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Bucs take another big step

Houston Texans v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 04: Quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up just before the start of the game against the Houston Texans at Raymond James Stadium on September 4, 2009 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

J. Meric

Each week, these young Tampa Bay Buccaneers grow up a little bit more.

Sunday’s 21-0 win in San Francisco showed that their beleaguered rush defense could be improving, and the defense as a whole can carry the team in certain weeks. The Bucs moved to 7-3, which includes a 4-1 record away from Raymond James Stadium.

Frank Gore had only 23 yards on 12 carries, while Troy Smith was held to 148 yards and an interception on 31 attempts. LeGarrette Blount had 82 yards rushing for Tampa, while receiver Mike Williams had a eight-yard touchdown.

The Bucs have yet to beat a team with a winning record this season, but they don’t make the schedule. Unlike more experienced teams, Tampa has consistently taken care of the bottom feeders of the NFL. (The Bucs are 5-0 against the NFC West and the Panthers, who should be relocated to the NFC West for their level of play.)

The Bucs are right in the middle of the playoff race at 7-3, but that doesn’t guarantee anything in a top heavy NFC. They get a chance to take another big step in the next two weeks with games against the Ravens and Falcons.