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Bucs Fall Short in Season Opener

Shaun Alexander ran for 105 yards and a touchdown, but the remade, hard-hitting Seahawks defense set the tone in Seattle's 20-6 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

A big hit on lead runner Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, and a little later another hit on quarterback Jeff Garcia, sent them to the sideline and stopped the Buccaneers' offense in its tracks in the third quarter.

"Man, we're knocking people out," Julian Peterson said to teammates on the bench. One of those knock outs came from Peterson hitting Garcia low as LeRoy Hill hit him across the shoulders.

The score was 10-6 midway through the third quarter when Garcia scrambled for 3 yards and a first down. Somewhat dazed, the quarterback stayed on one knee before trainers helped him off the field and eventually to the locker room to clear his head.

By the time Garcia returned midway through the fourth quarter after two dead-end drives with Luke McCown taking the snaps, Seattle led 20-6.

On the series before Garcia left, Patrick Kerney, Brian Russell -- two of Seattle's four new starters on defense -- plus Lofa Tatupu crashed into Williams at the end of a 4-yard run. Williams, who had 60 yard on 12 carries, walked into the locker room with a rib injury.

"You don't want to see anyone get hurt seriously," Peterson said. "But this Seattle defense is different. We're coming to hit. We're coming to hurt. We want to get that reputation around the rest of the league, because that will help our offense."

The Buccaneers, who scored 10 points or less in eight games while sinking to 4-12 last season, fared no better in the 37-year-old Garcia's first start.

Garcia was 12-for-19 for 152 yards, but was sacked three times and hit six other times. McCown was 1-for-4 for 9 yards with two sacks in his two drives.

"When we get the chance to deliver the punch, we are going to try to knock people out," said new Seattle safety Deon Grant.

Despite the problems inflicted by the Seahawks, the Bucs trailed just 13-6 seven minutes into the final quarter. The Seahawks' offense had struggled trying to find a rhythm, in part because the Bucs defense surprised quarterback Matt Hasselbeck by playing deeper and blitzing less than expected.

Then Hasselbeck spotted Maurice Morris running past Derrick Brooks down the sideline. Alexander's backup, not the primary receiver on the play, beat the Bucs' 10-time Pro Bowl selection and made a tumbling catch for a 34-yard touchdown and a 20-6 lead.

"[We've] been saying to Mo for a long time now, 'Hey, be alive! You are going to get the ball.' I think it's been four years and he's never gotten the ball," Hasselbeck said.

"I was saying, 'I hope he looks.'"

Hasselbeck went 17-for-24 for 222 yards in his first full game since losing at Chicago in the playoffs last January while playing with two broken fingers and a non-throwing shoulder that required surgery days later.

Alexander was playing pain-free for the first time since he bruised his foot a year ago, and then eventually broke it.

"Anytime you are playing against them and get 100 yards, it's a good feeling," Alexander said of the Bucs.

The Seahawks appeared headed to a halftime deficit of 6-3, but Nate Burleson and ran back a punt 56 yards to the Bucs 14. Three plays later, Alexander scored from the 1 to give the Seahawks a 10-6 lead.

Tampa Bay had opportunities to get back in it.

When Garcia returned, he moved the Bucs to the Seattle 21 with 4 minutes remaining, but Earnest Graham fumbled when Tatupu punched the ball out at the 12. Kelly Jennings recovered to clinch the victory.

Early in the third quarter, Tampa Bay had its second long punt return, a 40-yarder by Ike Hilliard, negated by a penalty. That backed the Bucs to their 7, and then they lost Williams and Garcia.

"We need to have a sense of urgency about ourselves to get better right now," said Garcia, who resurrected his career by going 5-1 as an injury replacement with Philadelphia at the end of last season. "I think there were a lot of inconsistencies out there as an offense."

Then again, as Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said, "Losing your starting quarterback, losing your starting tailback -- guys you were really counting on to win the game -- in a 10-6 ball game is tough."

Game notes
A leaping 49-yard catch by Joey Galloway over Jennings, punctuated by Galloway pointing at and taunting his former home crowd, set up Bryant's 38-yard field goal in the first quarter. Galloway had five catches for 72 yards. He also had a 37-yard punt return that was negated by a holding penalty. ... Kerney, playing his first game following surgery in November for a torn pectoral muscle, had 1½ sacks and four quarterback hits in his Seattle debut.


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