Up next: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Published on December 21, 2010 by     T.C.

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.

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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