the player conduct code. Stevens had a catch and a fumble in the game, but those statistics were negated due to a Seattle personal foul on the play.

It was reported this week that the DUI case against Boston is proceeding after an illegal substance was found in his urinalysis. Boston was found asleep at the wheel in Pinellas Park, Fla. and was arrested after failing a field sobriety test on August 23. Boston dressed for the Seahawks game, but did not play due to a foot injury.

BUCS INJURIES
Tampa Bay sustained several key injuries at Seattle. The most serious injury occurred to starting running back Cadillac Williams, who was knocked out of the game with a rib injury in the third quarter and didn’t return. Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia was knocked out of the game with a hit to the head a couple of plays later in the third quarter and missed two series before coming back in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay cornerback Brian Kelly suffered a groin injury in the second half. Wide receiver David Boston was nursing a foot injury and didn’t play in the game, although he was active on game day.

KICKOFF CONDITIONS
The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Seahawks game at 68,044 was. The temperature at kickoff was a balmy 67 degrees with 51 percent humidity.

UP NEXT
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) will host the New Orleans Saints (0-1) in the home opener at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, September 16. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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 protected]