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Bucs Relishing the Challenge in Seattle

Posted Oct 30, 2013

Wednesday Notes: The Bucs understand that few outside of Tampa expect them to win this weekend against the Seahawks, and they're enjoying that perception...Plus injury updates and other notes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Buccaneers consider their underdog status this weekend to be the perfect opportunity to make a statement
  • Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron were both limited in practice on Wednesday
  • T Donald Penn's upcoming 100th consecutive start puts him in rare company among active NFL players
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will undoubtedly be considered significant underdogs when they head up to Seattle this weekend to take on the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.  Beyond any analysis from the national media, there is the simple math expressed in the NFC standings, where there is no greater gap than the one between the 7-1 Seahawks and the 0-7 Buccaneers.

As defensive tackle Gerald McCoy points out, Buccaneer players are "not naïve" to the national perception.  In fact, he can set the scene as well as anyone:

"Think about this: You're going into a stadium that's supposed to be the hardest stadium to play in in the NFL.  They're setting all these sound-barrier records.  They've got this dominant defense.  They've got this up-and-coming star at quarterback [Russell Wilson], an established star at running back [Marshawn Lynch] and they're hot right now.  They're angry off the performance they just put up on Monday Night Football, so everybody expects them to beat us down."

And how do the Buccaneers feel about that scene?

"We love it," said McCoy, with feeling.

McCoy also clarified that he actually still feels plenty of confidence and support coming from the Buccaneers' own fan base, despite the team's unexpected struggles this season.  He knows the conviction ends there, however.

"I don't think our fans think we can't win," he said.  "I believe our fans think we can win, and our fans are backing us 100 percent. Now, outside of us and our fans, I don't think anybody thinks we're going to win."

And, for McCoy, that creates two separate forms of motivation for this weekend's game.  Besides the support of the home fans, McCoy gets just as much inspiration from the opportunity that is created by the perception that his team is overmatched.

"You love to go into an environment like that because you go in there and you withstand that punch and you fight back, then everybody is like, 'Whoa, this team might have something,'" he explained.  "That's what we're looking forward to doing."

-- The 2013 Bucs hope to pull off the kind of upset the 2009 team did in New Orleans
The 2009 Buccaneers faced just such an opportunity late in the season when they traveled to New Orleans to take on a Saints team that, as it turned out, would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy about six weeks later.  This featured an even greater disparity in team records, as the Saints were sitting at 13-1 and the Bucs brought a 2-12 record into the match-up.  Tampa Bay won, 20-17, in overtime, giving the team hope that things could turn around the next season.  And turn around they did, as the Bucs finished 10-6 in 2010 and only missed the playoffs on a series of tiebreakers.

Of course, such outcomes are called "upsets" because they don't happen often.  The Buccaneers are confident heading into Seattle, and they're looking forward to a unique opportunity to prove themselves to the rest of the league, but they don't expect it to come easy.

“That’s always the beauty," said safety Dashon Goldson.  "When people don’t give you hope and pick you to lose and you go out there and surprise everybody, there’s no better feeling. It’s up to the guys in this locker room to get that done."

* Goldson hopes he'll be on the field Sunday helping to pull off that upset, but that is not yet a certainty.  Goldson was limited in practice on Wednesday by the knee injury that kept him out of last Thursday's game, and Head Coach Greg Schiano later expressed cautious optimism that his starting free safety would be back in action in Week Nine.  Goldson wasn't ready to make that prediction yet on Wednesday.

“It’s day-to-day with me," he said.  "I would love to be out there with my team. I love playing in that stadium, I love playing against those guys – it’s just the competitive nature in me – going against [a team] considered one of the best in the league. I’m just day-to-day, taking it a day at a time. We’ll see how far we get and how it feels later in the week. I love big games, man.”

The Buccaneers held both of their starting safeties to a limited workload on Wednesday, as Mark Barron is also dealing with a hip injury.  Barron hasn't missed a start yet, but he has been working through the same injury for weeks.  Second-year man Keith Tandy and recent waiver pick-up Kelcie McCray saw a significant amount of action on the practice field Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers continue to believe they will still be getting contributions this season from guard Carl Nicks and running back Doug Martin.  Nicks has missed the last three games and is currently recovering from surgery on his foot, while Martin is currently shelved with a shoulder injury suffered in Atlanta in Week Seven.

"We’re hoping [Nicks returns] but I can’t really give you any more definitively right now," said Schiano. "Hopefully in a couple weeks we’ll be better able to predict that. Doug’s getting better; I don’t know if [he is] going to be [ready] for this week or not, but he’s certainly has made a lot of progress.”

* T Donald Penn did practice on Wednesday, and he later estimated that he has missed only two or three practices since joining the team in 2006.  The claim was topical because it fit into the discussion of a significant milestone in Penn's NFL career.  This Sunday against Seattle, Penn will start his 100th consecutive game, becoming just the fifth player in franchise history to do that as a Buccaneer.  (Check out our photo gallery of that soon-to-be-expanding "Century Club.")

Penn came to Tampa with little fanfare, joining the Bucs in midseason in 2006 after coming into the league that year as an undrafted free agent in Minnesota.  He was still relatively unknown when he took over for the injured Luke Petitgout at left tackle in the fourth game of the following season, then moved into the starting lineup the following weekend.  His star began to rise quickly after that, however, and he eventually went to his first Pro Bowl after the 2010 campaign.

"I'm blessed," said Penn, when reminded of the upcoming milestone.  "I'm happy I was able to do it, especially coming in as a free agent, starting from the bottom and working my way up.  It's a great accomplishment.  It seems like just yesterday that I was battling Simeon Rice to stay on the team, and now it's 100 games.  I've been through ups and downs, and I'm just very blessed to be here and make it through injury-free.  I just hope I keep it going."

Penn's first start came in a very loud environment in Indianapolis, with one of the league's top pass-rushers trying to take advantage of the green blocker across the line.

"How could I not [remember that]?" said Penn.  "My first start against Dwight Freeney?  In a dome?  That was a great learning experience for me."

Penn joins a group of Buccaneers who have started 100 consecutive games that also includes Ronde Barber (215), Derrick Brooks (208), Tony Mayberry (144) and David Logan (103).  Until his retirement at the end of last season, Barber had the longest starting streak in the entire NFL.  Now that honor belongs to Washington linebacker London Fletcher (206 consecutive starts through Week Eight) but Penn is already in the top 10 on that list.  Below are the 10 players in the NFL with the longest active games-started streaks:

Player

Team

Streak

LB London Fletcher

WAS

206

QB Eli Manning

NYG

143

T D'Brickashaw Ferguson

NYJ

120

QB Philip Rivers

SD

119

T Eric Winston

AZ

111

TE Tony Gonzalez

ATL

109

TE Jason Witten

DAL

107

G Chris Myers

HOU

103

DE Jared Allen

MIN

101

T Donald Penn

TB

99



* Rookie QB Mike Glennon has impressed the Buccaneers' coaching staff with his underrated mobility, both in moving around in the backfield and, on a few occasions, scrambling for a first down.  Now, Glennon is no track star, but he has found a way to clear a series of hurdles in his young career.

Glennon's first NFL start came in Week Four against Arizona, and his first game on the road a few weeks later in Atlanta.  Last Thursday, he played under the prime-time lights for the first time.  All things considered, he has had a promising four-game start, with six touchdowns thrown against just three interceptions, and most notably he has displayed a veteran level of poise in the face of adversity.

He'll need that again on Sunday when he approaches the next hurdle, a supremely talented Seattle secondary that is sure to be licking its chops at the thought of facing a rookie quarterback.

With Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner on the corners, backed up safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, Seattle has the NFL's top-ranked pass defense, allowing just 184.1 yards per game through the air.  Sherman and Thomas, almost certain to be selected to the Pro Bowl this year, have four interceptions apiece and the Seahawk defense also lead the NFL in interceptions per pass play.

“They’re extremely talented," said Glennon.  "You don’t see a lot of guys open when you’re watching the film. Sherman does a great job of just being on a guy’s hip while being able to see the quarterback. He’s really talented. All four of those guys back there, it has to be one of the best secondaries in the league, which is kind of exciting to go against, to compete against the best. There’s a very talented group all across the board.”

An All-Pro selection in 2012, just his second year in the league, Sherman snared  this past Monday night in St. Louis.  He's outspoken and very sure of himself, but he has reason to be confident.

“You talk about all the tools in terms of the size, the strength, the technique, but then there’s the instincts and the ball skills," said Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan.  "He’s a confident player and plays with confidence and backs it up. From that standpoint, you look at there’s a guy we want to be aware of where he is and have specific thought of what type of passes we want to go to him. There’s no question he’s a heck of a player and it’ll be a big challenge for us.”

The talent in Seattle's secondary allows the defense to play with a confounding mixture of caution and aggressiveness.  They don't give up the big play, but they don't necessarily concede underneath completions, either.

"Philosophically, they’re going to keep the ball in front of them at the corner so even though they press, they play on top," said Schiano.  "They’ll bail out of there, they’ll play some press, they’ll walk off. They’re going to keep the ball in front of them at the corners, yet they’re very good players, so they’re going to make plays  on underneath routes. Earl in the middle … a lot of respect for him, he is a great player. It’s a huge challenge, no doubt and not only in the pass game but in the run game, he’s going to show up in the run game in a hurry. We’ve got to know where he is, we’ve got to account for him, whether it’s receivers blocking him or linemen. He plays in the post a lot. They’re an eight-man front football team, they’re going to have a post player, a guy in the middle of the field most of the day, and that’s going to be him and he runs the alley both ways.”
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers