Buccaneers 20, Seahawks 10
As a coach who established himself as a mastermind of the passing game during his 23 years in the NFL, it's hard to fathom what is going through Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren's mind these days.
Having gone through a slew of wide receivers due to injury, and then Sunday starting his third quarterback in as many weeks, the offense continued to suffer.
This time it was Seneca Wallace's turn to run the game. Last week, it was third-string quarterback Charlie Frye running the offense in the wake of starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's disk problem that has him sidelined for an undetermined amount of time, while Wallace was unable to start due to a strained calf. But with the calf better this week, Holmgren gave his veteran backup a shot.
It mattered little as the offense still sputtered on its way to a 20-10 loss at Tampa Bay.
The Seahawks had just 176 yards – only 73 in the air - and 7 first downs, while the Bucs rolled up 402 yards of total offense and dominated time of possession 41:41-18:18. The Seahawks lone touchdown came with 1:55 left in the game and trailing 20-3, a 2-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to tight end John Carlson.
But it wasn't enough, despite a great defensive performance in the second half after falling behind 17-0. Both Mo Morris and Julius Jones had good runs in the second half, however, the offense couldn't sustain any tempo with the way the active Tampa Bay defense stacked the box at the line of scrimmage.
That's not to mention the revolving door of Seahawks at the skill positions.
"Well it's hard," Holmgren said. "We're not used to this. Quite frankly, we're having a heck of a time moving the ball. At times, you can overcome a player or two and get it done. But the combination of who we've lost and what position, it's hard to overcome. We're able to run some, but we can't sustain that.
"We couldn't keep our defense off the field which hurt us. I'm really proud of how they came out in the second half. Down 17-0, they battled in the second half."
They even did it without All-Pro middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who along with Leroy Hill created what could have been a transitional play in the game. They sandwiched wide receiver Ike Hilliard at the 4-yard line and the ball came loose. The whistle had blown, however, despite Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson scooping up the ball and seemingly on his way to a 96-yard touchdown.
Holmgren challenged the call, and the Seahawks were awarded the ball, but because the whistle had blown, the ball could not be advanced. Not only was Hilliard out for the game with a concussion, but so was Tatupu.
"Actually when Lofa got hurt, Josh Wilson picked up the ball and was running, he might have gone all the way," Holmgren said. "But the one guy blew his whistle. Once a whistle has blown, we can get the ball on the challenge, but the rule states you can't advance the ball."
Another game-changer came after Wilson's 61-yard kickoff return put the ball at the Tampa Bay 33. With momentum and three minutes left in the first half, two plays following the return, a miscommunication on the snap count between Wallace and center Chris Spencer resulted in a fumble and a turnover.
A third sequence came in the third quarter when Morris made a couple of spectacular interior cuts on a draw play to get outside for a 45-yard run to the Tampa 20. But an incomplete pass, a 5-yard loss on a checkdown pass and another incompletion set up a missed 38-yard field goal from Olindo Mare.
"We have to be almost perfect," Holmgren lamented. "There were three plays that would have been nice to get."
Instead, it turned out to be a career first half for Garcia that took control of the game. He was 19-of-24 passing for 226 yards after the first two quarters, and finished 27-of-36 for 310 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant. That, too, was a play that Holmgren found questionable considering Bryant appeared to knock down Seahawks cornerback Kelly Jennings to catch the ball.
The Seahawks defense really clamped down on the Bucs offense in the second half, leaving a glimmer of hope until a 69-yard fourth quarter drive burning more than nine minutes off the clock put the game away with the field goal that made it 20-3. Ultimately, the time off possession just wore down the Hawks, and the Bucs put the game away by making key third down conversions (10-of-18) when the Seahawks (2-of-10) could not.
"The defense really played well for us tonight," Wallace said. "They shut them down in the second half. We just couldn't establish any tempo in our offense. Give (Tampa) credit, their defense did a good job. We needed to make plays but we just didn't get it done. We just have to keep fighting and get ready for San Francisco next week."
The win moved the Bucs to 5-2, while the Seahawks slipped to 1-5 and last place in the NFC West heading into San Francisco against the 49ers.
Insider Point After
Twice the Seahawks got to the Bucs 20-yard line in the second half, but failed to get a first down. They settled for a 26-yard field goal from Olindo Mare the first time and he missed from 38 yards on the second drive.
Offensive player of the game
Running back Maurice Morris bounced back strong from a knee injury to rush for 56 yards on 6 carries, including a huge 45-yard run in the third quarter.
Defensive player of the game
Playing in place of middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who suffered a concussion in the second quarter, D.D. Lewis came on to lead the Seahawks in tackles with 11.
Special teams player of the game
Josh Wilson had kickoff returns of 61 and 46 yards, nearly breaking both of them, ultimately averaging 36.5 yards per return.
The Bucs extended the lead to 20-3 on Matt Bryant's 27-yard field goal that capped off a 16-play, 67-yard drive that ate up 9:34 off the clock. That left the Seahawks with just 4:34 left in the game.
The Seahawks got into the end zone, with 1:55 left in the game, cutting the lead to 20-10 when Seneca Wallace, faked a pitch out to T.J. Duckett and rolled right to find tight end John Carlson for the 2-yard touchdown. The score capped off an 8-play, 50 yard drive. It was jump-started by Josh Wilson's 46-yard kickoff return, and buffeted by 21-yard run from Julius Jones.
Olindo Mare then attempted an onside kick, but Michael Clayton recovered for the Bucs.
The Seahawks got on the board early in the second half thanks to great field position when rookie Justin Forsett returned a punt 24 yards to the Tampa 25. The Hawks got their second first down of the game on an 8-yard pass from Seneca Wallace to Maurice Morris, and then Morris bolted another 3 yards. But the drive stopped there, and Olindo Mare came on to boot a 26-yard field goal with 10:21 left in the third quarter. That sliced the lead to 17-3, with Mare converting his 11th field goal without a miss.
The Seahawks defense held the Bucs on the next series and then Morris broke off a spectacular 45-yard run on the first play from the Seahawks 35. That took them to the 20, but that was when the Bucs defense continued their exceptional play. Unfortunately, Mare's 38-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
The Seahawks got a break late in the quarter on a blitz from Leroy Hill that forced Jeff Garcia into an intentional grounding that took them out of field goal range. The Seahawks took over the football deep in their own territory as the quarter came to a close with the Bucs leading 17-3.
Halftime at a glance
Tampa Bay 17, Seattle 0
The Seahawks had 44 yards total offense, one first down and turned the ball over via interception by Seneca Wallace and an aborted snap between Wallace and center Chris Spencer. The Seahawks did have a takeaway in the second quarter when Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu hit Ike Hilliard, but the Seahawks failed to capitalize.
Meanwhile, the Bucs had 14 first downs and 266 yards total offense, as quarterback Jeff Garcia was 19-of-24 for 226 yards passing in the half.
Play of the half
On a third-and-7 from the Seattle 47, the Seahawks defense blitzed Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia, but didn't get to him. Garcia found Antonio Bryant down the left sideline, Seahawks corner Kelly Jennings fell down, and the 47-yard touchdown on the first series set the tone for the half.
Turning point of the half
Bucs wide receiver Ike Hilliard was carted off the field on a 4-yard pass from Garcia, when he was sandwiched from behind by Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu in the back and Leroy Hill in the front at the Seahawks 4-yard line in the second quarter.. It was ruled a complete pass, but Mike Holmgren challenged that it was a fumble. The whistle had blown, which eliminated defensive back Josh Wilson pick up and unchallenged return. It prevented what could have been a score.
Bucs wide receiver Ike Hilliard was carted off the field on a 4-yard pass from Garcia, when he was sandwiched from behind by Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu in the back and Leroy Hill in the front at the Seahawks 4-yard line. It was ruled a complete pass, but Mike Holmgren challenged that it was a fumble. The whistle had blown, which eliminated defensive back Josh Wilson's unchallenged fumble return.
By rule it could not be advanced, but the Seahawks took over first-and-10 on the 4. The Seahawks appeared to get a big play on a 21-yard burst up the middle from T.J. Duckett, only to have it called back on a holding penalty. And that ended the drive.
Not only did Hilliard suffer a concussion on the play, but so did Tatupu, who was having his vital signs checked by Seahawks physicians. The Bucs responded with a 6-play, 59-yard drive, the big play coming on a 34-yard pass from Jeff Garcia to Jerramy Stevens to the Seahawks 16. Three plays later, Earnest Graham took it in from the 1 with 6:32 left in the half to make it 14-0, Tampa Bay.
The Seahawks took over the ball on the 31, but on the first play, Seneca Wallace's pass was deflected by middle linebacker Barrett Rudd, and Seahawks wide receiver Koren Robinson, and intercepted by rookie corner Agib Talib. He returned it to the Seahawks 35.
Garcia immediately went to Alex Smith for 16 yards and Warrick Dunn ran it 9 yards to the 10-yard line on the next play. The Bucs appeared to be about to gamble on fourth-and-1, but after Garcia failed to draw the Seahawks offsides. He called timeout, and Matt Bryant came on to boot a 27-yard field goal to make it 17-0 with 3:12 left in the half.
Josh Wilson took the ensuing kickoff and raced 61 yards up the left sideline to the Tampa Bay 33. However, on the second play from scrimmage, there was a mix up on the snap count, a fumble followed, and the Bucs took over on the Bucs 31.
Matt Bryant missed a field goal with two seconds left in the half and the score remained 17-0 heading into the lockerroom.
With Seneca Wallace at quarterback, the Seahawks dug out of a little hole, starting their first series at their own 13. But a near-big play down the left sideline from Wallace to John Carlson fell awry and the Bucs got the ball on their own 37.
Jeff Garcia stepped up right away for the Bucs at quarterback. They quickly moved to midfield, and on a third-and-7, the Bucs picked up the Seahawks blitz, and Antonio Bryant beat Kelly Jennings down the left sidelines for a 47-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 with 9:13 left in the first quarter. It was the first pass play of the season longer than 40 yards for the Bucs.
The quarter ended 7-0, with the Bucs on the Seahawks 23. For the quarter, Tampa had amassed 118 yards and 6 first downs to 27 yards and 1 first down for the Seahawks.
This and that
The Seahawks inactive list includes injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, d wide receiver Deion Branch, defensive end Baraka Atkins, defensive tackle Howard Green, kicker Brandon Coutu, tight end Will Heller, cornerback Kevin Hobbs and kicker Brandon Coutu. Safety Brian Russell serves as the emergency quarterback. … Second-year linebacker Will Herring was activated, coming off the physically unable to perform list after overcoming the joint inflammation that kept him out of training camp. Herring played on special teams Sunday. … When Lofa Tatupu went down with a concussion in the second quarter, D.D. Lewis replaced him and finished the game. … Darryl Tapp started at right defensive end instead of Lawrence Jackson. … In the wake of Branch being out for the second game in a row with a heel injury, Jordan Kent was active for the first time this season. … This is also the first time this season that Green has been inactive, opening the door for rookie Red Bryant to fit into the defensive line rotation. … The starting wide receivers were Bobby Engram and Koren Robinson. … Just signed to the 53-man roster this week, rookie Justin Forsett, a native of nearby Lakeland, Fla., fielded punts, in fact had the dubious distinction of catching his first one on the Seahawks 3-yard line in the first quarter. He returned it 12 yards to the 15. His second punt return was superb, and he almost broke it with a 24-yard return to the Bucs 25. … The Seahawks travel to San Francisco to meet the 49ers next Sunday.