SEATTLE — After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran for a season-high 205 yards Sunday, rookie Mike James and the men who carved open the holes for his career day took turns complimenting each other.
James gashed the Seahawks for 158 yards in only his second NFL start, running with conviction and reaching the second level often as Tampa Bay's interior offensive line had its way.
“It was phenomenal the way our guys up front got on guys and finished their blocks,'' said James, a sixth-round draft pick out of the University of Miami who is thriving while Doug Martin recuperates from a shoulder injury suffered in Atlanta two weeks ago. “It's fun to run behind blocking like that.''
Center Jeremy Zuttah and guards Davin Joseph and Jamon Meredith took turns dominating up front and James kept knifing through mammoth running lanes as Tampa Bay grabbed a 21-7 halftime lead against a 16-point favorite.
“Mike James played a heck of a game — he's growing up right in front of our eyes,'' said Meredith, who stood out at left guard in his first start of the season. “We're going to keep pushing until we turn this thing around.''
The Bucs topped the 100-yard rushing mark for only the third time this season and James wasn't complaining after lugging the ball 28 times. James averaged 5.6 yards per carry as Tampa Bay displayed far more offensive balance, with Mike Glennon throwing only 23 times.
“We started fast, but we didn't finish,'' Zuttah said. “We had a couple of chances to finish this game off and we didn't. End of story. Mike finishes off his runs in style ... he's the kind of back you want to block for.''
Meredith became the fifth different Bucs starter at left guard this season. He fit in seamlessly with a group that helped Tampa Bay almost double Seattle's possession time in the opening half.
“Mike runs his tail off and he sparked us today,'' right tackle Demar Dotson said. “The kid works hard all week and it's showing.''
Joseph has struggled to regain his Pro Bowl form after missing the entire 2012 season with a knee injury that required surgery, but he was aggressive and powerful Sunday.
“To see guys play so hard is encouraging, to see coaches coaching so hard is encouraging,'' Joseph said. “We got better today. Not good enough for a win yet, but better. Everyone in this room realizes our hard work isn't going for nothing.''