TAMPA, Fla. -- If the surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers find a way to remain in playoff contention, they'll have to do it without two of their best players.
Cornerback Aqib Talib and center Jeff Faine were placed on injured reserve Monday, becoming the third and fourth starters to be lost for the season in the past two games.
Talib and Faine were hurt during Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Talib suffered a hip injury in the first half, while Faine departed in the second half with a triceps injury.
Coach Raheem Morris did not disclose specifics about the injuries, saying during his weekly news conference that the Bucs (7-5) were still trying to determine the severity.
Talib arguably is the team's best player on defense. He is tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions, despite missing one game while serving a suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Faine started all eight games he played this season and has been a team captain since signing with Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2008.
Injuries have forced Morris to constantly adjust the lineup, particularly on the offensive line, where the Bucs figure to begin next Sunday's game at Washington with four inexperienced starters pressed into duty because of injuries -- rookie guards Ted Larsen and Derek Hardman, third-year tackle James Lee and versatile third-year pro Jeremy Zuttah, who's started one game at right guard and four more at center, filling in while Faine was sidelined with a quad injury.
"I've been really encouraged by the way the guys have responded, how they've played, with guys moving around to different positions, playing different spots," Morris said, addressing the depth on the offensive line. "They're playing solid football. You've got to be pleased with that, being a young head coach and having a young football team."
Talib was a first-round draft pick in 2008 and generally draws the assignment of covering the opposing team's top receiver. He returned one of his six interceptions for a touchdown. Second-year pro E.J. Biggers will replace him in the starting lineup, and rookie Myron Lewis likely will assume an expanded role as a backup.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press