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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs' Jameis Winston is Rookie of the Week, again

For the third time this season, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has been voted as the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week, this after throwing for five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Bucs' 45-17 rout at the Eagles last week.

Winston has won the weekly honor three times and linebacker Kwon Alexander has won twice, so the Bucs have won five times in their 10 games. Winston matched an NFL rookie record with his five touchdown passes Sunday, tying the Bucs' franchise record as well.

Winston's three weekly honors are the most for any NFL QB since 2012, when Washington's Robert Griffin III won seven times and Indianapolis' Andrew Luck won three times. The Bucs' fiv weekly honors are as many as the team totaled in the award's first 13 seasons from 2002-14 -- Doug Martin won once in 2012, Cadillac Williams three times in 2005 and Michael Clayton once in 2004.

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Bucs will go without DE Johnson, S Tandy, likely ASJ

The Bucs will play Sunday in Indianapolis with only two players ruled out due to injuries -- defensive end George Johnson will miss a second straight game with his calf injury, while safety Keith Tandy remains sidelined with a concussion.

Coach Lovie Smith said tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has still not been cleared for contact, which suggests he will miss a ninth straight game with his shoulder injury, suffered in Week 2. Both of the team's options at right guard -- rookie Ali Marpet, who started the first eight games, and veteran Evan Smith, who has played the last two -- are limited by injuries, but Smith wouldn't say which player is more likely to start.

"We're in good shape," the coach said. "We have (only) a couple of guys out. This time of year, that's a good thing."

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NFL officially informs Bucs of Alexander's 4-game suspension

The Bucs may be forced to play the final month of the season without rookie middle linebacker Kwon Alexander.

The team on Wednesday received official notice from the NFL that Alexander has been suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.

Alexander has five business days, including Thanksgiving, to notfiy the league of his plans to appeal. Therefore, he is expected to play Sunday's game at Indianapolis. The appeal process could take an additional week or two, meaning Alexander may miss the Bucs (5-5) final four games of the regular season.

"All we know right now is yes, the letter came yesterday,'' Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "There's an appeal process and all that that he could possibly go through. But we have been notified by the league, yes.'' …

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Bucs, Winston plowed through headset outage in Philly

Jameis Winston's five touchdown performance in Sunday's 45-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles was historic on its own merit. He tied an NFL record for the most TDs in a game by a rookie held by the Lions' Matthew Stafford. But what made it even more impressive was the Bucs' headsets went out for much of the first two series and Winston navigated a couple of those drives without direct communication from offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

"They were in an out for most of the first couple series for both offense and defense," Koetter said of the coaches' headsets. "They were going in and out and the backup quarterbacks, Ryan (Griffin) and Mike (Glennon) they were screaming at me, 'We can't hear you! We can't hear you!' Jameis would say, 'I can't hear you.' When the coach to quarterback system works, it's the greatest invention in the world. When it doesn't work, it's heart attack time. We have a wrist band we can use. But that play clock is running fast and it's just so much better when it works the way it's supposed to." …

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Colts' Hasselbeck, Bucs' Koetter go back 20 years

Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who turned 40 in September, has been playing long enough that he has ties that go back more than 20 years, like the fact that his first offensive coordinator at Boston College was current Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

"He was a really, really good football coach, a great quarterbacks coach, and I feel really lucky that in college I had such good coaching," said Hasselbeck, who has played well this season, throwing for five touchdowns and two interceptions filling in for the injured Andrew Luck.

Hasselbeck is 3-0 as starter, including a win against Atlanta last week, and he said he owes Koetter a small part of him getting into the NFL in the first place, putting in a good word with the Packers, who drafted him in the sixth round in 1998.

"I guess Dirk had put in a helpful assessment of me when really no one else in the world thought I could make it at the next level," he said. "Thanks to Dirk and Andy Reid for seeing something that I didn't even see myself, for helping me get to the NFL. I learned a lot from him." …

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Bucs' Lavonte David named NFC Defensive Player of Week

The Bucs' offensive stars missed out on the NFL's top weekly honors, but linebacker Lavonte David was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after getting two interceptions -- returning one for a touchdown -- in the Bucs' 45-17 win at the Eagles.

David is the second Bucs linebacker to take home the honors this week -- rookie Kwon Alexander was honored after Week 8 -- and it's his second time winning, having won in 2013 as well. He joins Derrick Brooks and Hardy Nickerson as the only Bucs linebackers to win the award twice.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston (5 TD passes) and RB Doug Martin (235 rushing yards) both missed out on NFC offensive honors, which went to Carolina QB Cam Newton, who also had five touchdowns in Carolina's win ...

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Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Listen to Episode 11 ...

Another week, another Bucs win, another new edition of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast -- Episode 11, with Rick Stroud and I talking about the Bucs' big win in Philadelphia and this week's game in Indianapolis. Don't forget to send us your questions on Twitter at @gregauman and @NFLstroud and thanks for everyone listening each week -- you can subscribe on iTunes as well ...

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Bucs bring back DE Kourtnei Brown, waive Sidbury

Continuing their search for depth at defensive end, the Bucs on Monday claimed Kourtnei Brown off waivers from the Texans, bringing back the well-traveled pass-rusher for a second stint in Tampa Bay.

Brown had been cut by six teams before making his NFL debut for the Bucs in September, and was then cut after only one game. He's been on roster with the Texans for the past six games, though he was only active for one of the six games, playing primarily on special teams. To make room, the Bucs waived defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, who played Sunday but had no tackles in six defensive snaps.

The Bucs are battling injuries at defensive end, with Jacquies Smith returning Sunday after missing two games with an ankle injury and two backups -- George Johnson and rookie Josh Shirley -- inactive Sunday with calf injuries.

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Winston, Bucs at their best on third downs, in red zone

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bucs offense dominated in all phases in Sunday's 45-17 win at the Eagles -- running the ball, passing the ball and playing turnover-free football. But two areas where the Bucs showed impressive improvement were in high-pressure situations, excelling on third downs and in the red zone.

Rookie QB Jameis Winston, who tied an NFL rookie record with five touchdown passes, was especially strong on third downs -- in the first three quarters, the Bucs were 10-for-13 on third downs, with Winston going 8-for-9 for 79 yards and three touchdowns on those plays. A strong running game meant the Bucs had reasonable third-down situations -- their first five conversions were all on third and 6 yards or less.

The Bucs defense, at the same time, was at its best on third downs early, not allowing the Eagles to convert their first four third downs as the team built a 21-7 lead by the middle of the second quarter. In the first three quarters, the Eagles were 3-for-9 on third downs. …

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Kwon Alexander on suspension: 'Disappointed in myself'

Lost in the excitement of the Bucs' 45-17 win at the Eagles was news Sunday morning that rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander is facing a four-game suspension for a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Alexander said he is appealing the suspension and will continue to play until that appeal is heard -- a process that sometimes takes 2-3 weeks -- but said he accepts responsibility for not checking with team trainers before taking an "energy drink" that he's taken since high school.

"It's my fault ... I've never been in any trouble or anything," Alexander said. "It's very disappointing. I'm really disappointed in myself. All they kept saying is if you're about to drink something, ask somebody first. I'm very disappointed in myself and I hold myself accountable. ... If I get suspended, I'm going to come back even stronger."

Alexander, a fourth-round pick from LSU, has started every game at middle linebacker and had played in all but five defensive snaps this season entering Sunday's game. He led the team in tackles with 10 on Sunday and is among the NFL's leading tacklers, also with two interceptions, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. …

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Winston throws 5 TDs as Bucs rout Eagles, 45-17

PHILADELPHIA -- Behind record-setting days from Jameis Winston and Doug Martin, the Bucs are back at .500 (5-5) after a 45-17 rout of the Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Martin rushed for 235 yards -- second-most in team history and second-most ever against the Eagles -- and Winston tied an NFL rookie record with five touchdown passes, also matching the Bucs' team record. Winston hit five different receivers as the Bucs won back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two years.

Bucs linebacker Lavonte David intercepted two passes, returning the second 20 yards for a touchdown to punctuate the win with 4:16 left.

The Bucs actually trailed 7-0 early, but a 58-yard run by Martin set up a 4-yard touchdown from Winston to receiver Mike Evans. Then there were touchdown passes to Vincent Jackson and Russell Shepard for a 21-7 lead. After the Eagles scored to cut the lead to 21-14, the Bucs went 80 yards and scored on a Winston touchdown to running back Charles Sims for a 28-14 lead with 1:05 left in the half.

The Bucs had 355 yards of total offense in the first half -- the second-best total of any half in Bucs history, trailing only a 1980 game with 374 yards in the second half against the Vikings. That game is the only one in franchise history with more total yard (573) than the Bucs finished with (523) on Sunday.

Already dominating in time of possession, the Bucs held the ball for the first 9:47 of the third quarter, grinding out a 15-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Winston hitting tight end Cameron Brate for a 35-14 lead. That touchdown matches the NFL rookie record set by the Lions' Matt Stafford, and matches a Bucs franchise record, held by Josh Freeman, Brad Johnson and Steve DeBerg. He finished 19-for-29 for 246 yards with the five touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Bucs haven't been at .500 this late in a season since Dec. 2012, when they were 6-6 on the way to a 7-9 record. The Bucs travel to face the Colts next week, still very much in the NFC wild-card picture after starting this weekend two games back.

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Halftime: Winston, Martin lead Bucs to 28-14 lead over Eagles

Doug Martin rushed for 177 yards in the first half.

Getty Images

Doug Martin rushed for 177 yards in the first half.

What an offensive explosion by the Bucs.  

Rookie Jameis Winston threw four touchdown passes and running back Doug Martin rushed for 177 yards in the first half as the Bucs lead the Eagles 28-14 at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Bucs have 355 yards in the first half.

Here are some first half observations.

--Martin is having his biggest game since he rushed for 251 yards and four TDs on 25 carries against the Raiders as a rookie. His 83-yard run in the second quarter is the second-longest in the NFL this season.

Martin has been helped by the return of WR Vincent Jackson. The Eagles have not been able to crowd the line of scrimmage today, but Martin is breaking tackles and getting to the second level on most carries.

--Winston is having a big day passing the ball very well. His four TDs broke a club rookie record. Winston has been money on third down. The Bucs have converted 6 of 8 third down opportunities.

--The Bucs defense has been very opportunistic. They have forced two turnovers, including an INT by LB Lavonte David to end the first half. Unfortunately, Jacquies  Smith fumbled after making a fumble recovery. …

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Vincent Jackson back for Bucs; ASJ, Marpet still out

Vincent Jackson's healthy return gives rookie Jameis Winston two big targets against the Eagles secondary, taking some of the load off receiver Mike Evans.

AP photo

Vincent Jackson's healthy return gives rookie Jameis Winston two big targets against the Eagles secondary, taking some of the load off receiver Mike Evans.

After missing three games with a knee injury, Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson is back and active for today's game at the Eagles, while tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and guard Ali Marpet remain out with injuries.

Jackson's healthy return gives rookie Jameis Winston two big targets against the Eagles secondary, taking some of the load off receiver Mike Evans. With Jackson active, rookie Donteea Dye is inactive today. Defensive end Jacquies Smith is back after missing two games with a sprained ankle, a boost for the Bucs' pass rush.

Seferian-Jenkins is out for the eighth straight game since spraining the AC joint in his shoulder in Week 2 against the Saints. Marpet misses a second straight game, so former center Evan Smith will again start at right guard. Defensive end George Johnson is also out after injuring his calf in last week's win against the Cowboys; rookie end Josh Shirley is also out after injuring his calf this week in practice.

Also inactive for the Bucs are safety Kimario McFadden, who doesn't dress because Major Wright is back healthy, and No. 3 QB Ryan Griffin, who has been inactive every week this season.

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Bucs' Alexander facing four-game suspension for PED

Alexander is expected to start today for the Bucs against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Once the team is notified, Alexander will have five business days to appeal and that process could take several weeks.


Alexander is expected to start today for the Bucs against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Once the team is notified, Alexander will have five business days to appeal and that process could take several weeks.

Bucs rookie middle linebacker Kwon Alexander is facing a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs. The league is expected to notify the Bucs of the suspension in a letter Monday, but team officials are aware of the positive test, the Times has learned.

Alexander is expected to start today for the Bucs against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Once the team is notified, Alexander will have five business days to appeal and that process could take several weeks.

The banned substance is believed to be contained in something Alexander consumed over the counter as a supplement. Two samples given to the league by Alexander tested positive for a performance enhancing drug. The first sample may have been collected during training camp.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht declined comment Sunday, saying he has not received official notice from the league or had a chance to review the case against Alexander.

According to the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Player's Association, first-time offenders of the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs receive an automatic four-game suspension. …

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Bucs promote LB Josh Keyes to final roster spot

The Bucs have filled the final spot on their 53-man roster for Sunday's game in Philadelphia, promoting rookie linebacker Josh Keyes from the practice squad.

Keyes (pronounced KIZE) went undrafted out of Boston College and was with the Bucs all the way through final cuts, getting eight tackles in the preseason and another three on special teams. He spent two weeks on the Bucs' practice squad and two weeks on the Chiefs' as well.

Keyes should take the role on kickoff and punt coverage that opened up when the Bucs waived linebacker Orie Lemon on Monday. The Bucs had kept the final spot on the roster open to guard against needing a promotion for depth due to injuries, so Keyes' promotion bodes well for defensive end Jacquies Smith being healthy enough to be active Sunday after missing two games with a sprained ankle.

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