Between Rays, Alstott, The Bucs Won A Football Game, 20-10
Roy Cummings, The Tampa Tribune, published 20 October 2008

Meanwhile, over at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs mixed a few scores in between a seemingly endless string of taped testimonials to former fullback Mike Alstott to beat the Seahawks 20-10 on Mike Alstott Night. The victory improved the Bucs to 5-2 and was played out before a sellout crowd that often seemed as interested in what the Rays were doing against the Red Sox as they were in what the Bucs were doing.

Some of the loudest ovations of the evening, including one that rose up while Alstott was being toasted during halftime, came when news of the Rays scoring a run spread across the stadium. "We were the minor league game tonight in the Tampa Bay area," said Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia, who completed 27 of 36 passes for 315 yards and a touchdown in his second start since coming off a four-game benching.

The Bucs got their share of love, too, of course, most of it coming in the first half, when their typically stellar defensive play and a quick-strike offense allowed the Bucs to build a 17-0 lead. Antonio Bryant was the first to put the Bucs on the board, beating cornerback Kelly Jenning on a go-route down the left sideline and scoring a 47-yard touchdown to finish off the Bucs' first offensive series. "There was a little bumping on that play," said Bryant, who initlally drew a penalty flag that was later picked up by the officials. "He bumped me a little and I bumped him a little. But it was good to get the team off to a jump."

The Bucs jumped again midway through the second quarter, finishing off a six-play drive with a 1-yard plunge by Earnest Graham to expand their lead to 14-0 with 6:32 to play. Later in the half, rookie cornerback Aqib Talib's interception off a pass tipped by linebacker Barrett Ruud one play into Seattle's next drive set up a 27-yard field goal by Matt Bryant that out the first half scoring. "What can I say, [defensive coordinator] Monte Kiffin put us in perfect position," Talib said. "Barrett came across to get a deflection on the ball and we capitalized on the opportunity."

Speaking of perfect position, that's pretty much where the Bucs are. They remain tied for the division lead with Carolina and have winnable games at Dallas and at Kansas City coming up. To take advantage of their position, though, the Bucs have to start doing a better job of putting teams away, at least offensively. They let several opportunities to do that on Sunday get away. Those opportunities came in the third quarter, but Seattle's defense stiffened, forcing the Bucs to give the ball up on downs on each of their first three series and setting the stage for two Seahawks scoring chances.

Seattle capitalized on the first but had to settle for a 26-yard Olindo Mare field goal when Barrett Ruud stopped Maurice Morris for a 4-yard gain on a third-and-8 pass from the Bucs 12. The second scoring attempt went by the boards when Mare missed a 37-yard field goal try with 6:33 to play in the third quarter. Seattle finally scored again with 1:55 to play but another Bryant field goal had put a Seahawks victory out of reach. "Our confidence on offense just isn't where it should be," said Seattle coach Mike Holmgren. "They're good defensively and so with the combination of our shortcoming on offense and their defense, you get what we got tonight."

The Seahwaks had some shortcoming on defense, too. They played soft in the secondary, allowing the Bucs receivers to make the catch and hoping to limit their yards in the aftermath. That didn't work, though, as Garcia threw for 226 yards in the first half alone, the most he's ever thrown for in a single half in his career. Bryant, meanwhile, was his favorite target.

He caught six balls for 115 yards and the touchdown. Barrett Ruud led the defensive effort, tipping a pass that resulted in an interception and recovering a fumble while recording more than five tackles. "We're getting closer to what we are all trying to accomplish and that's to play the Super Bowl here at home," Bryant said. "I think that's our number one goal, but we still have to take it one game at a time."