SEATTLE – History may not remember that Golden Tate actually didn’t score a touchdown on his 71-yard punt return Sunday afternoon.
In fact, all the Seahawks got out of it was a field goal.
But after Seattle had rallied to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24 in overtime, many pointed to Tate’s return as the moment the game changed in the Seahawks’ favor.
The moment it became apparent that the Seahawks truly would turn the potential infamy of losing at home as a 16-point favorite – only one time had they ever been favored by more – into the history of rallying from 21 points down, the biggest comeback in the team’s 38 years.
“That just kind of let you know that we’re here, that we’re coming for this win,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It was an incredible play.”
Even if at first, many watching probably were using a different adjective as Tate drifted to his own 4-yard line to catch the ball with just over a minute left in the third quarter and Seattle trailing 24-14.
“You can’t be timid,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “You’ve got to be able to step up and make a play.”
Tate did just that, breaking or evading six tackles as he criss-crossed the field before being tackled at the Tampa Bay 25.
“We were down; we needed something to happen,” Tate said. “Once I got the ball in my hands, I just played backyard football.”
The Seahawks were forced to settle for a 36-yard Steven Hauschka field goal on the ensuing possession. But that cut the lead to 24-17 and seemed to create a sense of inevitability on each sideline as to how the game would finish.
“You could see the momentum shift, and the crowd got into it and got pumped,” said Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis, who called it “probably the biggest play of the game.”
From there Seattle dominated as Tampa Bay got only two first downs the rest of the game and just 37 yards on four possessions in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Seattle offense, meanwhile, got a 10-yard pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin with 1:51 left to force overtime.
In overtime, the Seahawks completed the comeback with a 51-yard, Marshawn Lynch-led drive to set up Hauschka’s 27-yard game-winning field goal with 8:11 left.
“It’s fun football, isn’t it?” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman asked afterward.
Certainly, it was memorable.
Seattle’s previous largest comeback was 20 points in Denver on Dec. 20, 1995. In that game, the Seahawks were down 20-0 before winning 31-27.
It was also the fourth time this year Seattle has won a game in which it was behind or tied going into the fourth quarter – and that doesn’t count last week’s final-play escape at St. Louis.
The Seahawks won despite allowing at least 200 yards rushing (205) for the second straight week against a team that previously hadn’t been very effective on the ground. They won despite giving up three turnovers while not getting any, the first time all year they hadn’t forced a takeaway. And they won despite allowing three first-half touchdown passes.
Carroll was concerned about the run defense.
“Right now we’re in a little bit of a funk,” Carroll said. “We’re not tackling very well. We’re trying to take the ball away so much that we’re not tackling very well. Until we fix that, we are going to continue to struggle.”
Tampa Bay rookie Mike James, subbing for injured Doug Martin, rushed for 158 yards, helping set up three second-quarter TDs.
Seahawks 27, Bucs 24 (OT)
TB—Wright 12 pass from Glennon (Lindell kick)
TB—Underwood 20 pass from Glennon (Lindell kick)
TB—Crabtree 2 pass from James (Lindell kick)
Sea—Kearse 16 pass from Wilson (Hauschka kick)
TB—FG Lindell 33
Sea—Wilson 10 run (Hauschka kick)
Sea—FG Hauschka 36
Sea—Baldwin 10 pass from Wilson (Hauschka kick)
Sea—FG Hauschka 27
|Total Net Yards||350||415|
|Time of Poss.||36:37||30:12|
RUSHING—Tampa Bay, James 28-158, Leonard 5-20, Dawson 1-14, Glennon 4-13. Seattle, Lynch 21-125, Turbin 8-37, Wilson 6-36.
PASSING—Tampa Bay, Glennon 17-23-0-168, James 1-1-0-2. Seattle, Wilson 19-26-2-217.
RECEIVING—Tampa Bay, Wright 4-58, Leonard 4-48, Lorig 3-14, Underwood 2-29, Jackson 2-11, James 2-8, Crabtree 1-2. Seattle, Baldwin 6-75, Lynch 4-16, Miller 3-49, Tate 3-29, Kearse 2-43, Lockette 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.
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