TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Jeff Garcia is Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback again, with good reason.
Garcia completed 26 of 37 passes for 310 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant on Tampa Bay’s opening drive, and the Buccaneers beat the struggling Seattle Seahawks 20-10 on Sunday night.
Making his second straight start in place of Brian Griese, Garcia helped the NFC South-leading Bucs (5-2) improve to 4-0 at home.
Garcia clearly outplayed fellow backup-turned-starter Seneca Wallace, the Seahawks’ third quarterback in three weeks. Garcia was 14-of-17 by halftime, helping the Bucs take a 17-0 lead, and the outcome wasn’t ever in doubt. He was sacked once and completed passes to 10 different receivers.
Bucs coach Jon Gruden said Garcia will continue to start. The 38-year-old Garcia made his fourth Pro Bowl last season, his first with the Bucs, but lost the starting job earlier this season.
“He was hot tonight,” Gruden said. “His mobility was a factor tonight, and he created a lot of opportunities running and throwing for a lot of people.”
Wallace, meanwhile, never got rolling. He finished 12-of-23 for 73 yards, with a 2-yard touchdown pass to John Carlson with 1:55 left, and had two turnovers in the second quarter. Maurice Morris ran for 56 yards for Seattle (1-5) in its third straight loss.
“Our confidence on offense isn’t where it should be,” Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. “Now we have to keep them going, somehow, some way, and get that confidence we used to have.”
Bryant finished with 115 yards receiving, and Earnest Graham added a 1-yard touchdown run for the Buccaneers, a fitting up-the-gut score on a night where Tampa Bay honored retired fullback Mike Alstott with a halftime ceremony.
“It was a great night for a great player,” Graham said. “And it was a pleasure to be a part of it.”
Alstott sees plenty of similarities between himself and Graham, who switched to fullback last week.
“He can do a lot. He’s versatile. He’s a team player,” Alstott said. “When he gets an opportunity he makes the best of it and, if he doesn’t get the opportunity, he doesn’t complain about it. That’s what wins championships.”
So does defense, and Tampa Bay was strong there once again.
The Bucs entered the game having given up an NFL-low three touchdowns in 11 opponent trips inside the 20, and held Seattle to a TD and field goal in two trips into the red zone. Tampa Bay held a 402-176 edge in total yards, and forced the Seahawks into settling for only a 26-yard field goal by Olindo Mare in the third quarter on a drive where Seattle drove to the 8.
Tampa Bay controlled the ball for nearly 42 minutes.
“I think the defense played great,” said Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli. “But the biggest thing was the offense kept us off the field.”
The Bucs got their longest pass play of the season to open the scoring, the 47-yard hookup from Garcia to Bryant—who hadn’t caught a TD pass since Dec. 3, 2006.
Bryant sprinted down the left sideline, jostling with cornerback Kelly Jennings most of the way. Jennings stumbled and fell, Bryant caught the ball at the 10 and scored easily.
Graham’s score capped a six-play, 59-yard drive to give Tampa Bay a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Matt Bryant added two field goals for the Bucs, who kept pace with Carolina in the NFC South.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Ike Hilliard made a catch around the Seattle 5, with Tatupu dragging him from behind. Hill came from the front, slamming into both, and Hilliard crumbled to the turf in such a way that teammates began instantly waving to the sideline for medical assistance.
“You never want to see that happen,” Hill said.
Hilliard—who fumbled—was driven off in a cart, but sat up for the ride. Gruden said he had a concussion and would be hospitalized for observation overnight. Tatupu had a concussion, and because the play was blown dead, Seattle felt it was denied a chance to run the fumble in for a touchdown.
“It was a factor in the game,” Holmgren said.
Bucs halfback Warrick Dunn left the game with a back injury but Gruden said he expects him to play next week at Dallas. … Tatupu was “foggy” but otherwise all right, Holmgren said. … Seattle is hopeful QB Matt Hasselbeck can return next Sunday to face San Francisco.
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