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No one expected the Seattle Seahawks to be 6-3 through nine weeks— no one outside of the Seahawks organization, anyway. Despite the woeful prognostications, however, Seattle has consistently leaned on a crisp offense and rapidly improving defense to rip off four consecutive convincing victories.
With the NFL making its debut in Germany, Seattle loaded all those delicious vibes on the team plane and flew across the Atlantic to face a team in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that has also defied preseason expectations, just in the wrong way. Still, Tampa has the best quarterback in history, even if he is 45, and were coming off a miraculous last-second win to try and get their own season back on track. It all added up to one of the marquis matchups of the week, and the fans in Munich were ready.
The crowd was already going ballistic when Seattle kicked it off, but they’d have to wait a while to see much from the offenses. The Bucs went three and out with the opening possession and Seattle returned the favor, punting it away after a 10-yard completion to DK Metcalf predated an absolute schlamassel on third down. Facing 3rd & 5, Seattle got a delay of game penalty when they were unable to get lined up correctly, then had to burn a timeout after that when they ran into the same problem. All of that led to a gruesome seven-yard sack on Geno Smith and the Seahawks looked completely out of sorts.
Tampa got a little momentum on their next drive, when Tom Brady hit a tightly-covered Mike Evans for 29, but it would be short-lived. The Seahawks defense regained their footing and held the Bucs to a long field goal attempt that Ryan Succop pushed wide right to keep the game scoreless.
That gave the Seahawks great field position but they were unable to capitalize, most notably when Geno Smith rolled right on 3rd & 2 and, instead of keeping it for what looked like a gimme first down, tried to thread it into traffic. The pass was batted down and Seattle had to kick it away again. And that’s when Tampa Bay got to work.
What followed was the first of four long drives from the Buccaneers, as they used a devastating combination of quick passes and forceful runs, with one of the worst offensive lines in the league dictating terms up front. Seattle’s defense, which has been elite over the last month, had no answers as Tampa pushed the ball down the field in short chunks. When they got to Seattle’s 31, they reached for a play they saw the Cardinals have success with last week.
With Julio Jones lined up in the slot, Brady took a quick drop, his receivers darting in every direction as Seattle dropped into their short zone coverage. Julio cut inside and Tariq Woolen passed him off to the defenders over the middle of the field. Unfortunately, there was no one there to pick the Hall of Famer up. Brady hit Jones on the slant and watched with fists raised as Jones scooted all the way into the endzone. It was a carbon copy of the Deandre Hopkins touchdown a week ago and will continue to be a thing if Seattle doesn’t pick up their communication. That made it 7-0 Tampa Bay, and we were finally off and running.
One of the hallmarks of Seattle’s success this season has been their ability to answer opponent scores— in fact, no team in the NFL has done it more consistently than the ‘Hawks. And with the team looking discombobulated, they needed it now in a big way. Unfortunately, there was just more trouble awaiting the offense. After a short completion to Ken Walker III, Smith hit Metcalf on a stick route and watched him bully his way forward for 14 yards. But then an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from Damien Lewis set up a 3rd & 22, and even though Smith hit Noah Fant to get 15 of them back, Seattle had to punt it away again.
The next two drives were more of the same, with Tampa Bay executing their second consecutive 13-play scoring drive, this time leaning heavily on Leonard Fournette to drain most of the second quarter out of the clock. By the time Fournette punched it in from a yard out, it was looking really grim for the Seahawks. Their next possession didn’t help, either, as they again failed to answer the bell. Another Metcalf first down reception went to waste as it was followed by three consecutive incompletions, though it did allow Michael Dickson to deliver Seattle’s first highlight. Dickson obliterated the punt, bombing it 68 yards and catching the sideline at the 4. It was the best kick of the year from one of the most talented punters on the planet. Sadly, great punts only do so much when you’re down 14-0.
The worst half for Seattle in two months ended after a couple more punts and the Seahawks hit the locker room down by two scores, and with just a measly 57 yards of total offense to show for it. If they were going to keep their win streak alive, the ‘Hawks were gonna have to dramatically outplay a Bucs team playing their best football in a long time.
It got off to a good start, as Seattle received the second half kick and responded with four straight passes for four first downs. The first two were to Will Dissly, followed by a leaping catch from Tyler Lockett and another sideline grab from Metcalf. The Seahawks were finally rolling, but they really needed to get seven points with this opportunity. They got kinda close, moving it as far as Tampa’s 22, but when Geno’s 3rd down pass was incomplete to Metcalf, DK said one word too many to the nearest official and got flagged. The 15-yard penalty stretched an easy field goal out to 55 yards, but Jason Myers was up for it. Myers blasted the ball through the uprights to put Seattle on the board an inject some hope into the traveling 12s.
Tampa got right back to it on offense, stringing together a few more first downs as their beleaguered O-line continued to press the issue against a Seattle front that had trouble keeping up. Using completions to Evans, Chris Godwin, and Cameron Brate, the Bucs slipped into Seattle territory with their minds set on putting the game away. But instead of keeping the gas pedal down, Tampa Bay got cute. They lined Fournette up in the backfield and snapped it directly to him, but instead of charging ahead, Fournette stopped and threw it down the left sideline towards... Tom Brady? Woolen was over there, not surprised by the play, but he had to be shocked that they actually threw it. Brady slid to the turf as he tried to adjust to the RB’s amateur throw and Woolen got the easiest of his six picks this season. I’m not sure why the Bucs stepped away from their wonderful execution to try something so silly, but I guess if you have a chance to let your running back throw across the field to the least mobile QB in history, guarded by a 6’4” DROY candidate, you gotta do it.
It was a monumental gaffe from a team that was well on their way to a comfortable win, and it gave the Seahawks an opportunity to make it a lot more exciting. Given new life, Smith got right to it, scrambling for four and then hitting Fant for 11. From there, it was all Metcalf and Walker III, as Smith hit his huge WR for a first down, then swung it out to his RB for another six. Geno found DK again for another first down, then went back to Walker III for 16 on a (rare) beautiful screen pass. Three straight Walker runs got them a first down at Tampa’s 9 and it looked like Seattle was gonna get themselves right back in the mix. Instead, catastrophe.
Smith took a shotgun snap but it never looked like he had a plan. He tucked the ball like he was gonna run, then stepped back to pass before bringing the ball back down and attempting to scramble. As he did, Devin White poked the ball out and the Bucs fell on it to erase Seattle’s best chance to date.
It was hard to feel like the game wasn’t over at that point, but the Seahawks’ season has earned some benefit of the doubt. If they could get a stop and put together a scoring drive, they’d have a smidgen of hope to cling to down the stretch. The thing about playing Tom Brady, though, is there’s nothing he hasn’t seen— and he knows how to slam a door shut. With Fournette out of the game with a hip pointer, Brady turned the game over to rookie running back Rachaad White, who put together the best sequence of his young career, rushing it seven times for 38 yards, including a 29-yard dance to flip the field. With the run game humming for the first time all year, Brady finally pulled off from the 4 and hit Godwin in the paint to make it 21-3.
At this point, it didn’t seem like the Seahawks were gonna show any juice, which is a shame after all the travel, prep, and hype that went into this game. If they were going to even make this respectable, they’d have to get it in gear immediately and, to their credit, they finally did. It looked for all the world like this would just be window dressing, but there’s no denying the pop on the Seahawks sideline when they finally cashed in. Completions to Walker III, Dissly, Walker III again, and Fant got Seattle into scoring range for the third time. This go ‘round, they delivered, with Geno stepping through a collapsing pocket and juking the safety with his eyes. Meanwhile, Lockett ran straight up the left seam, feinting left as Smith looked that way before breaking back inside. Smith pivoted and threw as the crossed-up defender fell, and Lockett snagged the pass for a touchdown. Down 21-9, the offense stayed on the field for a two-point attempt but Smith’s pass was batted down, leaving Seattle with a lot of work to do.
With just eight minutes left, Seattle would need to get a stop and a score in quick order, and there wasn’t much about this game that indicated either of those things would happen. I mean, there’s no way a Tom Brady offense would turn it over again, right? Seattle already got their one gift, and Brady hadn’t thrown a pick in nearly 400 attempts.
Apparently, Cody Barton didn’t give a shit. With Keyshawn Vaughn taking over for White in the backfield, the Bucs got another first down to start the drive, with Brady evading 3rd down pressure to hit Vaughn in the flat while Seahawks defenders slipped on the pitch. After a short Vaughn run, Brady went play-action but I’m guessing he never saw Barton, who was dropping back into the intermediate zone. The pass hit him right in the hands, and Seattle had the ball back near midfield with a chance to make this thing really exciting.
It took too long, but Smith finally found his magic. After two incompletions and a seven-yard hookup with Lockett, Seattle found themselves facing a 4th & 3. On that play, Smith dropped back as pressure closed around him. Standing strong, he heaved it out to the left where it was speared by a diving Lockett for a hell of a conversion. Smith would scramble for nine on the next play, but Fant barely missed tapping his feet in the endzone on a wheel route on the following snap. On 3rd & 1, Walker III got stuffed and with a field goal doing them no good, Smith and Co stayed out there for 4th & short.
Needing just a yard, Geno said no to the bite and went for the whole cake. After taking the snap, he drifted back and, while he gave up ground, flung the ball to the back left corner of the endzone. It was a remarkable throw, as the spiral soared over the head of the defender but it was the catch that was really amazing. Marquis Goodwin, who was sprinting along the back line, went horizontal as the ball sailed his way, snagging it while parallel with the ground and then cradling it to his chest as he bounced off the turf.. Myers banged home the extra point to make it 21-16 and just like that, the Seahawks were a stop away from getting the ball back with one more chance to win.
It was a stop, however, that never materialized. Brady did what Brady does in these situations, hitting Jones up the right hash for one first down, and White did the rest— sealing the game with a gashing first down run off the right side, sliding down in bounds as Seattle’s winded defense shook their heads. Three kneels later, and Seattle was 6-4.
~Geno Smith was pressing today. Last week I mentioned how Geno spent the first two-thirds of the game looking like the regressed version of himself many expected this season but he bounced back with a heroic final three drives. Today, it was all pumpkin until the very end. The fumble in the redzone was awful, and it took him too long to hit his stride as a passer. He struggled pre-snap and couldn’t evade pressure in the first half.
The late surge made his line look pretty good, and it’ll keep his season stats on track— but if you watched the game, you know it didn’t tell the whole tale. Smith completed 23 of 33 passes for 275 yards, two TDs, and no interceptions but there just wasn’t enough in the first three quarters to give his late flurry much of a chance. There’s no doubt Geno is still the guy, but the team will need better from him than what they got today. And they will.
~Ken Walker III was totally bottled up on the ground today, and his cleats were no match for the grass. Spending much of his time sliding around, Walker III was able to make up for some of it with a healthy involvement in the passing game. He finished with 10 carries for just 17 yards, while chipping in six catches for 55 more. He was held out of the endzone for the first time since taking over for Rashaad Penny, though that’s nothing new for a defense that has been the best in the league against the run for about four years now.
~This team is still struggling to get DK Metcalf downfield looks, but boy is he evolving as a receiver. On a day when everyone was slipping, his routes were crisp and powerful. He made a couple really tough contested catches but it was his ability to gain separation that really stood out this morning. He led the team in targets (9) and receiving yards (71) while tying Walker III for the receptions lead. He was held out of the endzone, and his longest catch went for 16, so it ended up just being another possession-style game for Seattle’s alpha.
Tyler Lockett had a slow start, catching just one pass in the first half but he got going late. He finished with three grabs on five targets for 42 yards and the first score. Nobody’s numbers are gonna jump off the page when your offense spends three quarters doing next to nothing, but Lockett’s score was just one more example of the surgical route running that has kept his status among the league’s elite for so long.
I love how involved the tight ends are in this offense. For years, we’ve seen them used as checkdown options almost exclusively. With Shane Waldron, however, they are utilized as real weapons, and all three of Will Dissly, Noah Fant, and Colby Parkinson have earned meaningful targets. They combined for six catches on eight targets for 69 yards, providing valuable options for Smith on a day when the receivers had a tough time getting loose.
~The offensive line struggled mightily in this one, especially early. Tampa’s front seven is fearsome to be sure, but it’s not like the Seahawks were getting dominated physically. Rather, they just looked confused, missing blocks and appearing to lack the type of communication that has helped them coalesce over the last month-plus. Smith was sacked three times, there was no run game to speak of, and they accounted for a handful of penalties. Not their best.
~Defensively, Seattle could just never get home. Tom Brady is the best ever at a lot of things, but perhaps nothing highlights his greatness more than his ability to get the ball out, on target, quickly. As a result, Seattle never laid a hand on him and, aside from Cody Barton’s pick, Brady pretty much did what he wanted.
Two turnovers, but no sacks and, perhaps more distressing— Seattle couldn’t stop the run even when they knew it was coming. The Buccaneers came into this game averaging a pitiful 2.9 yards per carry but they bulldozed their way to 162 yards on 41 rushes, squeezing valuable life out of the game clock like wringing out a sponge.
Barton and Tariq Woolen each had their picks, and Jordyn Brooks extended his NFL lead in tackles with 14, but there wasn’t a whole lot else to feel great about. 21 points is pretty good in a vacuum, but it was all the long drives that made it feel so much more frustrating than the final score would indicate. Just hard to see them get run on like that, especially by a team that hasn’t been able to do it all season.
~If you needed one stat to best describe this outcome, look no further than 3rd downs. Tampa Bay converted an incredible 10 of their 15 attempts while Seattle went just one for nine. That’s your game right there.
Look, I think we all knew this game was out there. I can’t blame the distance because both teams had to deal with it; it’s just disappointing to see Seattle, who takes so much pride in preparing themselves for travel games, basically forfeit the first half. The thing about a 6-3 start, however, is that it buys you an outing like this. Even with the loss, the Seahawks will stay in first place, and will continue to write their own story as they aim for the division title.
Pulling it off will take a better effort than what we saw today, but we’ve seen enough from these guys to have faith that they’ll be better after this. For now, Seattle gets to fly home and take a week off. The bye week offers a great chance to regroup and tighten some things up, while letting players recover for the home stretch.
It’s always important to zoom out after a game, win or lose, and doing so keeps the Seahawks’ situation looking plenty bright. Let’s be honest, 6-4 heading into Thanksgiving is a record we all would have happily accepted if offered it before the season. No matter what, one thing remains true after today— the last seven games of this Seahawks season are going to be riveting. Onward and upward, friends.
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