MUNICH – With a season of just 17 games, every single Sunday can feel like a referendum on the entire team.
But Seattle coach Pete Carroll spoke a universal truth of the NFL following the Seahawks’ 21-16 defeat Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I would just say that it’s really hard to win them all, to win every game,” Carroll said. “We got up against a team that played really well against us. We weren’t able to overcome it.”
So, is the bloom off the rose of a Seattle defense that over the past month had astonishingly transformed itself from one of the worst in the NFL to one of the best?
Is there suddenly something wrong with a Seattle running game that also was a key to the four-game winning streak snapped by Tampa Bay?
The advice here is not to panic. It was a unique week, setting and situation, and Tom Brady is Tom Brady. And Seattle, at least, gets the struggling Raiders at home after a bye.
But Sunday undoubtedly had some ugly moments that are reflected in the grades.
This wasn’t Geno Smith’s best day as a Seahawk, and for a while it looked like it might be among his worst. But he got zero help from his running game. In his 13th start as a Seahawk, he truly reflected the long-held character of this team by overcoming a rough start to almost pull it out in the end, making a couple throws few others in the NFL can and finishing 23 of 33 passing for 275 yards, two touchdowns and another stellar rating of 115.1. The fumble is unforgivable.
Only one running back touched the ball all game – rookie Kenneth Walker III, who was held to 17 yards on 10 carries. He’d averaged 91 in his previous four starts. The field was slick for everybody, but it felt like it impacted Walker more than most. The grade will be better than the stats because Walker had little space to run and because he showed a lot in the passing game with six receptions for 55 yards, including a 23-yarder that sparked Seattle’s first touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
As with Smith, the stats for his receivers turned out a lot better than the game looked for so long. Marquise Goodwin’s late touchdown shows why he can be so valuable to this team as a No. 3 wide receiver, Tyler Lockett was clutch in the fourth quarter, and DK Metcalf ended up with a respectable looking game – 6 catches for 71 yards. But Metcalf has to avoid plays like his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that could have cost Seattle three points at a time when it was clinging to anything for hope.
Like everything else, the tight ends came on in the second half and made you wonder where they’d been the first half. After just one catch from this group in the first half (Noah Fant for 15 yards), the first two plays of the second half went to Will Dissly for 28, and Fant and Colby Parkinson each had catches in the touchdown drives.
This seemed like one of the tougher days for a group that has been steadily improving of late. Seattle will never win much rushing for just 39 yards and basically giving up on the run in the second half. Smith was sacked three times. Damien Lewis also drew a personal foul on Seattle’s second possession that moved the Seahawks back into Tampa Bay territory on a series that ended in a punt.
So what the heck happened here? The Seahawks were chewed up alive by what came into the game as the worst running attack in the NFL. Plus, Brady was never sacked and hit just once. True, Brady gets the ball out fast. And run defense is a team effort and not just based on the effort of the guys up front. But giving up 161 yards rushing to a team that hadn’t had more than 75 since the first game of the season (when the Bucs rushed for 152) indicates a huge step back for this group. It’s worth noting the Seahawks made 345-pound nose tackle Bryan Mone inactive in factor of the lighter and quicker Myles Adams and wondering if Mone might have helped on the four third downs of 1 or 2 yards that Tampa Bay picked up on the ground.
Nobody on defense is likely to grade out too well, and the linebackers are no different. That Seattle had just one tackle-for-loss speaks way too loudly. There were bright spots. Jordyn Brooks dropped a potential interception early in the second quarter but had made a good play to get into position for the pass defense in the first place. Cody Barton made almost the exact same play in the fourth quarter on a play when he was at Brooks’ MLB spot with Brooks dealing with cramps, picking off Brady to give Seattle life when the game seemed over.
A rough day here, too, save for the highlight of Tariq Woolen’s interception on Tampa Bay’s ill-advised decision to send Brady out for a pass. There was blatant miscommunication of some sort on the first touchdown, the 31-yarder to Julio Jones, and Seattle got just one other pass defense from anyone in the secondary. There also seemed to be a few bad angles in run defense.
The kicking at least was good as Jason Myers hit a 55-yard field goal on a tough field. Michael Dickson downed four of his five punts inside the 20 and had a net of 50.6 yards. The bad news was that Tampa Bay took two of those downed punts and then went 88 and 86 yards for touchdowns.
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