Freeman's two (point) step
Leading 13-7, the Bucs had landed a huge blow when RB Derrick Ward scored on a 6-yard dump-off pass from QB Josh Freeman with more than 17 minutes left. It seemed awfully early, but Tampa Bay went for a two-point conversion, trying to build a full two-touchdown lead.
The call was a quarterback draw, and it was successful. But it was rather effortless, too.
Did Freeman expect it to be so simple?
"Actually, I did," Freeman said with a smile.
That's how much confidence the Bucs had in the play. With the Bucs in a shotgun formation, the Seahawks predictably spread their defense across the field, dropping at least five into pass coverage.
"They expected us to throw," Freeman said.
Knowing this, Freeman took the snap and ever-so-briefly pulled the ball into a throwing position, only to quickly tuck it and run through a gaping hole for the two points. What allowed that to happen was two key blocks: on the middle and weakside linebackers.
"If they kept the middle of the field open, you (block) the (linebackers) and there's really nobody on you," Freeman said. "I just picked it up like I was going to throw it, and it cleared out. … Before I got touched, I was 3 yards in the end zone."
One big catch
With the game still very much in doubt, the Bucs were scratching and clawing for points when they led 13-7 late in the third quarter.
On third and 7 from the Seattle 18, the Bucs needed someone to keep the drive alive. Who better than third-down specialist Sammie Stroughter, the rookie receiver who has thrived in the slot position?
QB Josh Freeman scrambled as the pocket broke down then opted to throw just before crossing the line of scrimmage. But his indecision led to a poor, forceful throw. Stroughter made a midair adjustment, reaching behind his body for a 9-yard catch and a first down. The Bucs went on to score a touchdown.
Stroughter contributed in other ways on the drive. His 33-yard punt return set Tampa Bay up at its 37 rather than deep in its own territory. And Stroughter caught a 16-yard pass on another third-down play on the drive.
"When your number gets called, you have to be your best," Stroughter said.
Stroughter averaged 18.5 yards on four punt returns, crediting his teammates.
"I think it was the fear of (the Seahawks) getting a punt blocked," he said.
The Bucs have blocked two punts this season, coming close on many others, and have blocked five kicks in total.
Mack's big pick
The Seahawks, down 24-7 early in the fourth quarter, were running short on time. Knowing this, veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck started to take more chances.
Thus was the case as he fired a ball 50 yards down the field toward former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch on a sideline go route. Two things made the play go awry: The pass was overthrown, and CB Elbert Mack was defending against the deep ball. Mack ran underneath the ball and intercepted it at the 6.
"They were trying to take a shot down the field," Mack said. "He threw it up as a jump ball. I mean, Deion Branch has made a lot of plays in this league. (Hasselbeck) had faith in him. But he overthrew him a little bit, and I was over the top of the route, so I got a chance to make a play."
Mack went on to get another interception in garbage time.
"On the second one, that was a desperation play," Mack said. "I figured, why not go get two?"