Graham hits two more milestones

Earnest Graham became the fourth back in team history to score 10 touchdowns in a season. Find out what team record he set and where his quest for a 1,000-yard season stands in his notebook from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' victory over Atlanta

TAMPA — Earnest Graham continued to rack up the milestones as he carried the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensively on Sunday.

The Cape Coral Mariner product finished with 119 yards from scrimmage (79 rushing, 40 receiving), scored a touchdown and moved closer to his first career 1,000-yard season.

More immediately, Graham set a franchise record after scoring a touchdown for the sixth straight game. No Buccaneers offensive player has ever done so.

In addition, the touchdown was his 10th of the season, making Graham the fourth Buccaneers back to score at least 10 touchdowns in a season. The team record is 13 by James Wilder in 1984.

Graham enters the season's final two games with 877 rushing yards. With 123 more, Graham would become the seventh different back — and the 10th back overall — to rush for 1,000 yards.

He also has 47 receptions, third-most on the team and most among Bucs running backs.

But Graham was able to share the load on Sunday. Michael Pittman rushed for 50 yards after a four-week absence, and Michael Bennett rushed for 63 yards.

"It was great to have a three-back rotation tonight," Graham said. "It's great to have that pride going into the playoffs."

PLAYOFF PULSE: Tampa Bay's win, coupled with Seattle's loss, put both teams at 9-5 entering the final two games and tied them for the No. 3 playoff seed. Both teams have clinched their respective division titles and will host home playoff games in the Wild Card round.

Seeding, however, is still up for grabs. The Bucs must, however, finish ahead of the Seahawks in overall record to claim the No. 3 playoff seed because the Seahawks beat the Bucs in the season opener to claim the head-to-head tiebreaker.

THOMAS' DEBUT: Atlanta interim head coach Emmitt Thomas made his debut as a head coach on Sunday, the end of a 28-year wait.

Thomas, a 13-year NFL veteran defensive back who is up for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this February, has spent 28 years in the NFL as an assistant coach, most notably as a defensive coordinator in Philadelphia from 1995-98, where he served on the same staff as Bucs head coach Jon Gruden.

A CAREER DOZEN: Bucs CB Ronde Barber's first-quarter interception return for a touchdown was the 12th touchdown return of his career (including the postseason). It also marked the seventh interception return of his career. His other touchdowns have come on four fumble returns and a punt return.

WHITE'S RECORD: Bucs DE Greg White forced a team-leading seventh fumble in the second quarter. In doing so, he tied the team record for most forced fumbles in a season. He now shares the record with Broderick Thomas (1991) and Wally Chambers (1979).

INJURIES: The Bucs reported no postgame injuries. Backup QB Luke McCown had laryngitis, which is why Bruce Gradkowski, and not McCown, relieved Jeff Garcia in the fourth quarter.

For the Falcons, RB Jerious Norwood left in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury after a 29-yard gain down the Buccaneers sideline. He did return.

INACTIVES: For Tampa Bay, QB Bruce Gradkowski (third quarterback), FB Zack Crockett, RB Kenneth Darby, FB B.J. Askew, LB Jeremiah Trotter, G Dan Buenning, DE Greg Spires and DT Greg Peterson were inactive. For Atlanta, QB Byron Leftwich (third quarterback), CB Antonie Harris, LB Travis Williams, G Justin Blalock, OL Pat McCoy, DT Jesse Mahelona, OL Harvey Dahl and TE Courtney Anderson were inactive.

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Listen to Bucsblitz.com's Matthew Postins every Tuesday with former Buccaneers linebacker Scot Brantley on WHBO 1470 ESPN Radio in Tampa and Clearwater from 3-6 p.m. If you miss the show, check out Bucsblitz.com's exclusive team media center for Postins' archived appearances.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.


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