Josh Freeman became the first Tampa Bay quarterback to reach 3,000 yards or 20 touchdown passes in a single season since 1993, and in the process kept the Buccaneers' 2010 playoff hopes in good standing Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Freeman led the Buccaneers on three consecutive scoring drives in the second quarter to build a 17-7 lead over the visiting Seattle Seahawks. Tampa Bay is still in contention for one of the NFC's two Wild Card berths, while Seattle is trying to keep pace with the St. Louis Rams in the NFC West title race.
With a 16-mph wind blowing in their faces in the first quarter, the Buccaneers had difficulty moving the ball early and fell into a 7-0 hole after Matt Hasselbeck's one-yard touchdown run. However, Hasselbeck left the game with a hip injury suffered on that play and the two teams switched ends for the second quarter, and those two changes flipped the momentum drastically. Hasselbeck's replacement, Charlie Whitehurst, completed just two of six passes for 13 yards after taking over and the Seahawks had just 22 yards of offense in the second quarter.
Freeman finished the first half with 12 completions in 17 attempts for 142 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 134.9. He also scrambled four times for 23 yards to rank as the team's leading rusher. Both of his scoring passes came on third downs, a 10-yard sideline strike to TE Kellen Winslow and a 20-yard lob down the middle to WR Mike Williams. It was the ninth touchdown of the season for Williams, a new record for Buccaneer rookies.
K Connor Barth provided the Bucs' other three points with a 46-yard field goal into the wind in the first quarter. He nearly tacked on three more points at the end of the half but his 44-yarder was blocked.
The Bucs won the toss and elected to receive, sending them into a 16 mph wind to start the day. Blount's first-down carry lost a yard and a fly down the left to Mike Williams was incomplete. A dumpoff over the middle to Cadillac Williams seemed to convert the third down, but WR Preston Parker was called for a block in the back to make it third-and-12. Another pass to Cadillac came up well short and the Bucs had to punt into the wind. WR Arrelious Benn's fine coverage of the kick stopped dangerous return man Leon Washington in his tracks at the Seattle37.
A rollout pass on first down was broken up by S Sean Jones. After a four-yard run by Justin Forsett, the Seahawks tried to convert third down with a run but DE Michael Bennett shot an inside gap and dropped Forsett for a loss of four.
Blount's first-down carry was once again unsuccessful and Freeman was sacked for a loss of eight by LB Lofa Tatupu on second down. A holding penalty killed another nice catch-and-run by Williams, making it third-and-25. A draw play to Williams didn't get the first down but was good for 16 yards to help out the field-position situation before the punt. Another nice punt by rookie Robert Malone once again got the ball back to Seattle's 38-yard line.
Two plays into the ensuing drive, Lynch broke into the open and rushed 29 yards to the Bucs' 27. A receiver screen to Cameron Morrah picked up nine more and Forsett's five-yard run made it first down at the Bucs' 13. A sweep left by Lynch failed to gain any yards thanks to LB Adam Hayward's pursuit but Hasselbeck found Mike Williams for nine yards on second down. S Sean Jones stopped Lynch in a hole over right tackle on the next play, making it fourth-and-inches, and the Seahawks elected to go for it. RB Michael Robinson took a Wildcat snap and was stopped on a sneak, but he spun away to the right and got the first down on a second effort. Now first-and-goal at the one, the 'Hawks tried Lynch in the middle but he was stopped by Jones and DT Al Woods. Lynch got the call on second down too and was blasted by LB Barrett Ruud just before he crossed the line. Hasselbeck finished the drive on the next play, faking a handoff and rolling right to run it in himself.
Spurlock had a good answer for the Buccaneers, taking the ensuing kickoff return to the right and then breaking back into a seam to the left to find open field. Following a block by CB E.J. Biggers, Spurlock was able to tiptoe down the sidelines for a 79-yard return to the Seattle 17. A three-yard run by Blount was followed by a dumpoff to TE Kellen Winslow that lost a yard. Freeman had no chance to convert the ensuing third-and-eight because a Seahawks blitz got three men on him in an instant and he was sacked for a loss of 13. After initially lining up to go for it on fourth down, the Bucs called a timeout and reconsidered, sending Barth out to try a tough 46-yarder into the wind. Barth got the Bucs on the board, drilling a low line drive over the crossbar to make it 7-3.
Whitehurst came on to lead the next drive and threw incomplete on first down. A six-yard run by Lynch brought the first quarter to an end, and Biggers defended a third-down buttonhook try to WR Ben Obomanu to force a punt. Kicking into the wind, P Jon Ryan shanked a 17-yarder that gave the Bucs the ball at their own 48. On the first play of the drive, Benn got wide open on the right and took a short pass for 16 yards before suffering a knee injury on the tackle. After the pause, Freeman shot a 17-yard dart through traffic to Mike Williams, and then Blount broke free for an 11-yarder to the Seattle eight. Blount fumbled at the end of the play but was able to fight for the ball in the middle of the pile. A promising looking pass to Mike Williams in the middle was tipped away at the line and a draw to Cadillac Williams didn't work. On third-and-goal from the 10, Freeman rolled right and threw a precise pass to Winslow just inbounds for the TD.
Whitehurst's second drive didn't go much better. Lynch gained six yards on first down but was buried for a four-yard loss in the backfield by DT Frank Okam on second down. Whitehurst tried to hit Morrah over the middle on third-and-eight but misfired and Seattle had to punt. Ryan's kick bounced to a stop at the Buccaneer 41.
Blount powered up the middle for five yards on first down and pushed the pile on second down for four more, ending just inches short of the sticks. A Freeman sneak converted the third down and moved the Bucs three yards into Seattle territory. Three plays later, the Bucs faced another third down, this one for four yards, and converted when Freeman stood tall in the pocket and delivered a 21-yard strike down the middle to Winslow. A lob into the end zone from the 20 to Mike Williams failed and pressure on second down forced Freeman to scramble and then throw it away. On third-and-10 from the 20, Freeman stood in and took a hit from blitzing defender in order to release a pass over the middle to Mike Williams. Williams turned CB Marcus Trufant around, caught the ball at the five and then powered through Trufant's attempted tackle to score.
A short kick and a good return by RB Leon Washington gave the Seahawks good field position at their own 42 but Whitehurst's first-down pass was tipped away by DE Tim Crowder. Hayward tackled TE John Carlson on a short pass on second down, but Forsett eluded several tacklers on a short swing pass left to get nine yards and a first down. Two Lynch carries made it third-and-two at the Bucs' 37 and Lynch tripped up a scrambling Whitehurst for a sack of zero yards on the next play. The Seahawks punted and it was fair caught at the Bucs' nine.
A six-yard run by Williams brought on the two-minute warning, and Freeman threw it to the same back after the break for eight more. WR Dezmon Briscoe's first career catch gained 13 more and moved the chains, and Freeman then scrambled right for 11 yards and a first down at the Bucs' 47. The Bucs ran three vertical routes on the next play and Freeman found Spurlock for a gain of 20 up the left seam; the play was reviewed but upheld. After the review, the Bucs had a first down at the Seattle 33 with 37 seconds left in the half. A corner blitz by the Seahawks almost worked but Freeman somehow felt the pressure, stepped up and scrambled for nine yards, getting out of bounds with 23 seconds left. A fumbled snap forced Freeman to fall on the ball at the 26 and the Bucs had to use their last timeout. The Bucs took one crack at the end zone on third down and then brought on Barth to try a 44-yard field goal. Unfortunately, the kick was blocked and the Bucs had to settle for their 17-7 lead at halftime.