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Bucs' defense forces five turnovers to rally past Seahawks

SEATTLE -- Josh Freeman walked over to Tampa Bay's sideline after his ninth interception in just over two games. The 21-year-old rookie looked first-year coach Raheem Morris in the eye and calmly said: "I got it."

Morris' reply: "Go get it."

He did.

Freeman threw two touchdown passes in the second half, Tampa Bay's battered defense forced five turnovers from Seattle's reckless Matt Hasselbeck, and the Buccaneers rallied to a 24-7 win over the Seahawks on Sunday.

Tampa Bay (2-12) won for just the second time in 17 games, and won on the West Coast for the first time since beating Oakland in the Super Bowl on Jan. 26, 2003, in San Diego.

With maybe 500 angry Seattle fans watching by the end, the young Bucs smiled triumphantly pointed to the sky after the team's first win away from Tampa in 10 tries, since Nov. 23, 2008, at Detroit.

"There was never a moment when my confidence was shaken," Freeman said. He finished 16 of 26 for 205 yards after starting 2 for 6 with the interception.

One week after losing 34-7 at Houston, the Seahawks (5-9) were held to fewer than 10 points for the fourth time this season. That's their most since 2001 -- Hasselbeck's first season as Seattle's starter and just before the franchise turned into a perennial playoff team that made a Super Bowl appearance in the middle of this decade.

That seems like centuries ago.

"We thought after last week it couldn't get any worse," Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said.

"Surprise."

According to STATS, this was the first time Seattle lost to a one-win team this late in a season since a 28-16 loss to the 1-10 New York Giants on Nov. 28, 1976. That was the Seahawks' inaugural year.

"It's not something I ever thought would happen," Hasselbeck said.

It was hard to tell what was more stunning: this uprising from the young, beaten-down Buccaneers -- or just how far the sorry Seahawks have fallen.

Tampa Bay's last road victory against a team that wasn't winless was Nov. 2, 2008, at Kansas City.

"This is a milestone, really," said 34-year-old cornerback Ronde Barber, who has been a Buc since 1997. "We definitely have a long way to go still, but we feel like we're building something."

Seattle's dismal week began with coach Jim Mora pleading that he needed tougher "dirtbags," and saying the league-wide perception is that the Seahawks were soft. Then came Saturday night's news that locally beloved Mike Holmgren would not be returning as an executive to save the franchise.

Then came Saturday night's news that former coach Mike Holmgren would not be returning as an executive to save the franchise.

Then came Hasselbeck's demise against a defense that had been plagued by big passing plays all season.

It got so bad for the Seahawks, they were forced to use little cornerback Kelly Jennings as their long snapper for punts in the second half, when regular snapper Kevin Houser got hurt for the second time in the game. It was a comical sight, the Buccaneers anxiously pointing at the tiny lineman wearing No. 21 amid giants, as if a trick play may be coming.

The Seahawks have way too many issues for that.

"Goodness sakes. It was exasperation to believe we could actually be at the point where our backup right corner is long snapping," Mora said. "I say to myself, 'How did this happen? ... He's 172 pounds, dripping wet.'"

Hasselbeck's third turnover in 2 1/2 quarters came when receiver Deion Branch fell running his route. Tanard Jackson intercepted the pass -- "an early Christmas present" Jackson said. On the next play Carnell Williams took a screen pass from Freeman and went 22 yards for Tampa Bay's first touchdown in 12 quarters, since the second half in Atlanta on Nov. 29.

That gave the Buccaneers a 13-7 lead midway through the third quarter.

"Once we executed that screen pass and got into the end zone, it was a big relief to everyone," Williams said. "I mean, when you're 1-12, man, [it] wears on you."

Seattle had its lowest moment of an already sunken season. Until five minutes later.

A 33-yard punt return by rookie Sammie Stroughter set up the Buccaneers in Seattle territory for the fourth time. Freeman completed two third-down passes to Stroughter. Then on third-and-goal he faked left and deftly plopped a right over Seahawks end Patrick Kerney to Derrick Ward for a 6-yard touchdown. After Freeman ran in a 2-point conversion, Tampa Bay had a 21-7 lead.

And boos drenched the home team like cold winter rain.

Asked if he can now agree the Seahawks are soft? Houshmandzadeh said: "I don't know what the perception is. I try to put myself in another team's shoes.

"[They] probably say, 'Aw, the Seahawks [stink].'"

Game notes
Hasselbeck had his first four-interception day since Oct. 24, 2004, and just the second of the three-time Pro Bowler's career.