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Game Day: Buccaneers at Seahawks

Posted Nov 2, 2013

Prepare for Sunday’s game with our preview, including injury reports, key matchups, series history, players to watch and more

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Bucs have had to shuffle their offensive cast due to injuries, but they are confident in their game plan heading into Sunday’s game
  • The matchup between rookie RB Mike James and Pro Bowl S Earl Thomas could prove very important
  • Seattle will try to break Tampa Bay’s three-game winning streak in the head-to-head series
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington.  The Buccaneers bring an 0-7 record into the game while the Seahawks are 7-1.

Offensively, the Bucs will be facing a stiff enough test in a talented Seahawks team, playing at home, in front of its raucous fans. Upping the difficulty level even more is the absence of some key playmakers on offense, most notably wide receiver Mike Williams – lost for the year due to a hamstring injury – and running back Doug Martin, who is dealing with a shoulder injury and will also be unavailable for Sunday’s game.

Regardless, Head Coach Greg Schiano says the Bucs will stick to their offensive game plan, no matter the changes to the depth chart.

“It’s certainly a big challenge,” Schiano. “Whether you’re going in short-handed or full-handed, going into that building is [tough]. Their home record is pretty impressive, especially with Russell Wilson as quarterback, so we certainly have a big challenge, something that we’re excited about. I know that our offensive football team, we feel  like we’ve got a great plan and the plan is fitted to the people that we have to go in there with. I think it’s going to be critical that we play complementary football on offense, defense and special teams, because they’re a team that plays complementary football. It’s going to be a really great opportunity and a fun experience for everybody involved and we’ve got to go out there and play well and win. That’s what makes it fun.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs will be facing a second dual-threat quarterback in as many weeks. After squaring off against Carolina’s Cam Newton on Thursday Night Football, the Bucs must now prepare for Wilson, who has thrown for 13 touchdowns on the year (against just four interceptions) and has racked up more than 300 yards rushing through eight games.

“He’s a very mobile quarterback, he’s got a very good arm, he can make every throw,” Schiano said.

In addition to Wilson and his versatile talents, Seattle is also blessed with a potent one-two punch on offense thanks to physical running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is currently fourth in the league with 601 rushing yards, and tied for third with six rushing scores.

- WR V. Jackson will lead a mostly inexperienced cast of pass-catchers into Sunday's game
“Marshawn Lynch is a very, very physical, aggressive runner,” Schiano said. “He’s one of the best running backs in this league and he is a guy that likes to get it going downhill. We’re going to have to make those tackles to be effective. Swarm…the first guy gets him, and then we need two or three hats to the ball right now to be able to get him down. That’s going to be critical.

“I think with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, those two guys are dominant players at their position. They can hurt you in many different ways.”

As good as Seattle’s offense is, its defense might be even better. Currently the NFL’s second-ranked unit overall, and the third-best against the pass, Seattle will rely on a swarming secondary and physical brand of football to try and stymie the Bucs’ offense.

Although the Tampa Bay offensive players and coaches will have spent the most time this week analyzing the Seahawks’ defense, even the Bucs’ defensive players have been impressed with their Seattle counterparts, as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy explained.

“Their secondary is magnificent,” McCoy said. “Their whole defense is dominant. Me, as a football player, and how I love to play the game – when you watch those guys on tape, you’re like, ‘My goodness. Those dudes are getting after it.’”

In short, the Bucs know they’ll be in for a hard-fought matchup on Sunday, flying cross-country to face one of the top teams in the league in front of its noisy home crowd.  It’s a challenge they’re prepared to meet.

“We have to be ready on defense, and our offense has to be ready,” said McCoy.

**

SERIES HISTORY

The Buccaneers will be putting a three-game winning streak on the line Sunday when they renew the series against their fellow 1976 expansion team.  Tampa Bay’s consecutive victories over Seattle in 2008, 2009 and 2010 represent its longest stretch of success in a sporadic four decades of matchups with the Seahawks.

Overall, Seattle holds a 7-4 edge in the series, beginning with wins in the first four meetings with Tampa Bay between 1976 and 1996.  That run began with a 13-10 decision in 1976, beginning a run of four straight games that were decided by a touchdown or less.

The Bucs’ first win in the series occurred in 1999, a 16-3 drubbing in Seattle that saw the debut of then-rookie QB Shaun King, who came in to replace an injured Trent Dilfer and went on to start the rest of the season as the Bucs advanced to the NFC Championship Game.  The two teams began to meet more frequently when the Seahawks jumped from the AFC to the NFC during the 2002 NFL realignment, including a five-year stretch (2006-10) in which they shared a field each season.  While the series was marked by close games early, the last five decisions have all been by 10 points or more, and four of them have been by two touchdowns or more.

Click here for more details on the all-time Buccaneers-Seahawks series.

**

INJURY REPORT

Buccaneers

Player

Injury

Game Status

S Mark Barron

Hip

Questionable

RB Jeff Demps

Groin

Out

LB Mason Foster

Hamstring

Probable

S Dashon Goldson

Knee

Out

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Probable

DT Derek Landri

Back

Questionable

RB Doug Martin

Shoulder

Out

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Out

WR Chris Owusu

Foot

Questionable

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Probable

S Keith Tandy

Ankle

Probable

LB Dekoda Watson

Shoulder

Questionable

Seahawks

Player

Injury

Game Status

DE Michael Bennett

Illness

Probable

RB Derrick Coleman

Hamstring

Out

T Breno Giacomini

Knee

Out

S Jeron Johnson

Hamstring

Out

RB Marshawn Lynch

Knee

Probable

DT Brandon Mebane

No Injury

Probable

G J.R. Sweezy

Elbow

Probable

S Earl Thomas

Illness

Probable


**

BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: G DAVIN JOSEPH

After missing the entire 2012 season due to injury, Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph has been on the comeback trail, steadily improving throughout the first half of 2013. The two-time Pro Bowler was brought along slowly in the offseason, but he has started all seven games so far and expects to continue to improve until he is once again living up to his own high standards.

“It's tough, but it's coming back,” Joseph said. “But it's also just getting back to football. You don't take a snap in OTAs, training camp, and then you're kind of just thrown in the fire. I'm just progressively getting better and better each day."

Tampa Bay’s offense has struggled in a variety of ways this year, but Joseph thinks his best way to help the team overcome its problems is to keep his own comeback on track.

“I'm probably the roughest critic on Davin Joseph,” he said. “It's been a challenge. Of course, not winning magnifies everything times 10, but I've just got to focus on myself in order to help this team come back."

Things won’t get any easier this week for Joseph and the Bucs as they prepare to face the 7-1 Seattle Seahawks and their stout defensive unit. Seattle’s third-ranked pass defense is thanks in no small part to a fearsome pass rush that has racked up 26 sacks so far this year – with 13 players tallying at least a half-sack each.

“They’re a very good defense,” Joseph said. “Their defensive line, their linebackers, defensive backs – they’re all good. They do a good job of creating turnovers, a good job of getting to the quarterbacks; it’s going to be tough. We’re playing in their house, it seems like they’re a different team when they play at home.”

They do a good job of creating turnovers, a good job of getting to the quarterbacks; it’s going to be tough.
-- G Davin Joseph

That home field advantage, coupled with one of the best defenses in the league, means the Bucs will be facing an uphill battle to notch their first victory of the season.  But Joseph says whether you’re undefeated or still seeking your first win, every victory in the NFL is a tall task.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Joseph said. “Playing in the NFL and getting a win in the NFL is not easy. It takes a lot of focus and preparation to play a team such as Seattle, but that’s going to be our challenge for everyone, even after we get the first win.”

**

KEY MATCHUP: BUCCANEERS RB MIKE JAMES vs. SEATTLE S EARL THOMAS

Expect the Buccaneers to do whatever it takes to establish a running game early in Sunday’s game.  The visitors will be looking to slow down a dynamic and many-faceted Seattle pass-rush, and the best way to do that is to keep the QB hunters from pinning their ears back by making them focus on Mike James and company.

James is the rookie who has inherited the lead tailback role, at least temporarily, from injured star Doug Martin.  The former University of Miami back has shown potential, with 96 yards on 27 carries, but he has yet to log more than 14 carries in a game because his team has been chasing early deficits most weekends.  Given how difficult it could be for the Buccaneers’ offense to communicate if CenturyLink Field gets noisy – and given that the passing attack is also led by a rookie in QB Mike Glennon – there’s a good chance the Bucs will pound away with the running game no matter how successful the first few carries are.

And they could be successful, if the Bucs can follow the lead of the St. Louis Rams, who ran up 200 yards on 27 carries against Seattle on Monday night (albeit in St. Louis, not Seattle).  St. Louis was the third opponent this year, although the first since Week Two, to average 5.0 yards per carry or better against Seattle.

The Bucs’ blockers will need to spring James to the second level on multiple occasions if they hope for a similar output on the ground.  If that happens, it will be upon James to win a matchup with Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas, who will most certainly be waiting for him.  A dual-threat safety who can pick off a pass and deliver a hard hit, Thomas leads the Seahawks’ defense with 57 tackles.  He is very good in the open field, as evidenced by the fact that 52 of those 57 stops are of the solo variety.  Thomas is a very instinctive player who takes the quickest route possible to the football.  Expect more than a few encounters on Sunday between Thomas and the Bucs’ rookie runner.

Click here to read about other head-to-head matchups that will help determine Sunday’s outcome.

**

TEAM RANKINGS

The Seahawks have a top-three defense in terms of both yards and points allowed, but they have been vulnerable to the quarterback sack when on offense.  The Buccaneers are eighth in the NFL in stopping the run and have some strong special teams numbers, but the offense is still struggling to produce.

OFFENSE

BUCS RANK

SEAHAWKS RANK

Points Per Game

31

6

Yards Per Game

31

10

Rushing Yards Per Game

21

1

Average Per Rush

22

8

Passing Yards Per Game

27

22

Sacks/Pass Play

10

26t

Interception Pct.

13

11

Third-Down Efficiency

24

23

Punt Return Average

12

7

Kickoff Return Average

6

25

 

DEFENSE

BUCS RANK

SEAHAWKS RANK

Points Per Game

18

3

Yards Per Game

14

2

Rushing Yards Per Game

8

7

Average Per Rush

8

11

Passing Yards Per Game

18

3

Sacks/Pass Play

22

4

Interception Pct.

18

1

Third-Down Efficiency

15

13

Punt Return Average

7

1

Kickoff Return Average

9

26

 

OTHER

BUCS RANK

SEAHAWKS RANK

Turnover Differential

15t

4t

Gross Punting Average

28

31

Net Punting Average

18

21

Field Goal Percentage

20t

7


**

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • LB Lavonte David has 5.0 sacks on the season and with one more can tie for the fifth-most sacks in a season by a Buccaneers linebacker in team history (Kevin Murphy, 6.0, 1989).
  • LS Andrew Economos will play in his 100th career game on Sunday, all with the Buccaneers.
  • P Michael Koenen has 55 punts inside the 20 with the Buccaneers and needs one more to pass Tommy Barnhardt (55 from 1996-98) for sixth-most and two more to pass Tom Tupa (56 from 2002-03) for fifth-most punts inside the 20 in team history.
  • WR Vincent Jackson has three 100-yard receiving games this season and is looking to record his ninth as a Buccaneer.
  • T Donald Penn will start his 100th consecutive game on Sunday, all with the Buccaneers. In so doing he will become just the fifth player in franchise history to start 100 games in a row.
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers