Buccaneers pull together victory over Seahawks
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times, published 21 December 2009

Maybe he started collecting passports. Ordered somebody to compare finger­prints. Checked birth certificates. It only took 13 games, but Raheem Morris helped the Bucs find their identity Sunday.

That's what was so apparent in Sunday's 24-7 win over the Seattle Seahawks. The Bucs won playing the style of football under their coach that had been successful in Tampa Bay for more than a decade.

The defense kept receivers in front of them, intercepted four passes and forced a fumble. The offense was committed to the run — 34 carries for 134 yards. And the pressure was taken off rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who overcame another interception on his first attempt to finish with 205 yards passing and two touchdowns.

It was the fewest points allowed this season by the Bucs, who won on the West Coast for the first time since Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego nearly seven years ago. "Raheem had on his play sheet: No Ego," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "Play Bucs. Play what we know, and that's how it played out.

"Play Bucs. Make them catch the ball in front of you and tackle them. That's exactly what it was. They tried us twice in the fourth quarter, and both of them were interceptions. That's the way we've won games here for a lot of years."

All week in practice, the focus for offensive coordinator Greg Olson was to commit to the running game and take pressure off Freeman, who had eight interceptions in his past two games. On Freeman's first pass Sunday, he double clutched and sailed the ball too high for rookie receiver Sammie Stroughter. Safety Deon Grant intercepted.

But this time, Freeman wasn't rattled. He calmly walked to the sideline, looked Morris in the eye and said, "I got it."

The Bucs trailed 7-0 before running off 24 unanswered points as Freeman went 11-of-14 passing for 144 yards with two touchdowns passes and no interceptions in the second half.

"That was the whole idea, starting out running the football," Olson said. "Let's settle him down, calm his nerves a little bit and go from there. It was good to see he didn't get rattled after the first interception. I did a better job of sticking with the run today and obviously, our defense played well enough to keep us in the game."

Running backs Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward pounded the Seahawks defense. Ward had 19 carries for 67 yards and Williams had 12 for 65. Both scored on short passes from Freeman. Williams took a screen in the left flat and turned it into a 22-yard touchdown. Ward turned a checkdown into a 6-yard score. Williams had the Bucs' first touchdown in 11 quarters.

"They were great calls," Freeman said. "One of them was after a big momentum play when teams like to take shots. Coach Olson called a play-action where you set like you're throwing a bomb and you just dump it off. Right when I was faking the handoff, I looked and everybody was just dropping out. I was like, 'Ah, this is going to be good.' I dumped it off, and Cadillac took it all the way."

Meanwhile, the Bucs defense harassed quarterback Matt Hassel­beck into his worst performance this season. He pitched the ball backward during a scramble in the first half and linebacker Geno Hayes recovered the fumble.

Better check Hayes' ID, too, because he looked an awful lot like Derrick Brooks with a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery, two tackles for a loss and three hits on Hasselbeck. The Bucs allowed 118 yards rushing in the first half and only 10 in the second.

"It was just really about making it a team thing," Freeman said. "It's not about one person or one unit — offense, defense or special teams — playing well. It's about the entire team playing well. … It was about playing as a team and getting your swagger back as a team because it's been rough losing all these games. We have a lot of people working as hard as they can to change that."

Morris was fairly subdued after his second victory as a head coach. At 2-12 and games remaining at New Orleans then Atlanta at Raymond James Stadium, he said there's not much to salvage. Except their identity.

"That's what the whole end of the season is about for us — it's establishing, it's progressing, it's forming," Morris said. "It's getting these guys to believe. They saw it work (Sunday). Hopefully, that stimulates a little more belief in the players, in the coaches and our organization, period. That's where we want to go."