TAMPA — The pain in cornerback Aqib Talib's hip during Sunday's game against the Falcons was the result of a tendon that tore from the bone. Center Jeff Faine tore the triceps in his right arm. Neither player will need surgery, and both are expected to make a full recovery.
But there's no apparent end to the suffering for the Bucs.
For the second straight week, coach Raheem Morris' team lost two starters to the season-ending injured reserve list.
"There's no place for excuses; those young men have to be replaced," Morris said Monday. "They're always tough losses when you lose anyone."
Talib injured his hip with 11:48 left in the second quarter while tackling running back Michael Turner for a 1-yard loss. He did not return to the game.
Talib's value to the defense will be impossible to replace. He routinely was used in man coverage to shut down the opponent's top receiver, was having a Pro Bowl-caliber season and was tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
Faine, who missed four games with a quad injury this season, tore his triceps early in the fourth quarter Sunday. He suffered a similar injury in the opener last season and missed the next six games.
"I'm frustrated but focused on helping my team win and rehabbing to have a productive offseason," Faine said in a text message Monday.
In last week's loss to the Ravens, the Bucs lost two other starters: guard Davin Joseph (broken foot) and safety Cody Grimm (broken left leg).
Talib will be replaced by second-year pro E.J. Biggers, who played well at times Sunday. But he failed to get a deep enough drop in Cover 2 on Atlanta's third-and-20 conversion on the winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
"Like I tell everybody, we have the best two corners in the league," Biggers said. "Two-five (Talib) is the best corner in the league; he can do everything. Ronde (Barber) is the best corner in the league to me, also. Those guys can do everything. I watch those guys every day; I get in their hair and get tips whenever I can. When something happens, I know I have to step in and do the same things they do. They lock down guys every week.
"That's the nature of the beast. When somebody goes down, you have to step up. I can't have a dropoff."
Jeremy Zuttah, who has started at center and both guard positions this season, will replace Faine for the final four games. The Bucs plan to use rookie Derek Hardman at right guard. He performed well during the team's final drive and in pass protection, offensive coordinator Greg Olson said.
Morris said he has been impressed how resilient his team has been amid the mounting injuries. Defensive tackle Brian Price (hip) and defensive end Kyle Moore (shoulder) are on injured reserve, and safety Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
"I've been really encouraged by the way the guys have responded, how they've played, with these guys moving around positions, playing different spots," Morris said. "Zuttah has played two different spots on the offensive line and has the ability to play three or four. Those guys bounce around, and they keep playing and keep playing tough. They come in and out of the lineup.
"We finished the game Sunday with Hardman out there, and he played well. … You've got to be pleased with that being a young head coach and being a young football team and having a young offense. You've got to be pleased with that ability to know your depth gets better and better every week."
The Bucs travel to Washington on Sunday before returning home for games against the Lions and Seahawks. They finish the season at New Orleans. Morris said he expects his team to finish strong.
"Tough stretch there, the last two games," Morris said. "First two-game losing streak of the season. But these guys, they're young, they're infectious, they love playing the game. I look forward to seeing these guys … and get ready for next week. Another important game, another road game, and we'll be ready to play."