Seahawks Outlast Buccaneers, Snag Overtime Victory
Following last Sunday’s win in Atlanta, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll placed an emphasis on finishing strong rolling into the final eight games of the regular season.
While several troubling trends emerging from a 6-2 start were visible once again, including a silenced pass rush, the Seahawks heeded Carroll’s words by continuing to battle and erasing a 14-point first half deficit for a thrilling 40-34 overtime victory over the Buccaneers.
“That was a really cool football game.” Carroll said. “It was hard, it was a challenge throughout the game - we weren’t ahead for a long time. To just stay in it, keep banging, and keep believing we could do the things right long enough to win a football game and that lesson us all the way to regulation.”
Continuing to enhance his MVP resume, quarterback Russell Wilson put the Seahawks on his shoulders, torching the NFL’s 31st ranked pass defense to a tune of 378 passing yards and five touchdowns. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf finished with 152 and 123 receiving yards respectively and combined for three touchdowns.
But for most of Sunday afternoon, Wilson’s heroics looked to be all for naught, as Seattle kept finding unique ways to try and let the game slip away.
Starting with their first possession of the game, quarterback Jameis Winston carved up the Seahawks embattled secondary, orchestrating three first half touchdown drives to give the Buccaneers a 21-7 lead. For the game, he completed 29 out of 44 pass attempts, while star receiver Mike Evans lit up Seattle’s defense with 12 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown.
Most importantly, Seattle couldn’t figure out how to pressure Winston, finishing the first half without a single quarterback hit and allowing the former Heisman winner to get comfortable in the pocket.
“We struggled. We struggled quite a bit.” Carroll assessed. “We thought we would find more ways to get to the quarterback and we only got to him a couple times.”
Despite a rough start that included a missed field goal by Jason Myers and constant defensive breakdowns, the Seahawks did what they’ve done all season long, clawing back into the game thanks to the greatness of Wilson.
With just 48 seconds left in the half, Jacob Hollister drew a 38-yard defensive pass interference on linebacker Devin White and Wilson went back to the tight end on the next play for his first career touchdown reception. Myers missed the ensuing extra point, leaving the deficit at 21-13 at the break.
After both teams traded three-and-outs to open the third quarter, Chris Carson broke through four tackles against Tampa Bay’s top-ranked run defense and exploded for a 59-yard run. But the play nearly became disastrous for Seattle, as White raced him down from behind and punched the ball out, only for it to bounce out of bounds.
Quickly shaking off the near-turnover, Wilson hooked up for Hollister again down the seam for a 22-yard pickup to the Buccaneers one-yard line. Two plays later, he lofted a perfectly thrown ball to Lockett in the back left-hand corner of the end zone for their second touchdown connection of the game and a Metcalf two-point conversion tied the game at 21.
Rookie Matt Gay and Myers swapped field goals on each team’s next possession, keeping a tightly contested game knotted up at 24 apiece. Then, the Buccaneers created the critical turnover necessary to finish off a road upset during the early stages of the fourth quarter.
Continuing to struggle with ball security, Carson lowered his shoulder seeking a few extra yards after contact, only for the football to squirt out of his grasp before he went out of bounds. Coach Bruce Arians challenged the ruling on the field after he was initially ruled down and the Buccaneers were awarded the football at the Seahawks 45-yard line.
“He knows better.” Carroll stated. “When the guy is below you, we don’t throw the football and the shoulder into the guy, for exactly what could happen. We’ve talked about this for a couple of years.”
Fortuitously, on a day where Tampa Bay had already caught numerous breaks, Seattle had the ball bounce back in its favor only a few moments later.
Looking to move the chains on 3 and 5, Winston scanned the field and reared back to throw. But before he started his windup, the football slipped out of his throwing hand and defensive Rasheem Green nearly returned the fumble for a touchdown before Evans chased him down at the Buccaneers 15-yard line.
Fast-forwarding to the 5:22 mark with the score tied at 27, Metcalf made the biggest play of his young career. Coming open on a deep crossing route with Lockett double teamed in coverage, Wilson put the throw right on the money as he raced to the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown.
“I beat my man,” Metcalf smiled. “Russ put it in a perfect spot again. I just scored.”
After Metcalf’s score, Winston engineered a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of his own capped off by a one-yard plunge by reserve running back Dare Ogunbowale. With 46 seconds remaining and one timeout left at their disposal, the Seahawks would have one last chance to win it in regulation.
Completing two passes to Metcalf and scrambling for a 21-yard run, Wilson swiftly moved Seattle deep into Tampa Bay territory, setting up Myers for a chance at redemption. Unfortunately, after Arians used his team’s final timeout, the 28-year old kicker missed his third kick of the day, sending the game to overtime.
Though Carroll’s team botched a valuable opportunity, backup quarterback Geno Smith came through in clutch calling heads on the coin toss, getting the football right back to Wilson in the extra period. There was little doubt in anyone’s minds what would happen after that point.
“Russ has done this so many times.” Carroll said, adding, “You can’t have a better guy, almost in the history of ball, doing it. So, we were thrilled because we think we’re going to go down and win.”
As he’s accomplished countless times in his eight-year career, Wilson did just that, leading his team past midfield with an assortment of short passes before hitting Metcalf on a 29-yard back shoulder throw down the left sideline. Two plays later, he connected with Hollister for the game-winning score.
While there’s still many improvements that must be made, most notably on defense and special teams, Carroll believes this gutsy victory will serve a young Seahawks squad well in the future heading into a gauntlet of games against NFC contenders.
“The lessons that come out of this, the value of a game like this, is so important. Continuing to believe, continuing to hang in there, and talking the talk that’s necessary at the time is so important because we’re going to need it again.”