TAMPA, Fla.— There wasn't panic in the Seahawks locker room following Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay; just the acknowledgement that this wasn't their best performance, or anything close to it, and that on this day the Buccaneers were the better team.
Seattle's 14-5 loss at Raymond James Stadium doesn't undo what the Seahawks have done this season; it doesn't change the fact that they were coming off a three-game winning streak, all against teams with winning records, nor did it change their status atop the NFC West. It was just another example of how hard it can be to win on any given day in the NFL, especially when facing a team that put forth the kind of defensive effort the Buccaneers did on Sunday.
"I thought that was a really good showing by Tampa Bay," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "They outplayed us and they beat us up front and did a fine job of getting themselves a win today. We had a chance to get back a number of times, but they just didn't open up the door for us, we couldn't make it happen. We did not play like we play, it didn't feel like it. That starts right with me. If everybody kind of plays a little bit off, then that's me. So I've got to do my part, they've got to do their part, and we've got to get our game back and get rolling again.
"I'm just disappointed we came all this way and played like that. We didn't play anywhere near like we thought we would."
If the way that game played out seemed foreign, that's because it was. Seattle was still in the game late thanks to its defense finishing strong after allowing two first quarter touchdowns, but unlike both of Seattle's losses this season, this one didn't come down to the final possession. When Russell Wilson's second interception of the game gave Tampa Bay the ball back with a nine-point lead and less than two minutes on the clock, it didn't just allow the Buccaneers to clinch victory, it was also the end of a remarkable streak that speaks to the Seahawks' consistency and competitiveness in recent years. Prior to this game, the Seahawks had either held a fourth-quarter lead or been within one score of the lead in the fourth quarter in every game since their Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh in 2011, a streak of 98 games including the postseason.
"We've got to get back to work," Carroll said. "We've got a big finish coming up in this season. The main thing was just to admit that this was not the way we want to play, then let's turn our focus. On the way home, we'll be talking about getting ready for next week."
While the Seahawks came into the game beat up — they played without center Justin Britt, defensive end Michael Bennett, safety Earl Thomas and cornerback DeShawn Shead, among others — they weren't going to use that as an excuse.
"That's no excuse," Wilson said. "We've still got to find a way to win."
Seattle's defense didn't get off to a good start, allowing two touchdowns on Tampa Bay's first two possessions, but that group came up big after that, stopping the Buccaneers on nine straight possessions, including two forced turnovers, to keep the Seahawks in the game. The offense, however, couldn't find its way, in large part because of a Buccaneers pass rush that recorded six sacks and 11 quarterback hits.
"They rushed the heck out of us," Carroll said. "It wasn't any one situation at all. They did a really nice job, and we didn't protect like we needed to. They had a big day, they had six sacks, that's just crazy. We haven't been doing that at all, we've been really on the other end of that. That's an oddity for us, so we've got to get back to work and fix that. They got six sacks, but they moved him a lot. Russell was running all over the place back there… We were just out of sync. It wasn't like we want to be."
Seattle's offense, which had turned the ball over just once in its past seven games, had three giveaways Sunday, including two Wilson interceptions, doubling his season total.
"That's the story of the game; it always is," Carroll said of the turnovers. "When we give up three, we're going to be in trouble, it's going to be hard."
But despite a tough outing across the board by the offense, the Seahawks remain positive about what lies ahead, in part because they've responded well from rough patches in the past.
"We've just got to play better, and we're looking forward to the next opportunity," said Wilson, who on a more positive note rushed for a season-high 80 yards on eight carries. "It's pretty simple, we've just got to find ways to make plays, and we will. We have before. We struggled a little bit tonight, obviously, and we're looking forward to getting back to it. You've got to give credit to Tampa Bay, they played a great football team.
"To be a championship team, you have to fight, you have to keep swinging, you can't play with any fear. That's what we did tonight, but unfortunately we didn't win. The great thing is we'll get back to work next week … they made their plays, we didn't. It's pretty simple, sometimes you make your jump shots, sometimes you don't, and unfortunately today, we didn't hit ours, but we will next time."
The Seahawks posted season highs in yardage, yards per play, rushing yards and yards per carry only a week earlier against a good Philadelphia Eagles defense, so rather than panic, they'll tip their hats to the Buccaneers for outplaying them on this day, get back to work and try to clean up the mistakes that cost them in this game.
"We've been doing great," running back Thomas Rawls said. "It was just one of those games where we just didn't have a rhythm, we didn't pick it up. We got ourselves in a hole and tried to crawl back out, but overall it's nothing we're too worried about. It's in the past now and we'll move onto next week.
"It was just one of those games. They played a good game, and hat's off to them. We've just got to pick it up. Overall, I'm not going to say we really needed it, but it'll keep us humble, keep us locked in and detailed and working hard. It's fine, we'll come back next week and show what we can do."
Check out some actions photos from Week 12 vs Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium.