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Seattle Seahawks

Dave Boling: Seahawks have plenty to work on, but still ahead of schedule entering bye week

By Dave Boling For The Spokesman-Review

Traveling across international time zones can get tricky. Look at the Seahawks, who flew to Germany and found themselves back in early September.

For most of their game against Tampa Bay in Munich, the Seahawks played with the inconsistency that doomed them to early season losses to San Francisco and Atlanta.

A second-half rally narrowed the final margin to 21-16, but the Seahawks earned this loss with spotty defense and poor rushing.

In this first NFL regular-season game in Germany, the Seahawks did not give European fans an example of the kind of play that had led to their four straight wins of double-digit margins.

What must the Germans have thought? Weird game, this American Football. Not at all what was advertised.

For instance:

The Seahawks were the No. 4 scoring team in the NFL, but their two best plays in the first half were by punter Michael Dickson.

The Buccaneers were the worst rushing team in the NFL, but ran over the Seahawks for 161 yards on 44 rushes.

This Kenneth Walker III is a sensational rookie running back. So what’s this? Ten carries for 17 yards?

Nearly 70,000 fans showed up to see this spectacle, with a reputed 3 million ticket requests. But the field, home of FC Bayern, was soft and slippery, with players on both sides tearing up divots when cutting, reducing the effectiveness of play.

The obvious headliner for the match was Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. Brady appeared to have traveled back in time, too, completing 22 of 29 attempts, but he was involved in a play that had to leave even those most foreign to American football questioning the game’s strategy.

Ahead 14-3 and driving at the Seahawks’ 22, with the 45-year-old Brady looking in his prime, the Bucs went into a wildcat formation with running back Leonard Fournette taking a direct snap and Brady posted wide left.

Yes, they took the best passer in the history of the game and positioned him at wide receiver where he would be guarded by Seattle’s Tariq Woolen (who runs a 4.29 second 40). Adding to the lunacy, they asked Fournette to pass the ball to him.

In five seasons, Fournette has attempted one pass. Incomplete.

Brady had slightly more experience as a receiver – in 23 regular seasons having been targeted three times, and catching every one for 65 yards.

The result was predictably embarrassing, though. Brady fell down. Woolen intercepted. And Brady was flagged for trying to trip Woolen after his interception, just to add to the absurdity.

The German fans: Ach du lieber!

When everyone stopped laughing and head-scratching, the Seahawks put together a pair of nice scoring drives, and the defense ended another Tampa Bay drive with Cody Barton’s interception of Brady (his first in 399 passing attempts).

Quarterback Geno Smith lost a fumble in the third period on what might have been a scoring drive early enough to have made a difference in the game. But he still was sharp, for the most part, completing 23 of 33 for 275 yards and fourth-quarter touchdowns to Tyler Lockett and Marquise Goodwin.

Travel is always a good learning experience.

The Seahawks learned opposing defenses may have arrived at schemes to slow their rushing attack, and getting other ways to get the ball to Walker are going to be required.

Credit to Seahawks’ offensive staff for recognizing in the second half that they’re more effective going up-tempo with Smith firing short timing routes to receivers and tight ends. Lesson learned, even if a little late.

Also, the defense that had been effectively pressuring quarterbacks in recent weeks (19 sacks in last four games) is helpless against somebody who gets rid of the ball quickly, as Brady was never sacked and hit just once.

This loss may prove of minor consequence as the Hawks slipped to a still-surprising 6-4 and sustained their lead in the NFC West.

At least they don’t have to worry about their upcoming bye disrupting the positive momentum they’d built over the last month. Their play in Germany leaves them much to work on once they get home.