TAMPA — Rookie RB Mike James delivered a breakout 158-yard performance Sunday against the Seahawks, his most rushing yards in a game since high school.
But a strong game by the offensive line, which has been maligned but stepped up against a stout Seattle defense, led to this performance.
"I thought the whole line blocked as well as they have all year," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "One of the things that was most promising was there were no negative plays, no negative runs, all positive. Whether it was a gain of 1, there's still no second and 11s, 12s, 13s, as far as related to the run game. That's what gave us a chance early on."
Schiano put Jamon Meredith at left guard for another physical presence, and he played well in his first start this season. The Bucs rushed for 205 yards and led in time of possession at 36 minutes, 37 seconds in a 27-24 overtime loss.
But Schiano said the offensive line also played a role in the team's struggles on third downs in the second half; after going 8-for-9 in the first half, the Bucs were 1-for-7 in the second. Schiano said pass protection issues prevented QB Mike Glennon from converting some of them.
"There were open receivers, Mike just doesn't have time to get rid of the football," Schiano said. "They have one of the better pass rushing teams in the National Football League, they throw waves of guys at you. We held up better early, then they kind of tweaked what they were doing on the perimeter and got the best of us."
BOUNCE BACK: Schiano said he could sense disappointment from his 0-8 team on their long flight home Sunday night.
"It obviously hurts," S Mark Barron said.
Schiano, however, was encouraged to see a lot of positives on film. He believes the team is coming together and will turn it around. But there was little solace in almost beating one of the league's top teams.
"There's no moral victories," Schiano said. "There's one team that wins and one that loses, and we lost. So we've got to find a way to win this game Monday (against the Dolphins)."
WR Tim Wright said Schiano has been a strong leader, "keeping the team up and keeping our hopes high," and thinks the Bucs are very close.
"We show things here and there in different games, we can have flashes here of being good at this, being good at that," Wright said. "I feel like once we put it all together, we're going to be a force to be reckoned with."
Said Barron: "This team is fine. We know what type of talent we have on this team, we know what we're capable of, we just got to figure out a way to win."
MEDICAL MATTERS: Of the injured starters, Schiano said S Dashon Goldson (left knee) is the furthest along in his recovery. Goldson, who has missed two games, could return Monday, as could Pro Bowl RB Doug Martin (shoulder). Schiano said LG Carl Nicks (foot) will not play Monday, but hopes he will play again this season.
James has emerged, but Schiano said that doesn't slow the plan to get Martin back.
"I think we want as many quality football players … as we can," Schiano said. "It's going to be a good thing to know we have two quality running backs that can run the football."
WELL WISHES: Schiano ended his news conference with an unsolicited message of support for Broncos coach John Fox and Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who were hospitalized over the weekend. Fox had heart surgery Monday, and Kubiak was getting tests after collapsing at halftime of Sunday night's game against the Colts.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't give my well wishes to both John Fox and Gary Kubiak, two of the really good guys in this business and are struggling a little bit right now,'' Schiano said. "I speak for our staff and our organization, our thoughts and prayers are with those guys. Hopefully both will make speedy recoveries."
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