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Tampa Bay Buccaneers news and notes, part II

The big 4-0

. Bucs CB Ronde Barber, sitting patiently in the flat, leaped and snatched a pass from 49ers QB Troy Smith in the fourth quarter for his 40th interception, another milestone for a player who has reached many.

"I've been looking at 40 a long time, trying to get there," Barber said. "We were just in a Cover 2, and he tried to fit one down the sideline. If I don't make that pick, then I'm not doing my job."

Barber returned the ball 29 yards down the sideline before being yanked out of bounds by Smith. Barber, 35, had his sights set on the end zone. There was just one problem.

"I knew I was going to have to split two linemen to score," he said. "I had a sweet stiff arm, though."

He is the only player in NFL history with at least 25 sacks (26 total) and 40 interceptions.

Barber's contributions continued after the game in the locker room, when coach Raheem Morris asked him to say a few words to his young teammates.

Barber's message: Keep it loose.

"He had me say something after the game, so I said, 'We can have as much fun as we want to.' "

Graham gets back

. Bucs FB Earnest Graham was in the lineup after missing three games with a hamstring injury and after the death of his mother, Sandra Smith.

"It definitely felt great to get back on the field and be a part of such a great win," Graham said. "It seems like this team is peaking at the right time."

Graham said the past several weeks haven't been memorable for him, but his team was never far from his thoughts even when he wasn't around.

"It feels good to be back out there with the fellas," he said. "I really missed it. When I was out, of course my heart was at home, but my mind was always with the fellas, and I couldn't wait to get back out there with them."

Quick hits

. After missing a 41-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter, Bucs K Connor Barth is now 3-of-7 this season on attempts longer than 39 yards.

. Bucs QB Josh Freeman threw for only 136 yards but had a 117.9 rating with two touchdowns and no interceptions. For the season, Freeman has 14 touchdowns vs. just five interceptions.

Though it was little more than a symbolic change, Bucs rookie RB LeGarrette Blount started his first game after entering last week's game on the second play behind starter Cadillac Williams. But Blount didn't do the job alone. He credited the combination of him and Williams with keeping the defense off-balance, allowing the Bucs to rush for 162 yards. In recent games, Blount was used primarily in running situations, with Williams seeing many of his snaps in passing situations because of his pass-protection skills. But the Bucs have started to mix things up, using both players in various scenarios, and that has sprung Williams for some big runs. "Cadillac had, what, seven carries for (51) yards?" Blount said. "That's the element of surprise, baby. "When he comes in there, they say, 'Hey, 24's in the game. They're about to pass.' Then he hits them with the run. The element of surprise always works. It happened last week, too, when he broke that 50-yarder. As soon as (Cadillac) came in, we hit them. It's a deadly combo." Williams averaged 7.3 yards on his seven carries, including a 26-yard dash on third down. Blount finished with 82 yards on 26 carries, the 3.2-yard average well below the 4.8 average he entered with. But Blount ran down the clock, punished defenders and kept the defense honest, making his a successful day. "Sometimes," he said, "you can take 2 or 3 yards and a cloud of dust."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers news and notes, part II 11/21/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 22, 2010 12:17am]
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