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Down 21-0, Seahawks rally for eighth victory

Posted Nov 3, 2013

Steven Hauschka’s 27-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Seahawks to a 27-24 victory over the Buccaneers at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, but a lot had to happen before that could happen.

When the Seahawks got the ball in overtime on Sunday, Steven Hauschka was thinking game-winning field goal all the way.

It was just a matter of how long his game-winning attempt would be, in Hauschka’s ever-optimistic mind, so you can imagine how much better the Seahawks’ rock-steady kicker felt as Marshawn Lynch sandwiched runs of 10 and 3 yards, and then 4, 14 and 13 yards, around an 11-yard completion from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin. Each play put Hauschka closer to chip-shot territory.

And when his 27-yard attempt sailed through the uprights in the south end zone at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks hadn’t just outlasted the still-winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24, they had overcome the largest deficit (21 points) in franchise history.

“I knew we were going to have a field goal no matter what,” Hauschka said in the locker room. “So I was getting ready. I thought we were going to have a long one. Then we get to the 6-yard line and that’s a bonus. That’s a lot easier kick.

“It’s not exciting. It’s a big one because it won the game. But for me, it’s just the same thing. It doesn’t have to perfect. It just has to go through (the uprights).”

The how-did-they-do-that victory extended the best start in franchise history to 8-1, giving the Seahawks a 1½-game lead over the idle San Francisco 49ers (6-2) in the NFC West and the same margin over the New Orleans Saints (6-2) and 49ers for the best record in the conference as they prepare to travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons next Sunday.

The first thing coach Pete Carroll did when he stepped to the podium for his postgame session with the media was laugh. Then he offered, “What a day at the stadium. Really just a tremendous statement that our guys made today about hanging together and believing and really just about competing. They competed so hard today. And under the circumstances that we were under, this just doesn’t happen.”

And Hauschka’s second game-winner of the season slapped an exclamation point on an afternoon that started with so many question marks for the Seahawks.

How can a Bucs team that hadn’t won a game storm to a three-touchdown lead on the team with the NFC’s best record, in a venue where the Seahawks haven’t lost since their home finale in 2011? Who is Mike James, a back who stepped in for an injured Doug Martin and ran for 158 yards of the Bucs’ 205 rushing yards against a defense that entered the game ranked No. 2-ranked in the NFL? Can anyone block strong safety Mark Barron and linebacker Lavonte David, who had 11 tackles each? Would the crowd of 67,873 eventually turn on the Seahawks as the forehead-slapping plays mounted?

More pertinent, however, after the Seahawks fell behind 21-0, was what they did to crawl out of that hole.

“A lot of really cool things that happened,” Carroll said. “To see that Russell finds a way to get us into position to win again, he’s just a terrific football player and a great leader. He never thought for a second that we weren’t going to win this football game. He made the plays he needed to make to put us in position to do it.”

Here’s what happened, and how it happened:

Getting the ball back with 2 minutes, 16 seconds left in the half, Wilson scrambled for 16 yards on a play that became a 31-yard gain when defensive end Da’Quan Bowers was penalized for a blow to the head. Nickel-back Michael Adams then got a 29-yard pass interference penalty while defending Baldwin on the next play. Wilson then passed 16 yards to Jermaine Kearse for the Seahawks’ first touchdown.

“We faked the flat out, the bubble route to Doug,” Kearse said. “I acted like I was going to block and then I just saw the open area and just took it. Russ saw me, threw a good pass and I just tried to make a play for him.”

Offered Wilson, “The biggest thing I’ve learned is, if there’s any time left on the clock there’s still a chance.”

The defense allowed the Bucs to drive 65 yards on the first series of the second half to a field goal that pushed their lead to 24-7. But the Seahawks then put the clamps on the Tampa offense, limiting the Buccaneers to 76 yards and no points on their final five possessions – including a three-and-out to open the overtime period.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in what we can do,” said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who led the abrupt about-face effort with 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks. “We understand that they got away with plays. But we just felt that we weren’t playing our best game. We looked up and we were only down 21 and felt like we had too much time for us not to comeback. We just went to playing Seahawks football.

“At the end of the day, we still came away with the win. And that’s the most important thing.”

The offense, meanwhile, began to find the rhythm that had been so elusive while it was stumbling around in the first half. Wilson hit passes of 17 yards to tight end Zach Miller, 19 yards to Golden Tate on third-and-4 and 19 yards to Baldwin before scoring on a 10-yard run to cap a nine-play, 86-yard drive.

“You’ve got to rise up to the occasion, you can’t be timid in those big-time situations,” Wilson said. “You’ve got to be able to step up and make the play and believe in what you do and just stay in the moment.

“I look forward to those situations, to be honest with you.”

Tate then broke a 71-yard punt return of which Carroll said, “Just kind of let you know that we were here, and that we were coming for this win.” It set up only a field goal by Hauschka, but it also pulled the Seahawks to within a touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter.

It appeared the Seahawks would get that touchdown as Wilson drove them to the Bucs’ 3-yard line – thanks to his drive-opening 28-yard pass to Baldwin, a 6-yarder to Baldwin on third-and-3 and then another of those how-did-he-do-that catches by Kearse for a 27-yard gain.

“Russell has a lot of trust in me,” Kearse said. “Sometimes he’s just able to throw it up there and give me a chance to make a play on it. To have a guy who gives you those types of opportunities, you want to make that plays for him. I enjoy making those plays for him.”

But Wilson’s pass to Baldwin in the end zone on the very next play never got there, as free safety Keith Tandy – who was subbing for injured Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson – made a one-handed interception at the goal line.

“Oh my goodness, I didn’t see anybody, but the fact that I was wide open,” Baldwin said. “And then I saw the guy make a helluva play. I mean the play was beautiful. It was schemed up beautifully. Russell threw a beautiful ball. You’ve just got to give a lot of credit to the defender. He made a helluva play.”

Undaunted, the defense forced a three-and-out and Wilson and Lynch then propelled the Seahawks on a 10-play, 59-yard drive to a 10-yard TD pass to Baldwin that tied the score with less than two minutes to play.

“I kind of felt like it was going to be open,” Baldwin said. “We actually called the same play a few times, a few plays earlier, and I was open, too. We came back to it, got similar coverage and I was open. Pre-snap, pre-read, reading the coverage, I could tell I was going to be open. And Russell made a beautiful throw.”

Then came the overtime period, and Hauschka’s progressively closer shot at his game-winner.

When it was all over, Lynch had run for 125 yards and the Seahawks 198; Wilson had completed 19 of 26 passes for 217 and the two TDs to offset two interceptions; and Baldwin, who moved into the starting lineup this week after Sidney Rice got a season-ending knee injury against the Rams in St. Louis on Monday night, had caught six passes for 75 yards.

Oh, and the Seahawks had – some how, some way – found a way to win their eighth game.

“That’s a testament to the team,” Hauschka said. “Coach Carroll gets us working really hard in practice. We fly around in practice, just like it’s a game. No matter what the circumstance, we could have been down 50 and we would have played just as hard. That’s the consistency we get from practicing really hard. We don’t know another speed.”

Hopefully we’ll just have to take Hauschka at his word about the 50-point deficit, because watching the Seahawks storm back from that 21-0 deficit was exhilarating – and excruciating – enough.