Garcia solidifies his job with victory
Jeff Garcia (Getty Images)
Jeff Garcia (Getty Images)

Posted Oct 20, 2008


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a stellar performance from Jeff Garcia in defeating the Seattle Seahawks, 20-10, on Sunday night in front of a national television audience. The Bucs remain in the NFC South lead with a 5-2 record.

The Bucs no longer have a quarterback controversy.

Jeff Garcia took a wrecking ball to that by passing for 310 yards and a touchdown in the Bucs' 20-10 win over Seattle.

The smoke returned to Garcia's arm. There was also lots of life in his legs. And suddenly, you get the feeling they still are enough to carry the Buccaneers a long way.

The 38-year-old quarterback went 27 of 36 passing, completing throws to 10 different receivers and shredding the Seahawks for 226 yards during a nearly flawless first half -- a career high -- including a 47-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant.

"He was hot tonight," said coach Jon Gruden. "He made a lot of plays and we had 10 or 11 different receivers make catches. He was healthy. And when he's healthy, he's at his best."

The victory improved the Bucs to 5-2 -- their best start since 2005 -- and left them tied atop the NFC South with Carolina (5-2), whom they blasted 27-3 last week.

It was the second straight win for Garcia, who was benched following a season-opening loss at New Orleans.

Garcia was replaced by Brian Griese, who went 3-1 as a starter before sustaining elbow and shoulder injuries in a loss at Denver three weeks ago.

Garcia used the time out of the lineup to get healthy. He had been limited by ankle, calf and finger injuries.

After serving as the inactive third quarterback for three weeks, he worked his way up to No. 2 and replaced Griese at Denver. Now the huddle and the offense belongs to Garcia again.

Remember, it was just last season that Garcia led the Bucs to an NFC South title.

"This guy has been to (four) Pro Bowls," coach Jon Gruden said. "He created some opportunities running and throwing to a lot of people. He was fun to watch."

Garcia also brought the long ball back to the Bucs offense, hooking up with receiver Antonio Bryant for a 47-yard touchdown. Bryant had a breakout game, finishing with six catches for 115 yards and the touchdown.

"I think Jeff kind of wanted to go deep since we hadn't had a completion over 40 yards," Bryant said. "Everyone was kind of antsy to make a big play down the field, so it all went together."

Meanwhile, the Bucs defense continues to be stingy. They're also getting strong contributions from young, emerging stars like Gaines Adams and Aqib Talib, who recorded his third interception Sunday.

"He loves the ball," Gruden said of Talib. "I have a lot of confidence, and really have a lot of respect for his ability. I think he's going to be a premier corner in the league. He has to continue to work and he knows that. He has to continue to refine his game. Ronde Barber, (coach) Raheem Morris and other guys in that room will help him do that."

The Bucs have been under the radar, but if Garcia continues to remain healthy and improve, they will be considered one of the NFC's best.

BY THE NUMBERS: Jeff Garcia's 47-yard TD strike to Antonio Bryant was the first pass completion of over 40 yards this season for the Bucs. They had 11 last season, with eight of them coming to Joey Galloway.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

WR Joey Galloway missed his fifth straight game with a foot sprain.

WR Ike Hilliard suffered a concussion against the Seahawks and was kept overnight at St. Joseph's hospital.

CB Aqib Talib recorded his team-leading third INT Sunday night against the Seahawks.

RB Earnest Graham played more fullback Sunday against Seattle and scored from that position on a one-yard run.

WR Dexter Jackson continues to struggle as a kickoff returner and was replaced in that position by Michael Clayton against Seattle.


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