Seahawks at Buccaneers

Posted by Clare Farnsworth on December 24, 2010 – 10:44 am

When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m. PST, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Records: Seahawks are 6-8 and tied for first in the NFC West; Buccaneers are 8-6 and third in the NFC South

TV: KCPQ/13, with Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick and Chris Myers

Radio: 97.3 FM and 710 ESPN, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller

Matchup microscope

Matt Hasselbeck vs. the situation: The Seahawks’ veteran QB was benched last week after turning the ball over on three consecutive possessions in the third quarter of a loss to Atlanta Falcons. He has thrown 10 of his 17 interceptions in the past four games. But coach Pete Carroll is sticking with Hasselbeck because he “gives us our best chance to finish off right.” Now, Hasselbeck has to go out and do just that. And to do just that, he needs to make better decisions and play with the same mindset he had while throwing only one interception in his previous five starts. Can a QB – even one with Hasselbeck’s experience – do that with the weight of the past two weeks on his shoulders? We’re all about to find out.

One to watch

The scoreboard: Before the Seahawks kick it off against the Bucs, they should know the outcome of the Rams’ game against the San Francisco 49ers in St. Louis. As crazy as it might sound, the Seahawks need the Rams to beat the 49ers. That outcome would eliminate the 49ers, and their better-division-record tiebreaker edge if they are able to sweep their final two games and finish deadlocked in the West. Then, the division winner would be the team that wins the Jan. 2 regular-season finale between the Seahawks and Rams at Qwest Field. Yes, the Rams would come in at 7-8 and the Seahawks could be 6-9. But a Seahawks’ win would leave both teams at 7-9 and give the Seahawks the division title because of its better division record (4-2, compared to 3-3 for the Rams).

Fun to watch

Mike Williams vs. Mike Williams: The leading receiver for each team is Mike Williams. The Seahawks’ Mike Williams has 60 receptions for 720 yards and one touchdown. The Bucs’ Mike Williams has 58 receptions for 880 yards and eight touchdowns – to lead all NFL rookies in each category. The passing game needs to make plays for each of these teams as they cling to postseason aspirations. The best place to start for each is their best receiver. The Seahawks’ Williams had three games with double-digit receptions this season, but then was limited to one series in a three-game stretch because of foot and ankle injuries. He returned last week to catch eight passes. The Bucs’ Williams had six catches for 96 yards in last week’s overtime loss to the Lions.

One tough task

The Seahawks’ pass defense: Bucs’ QB Josh Freeman has the arm. The Bucs’ Williams has the speed. So look for offensive coordinator Greg Olson to test a Seattle defense that has allowed 30 pass plays of 20-plus yards when it goes with its nickel, dime and “Bandit” packages that include five, six and seven defensive backs. The flipside for the Seahawks is that they also have generated 22 of their 32 sacks from these same packages, and opposing QBs also are completing 54.9 percent of their passes – which ranks fourth-best in the league.

Notable

The Bucs have lost three of their past four games after starting 7-3. … The Seahawks have lost six of their past eight games after starting 4-2. … The Bucs are plus-8 in turnover ratio, sixth-best in the NFL. … The Seahawks are minus-9, which ranks 30th. … The Bucs have lost five starters on defense in the past month, and in their past two games they have allowed 369 rushing yards and a per-carry average of 6.6 yards. … The Bucs are starting eight rookies, and have signed 11 players off their practice squad this season because of injuries. … Hasselbeck needs 23 passing yards for his seventh 3,000-yard season. … Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount leads all NFL rookies with 777 rushing yards. … The Bucs’ Kellen Winslow has caught a pass in 74 consecutive games, the third-longest streak in the league among tight ends. … LB David Hawthorne leads the Seahawks in tackles (90) and needs 10 more to become the team’s first player to hit triple digits in his first two seasons as a starter since Lofa Tatupu (2005-06). … LB Barrett Ruud has 104 tackles to lead the Bucs. … DE Chris Clemons has a career-high 10 sacks to lead the Seahawks, and six have come in road games.


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Up next: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Posted by Clare Farnsworth on December 22, 2010 – 8:34 am

When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m. PST, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Record: 8-6 after Sunday’s overtime loss to the Detroit Lions at home – a win that snapped the Lion’s 26-game road losing streak.

Where they rank: No. 20 on offense (9th rushing, 19th passing); No. 20 on defense (29th rushing, tied for 11th passing)

Series: Seahawks lead 7-3, but the Buccaneers have won the past two meetings – 24-7 at Qwest Field last December and 20-10 in the last game played in Tampa, in 2008.

Bing Stat Comparison: Bing.com, the official decision engine of the Seahawks, provides us with a statistical comparison of the key positions in this weekend’s matchup:

To perform your own statistical comparison visit Bing.com and search for any two players of the same position.

Star power: Ronde Barber. The Bucs’ are one of the youngest teams in the league, and starting eight rookies. But their veteran cornerback continues to get the job done at 35 and in his 14th NFL season. Barber has started every game for the Bucs since 2000, a string of 174 in a row. This season, he has 77 tackles to rank second on the team, as well as three interceptions and a sack. Along with Seahawks SS Lawyer Milloy, Barber is one of 11 players in league history with at least 20 interceptions (40) and 20 sacks (26) in his career. Need more proof of his longevity and productivity? He has been voted to five Pro Bowls.

Unsung hero: Josh Freeman. The Bucs’ second-year QB isn’t really unsung, but he hasn’t gotten enough credit for the team’s transformation from 3-13 last season to 8-6 this season. Freeman has thrown at least one TD pass in 11 consecutive games, the Bucs’ longest since Brian Griese had a 12-game streak in 2004-05. He’s also 41 shy of a 3,000-yards passing season, with 18 TD passes and six interceptions. Only the Patriots’ Tom Brady (0.9) and Chiefs’ Matt Cassel (1.3) have a better interception percentage than Freeman (1.4).

On the spot: Those eight rookies who are starting – leading receiver Mike Williams, leading rusher LeGarrette Blount, LG Ted Larsen, RG Derek Hardman, WR Arrelious Benn, DT Al Woods, OLB Dekoda Watson and P Robert Malone. Several of them are starting because the Bucs have lost six starters on defense to injury or suspension, including CB Aqib Talib (six interceptions), DT Gerald McCoy (28 tackles, three sacks), LB Quincy Black (60 tackles) and S Cody Grimm (57 tackles, two interceptions). In the loss to the Lions, the Bucs yielded a 58-yard drive to the field goal that tied the score in regulation and a 63-yarder to the game-winner in OT.

Burning question: What took so long? John McKay, the coach of the expansion Bucs from 1976-84, was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony on Dec. 5. Unfortunately, it was a posthumous honor because McKay died in 2001. McKay’s impact on the franchise was more significant than his 45-91-1 record would indicate. The only other member of the team’s Ring of Honor is former DE Lee Roy Selmon, who was inducted last season.

Familiar faces: Backup LB Niko Koutouvides was the Seahawks’ fourth-round draft choice in 2004 and played four seasons in Seattle, leading the team in special teams tackles in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Backup DL Michael Bennett was with the Seahawks for the start of the 2009 season and claimed by the Bucs after the being waived, while DT Frank Okam was with the Seahawks for one game this season.

The last word: “It’s certainly a gut punch, but not a death blow. We’ve got to find a way to get back out there. We have to put this game behind us and go on to the next game. Next Sunday can’t get here fast enough.” – Bucs coach Raheem Morris after the loss to the Lions


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