MUNICH – The temptation is to say that a Seahawks team working on a nine-hour time difference simply woke up too late Sunday.
“Unfortunately for us, it just took us too long to get going,” said Seattle quarterback Geno Smith after the Seahawks’ 21-16 loss to Tampa Bay in the first NFL regular -season game held in Germany in front of a raucous crowd of 69,811 at Allianz Arena, the home of soccer powerhouse FC Bayern Munich.
But coach Pete Carroll didn’t want to blame the travel or the body clock adjustment – as extreme as any NFL team has ever had to make – even while acknowledging that “it’s a real challenge. We could feel it each day. We weren’t all exactly the same because guys didn’t respond exactly the same.”
Carroll said he didn’t think any of that was why the Seahawks gained the fewest yards they had in a first half since the 2017 season (57) in falling behind by deficits of 14-0 and 21-3, which ultimately proved too much to overcome.
“The way we scheduled it, it did not seem like it factored in at all,” Carroll said of a Seahawks team that arrived in Munich on Thursday, a day before Tampa Bay. “We felt pretty good about it.”
Carroll and players also raved about the hospitality they received before the game and the atmosphere of a Super Bowl-like crowd during it.
“What a spectacle,” Carroll said about a game that featured constant cheering from a crowd that seemed pretty evenly split. “This is an unforgettable occurrence.”
Most of the rest of it was as forgettable as could be.
The Seahawks couldn’t run the ball or stop the run, the latter the biggest surprise of the night given that the Bucs entered the game as the worst rushing team in the NFL, averaging just 60.7 per game.
Tampa Bay had that at halftime on its way to a season-high 161 for the game.
“I was really disappointed,” Carroll said. “They have not been running the ball very consistently, so coming into the game, we were hoping we could just keep it under wraps and be able to deploy for the throwing game. They did better than we thought they would.”
Seattle was also held to just 39 yards on 14 carries. And while some in the Seattle locker room noted the slick conditions later, that didn’t seem to matter to the Bucs.
Still, despite being outgained 206-57 and out-first downed 13-3 in the first half while going 0-5 on third downs, the Seahawks found themselves stunningly back in the game late in the third quarter in about as bizarre a fashion as possible – an interception on a pass by Tampa Bay running back to 45-year-old quarterback Tom Brady.
The pick by Seahawks rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen came with the Bucs holding a first down at the Seattle 22, seemingly a few plays away from blowing the game open.
Instead, the turnover seemed to inspire the Seattle offense, which swiftly drove to the Tampa Bay 9.
There, on a second-and-goal play, the Seahawks called a quarterback draw, essentially the same play that worked for an 8-yard TD by Smith against Detroit last month.
Only this time the Bucs weren’t fooled, and Smith found no room to run. Smith tried to fight through a tackle from Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White behind the line of scrimmage. But White knocked the ball out of Smith’s hands, with teammate Anthony Nelson recovering at the 13 with 2:29 to play in the third quarter.
“Obviously I’ve got to protect the football,” Smith said. “That can never happen. Guy made a great play as I was going down, but if I don’t turn it over in the red zone, I think it’s a different game.”
Tampa Bay used the gift to drive 87 yards for a TD – the Bucs also had drives of 86 and 88 yards – to take a 21-3 lead, the suspense appearing gone.
The Seahawks, though, decided they weren’t ready to leave the party just yet.
Smith drove Seattle 77 yards in five plays, capped by a 21-yard TD pass to Tyler Lockett to make it 21-9 with 8:20 left (a two-point pass failed).
Then the Seahawks benefitted from another Brady-related shock – his first interception after 399 passes without one, three shy of Aaron Rodgers’ NFL record, thrown into the hands of Seattle linebacker Cody Barton at the Tampa Bay 45.
That finally gave the tens of thousands of Seahawks fans in attendance something to really get excited about.
They roared even more when Smith converted two fourth downs with passes to lead to another score – a 19-yard TD to Marquise Goodwin on fourth-and-one that cut the lead to 21-16 with 3:58 left.
“You could feel the comeback was happening,” Carroll said.
Then, just as quickly, it didn’t.
The Bucs, who improved to 5-5, got the ball at their own 17 and never gave it back with runs of 12 and 18 yards by rookie Rachaad White sealing the game for good.
“They finished running the ball in the fourth quarter, which kills me,” Carroll said. “That last drive, to not get the ball back and get our chance again, that’s just not the way we expect to play or the way we ever want to put it out there.”
And not only was it surprising because the Bucs have been so bad running the ball this year but Seattle so good at stopping it during its stunning defensive resurgence of the last four games in which the Seahawks have allowed just 99.3 rushing yards per game.
Carroll and players mentioned that the Bucs ran out of some formations and situations they hadn’t in past games.
“I just think they came out and broke some tendencies,” said safety Quandre Diggs. “They ran the ball more than they have in the past. It kind of gets you out of whack when you prepare for them to throw the ball a little bit more.”
Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, though, thought it was more a matter of will.
“We just have to look each other in the eyes and the mirrors just say as a pride thing, we can’t let this continue,” Nwosu said. “… You can’t let people just keep running the ball on you, doing whatever they want to do. Just as a man, that doesn’t sit well with you.”
So, Seattle headed back across the Atlantic with a 6-4 record, its four-game winning streak snapped, and now heading into its bye week.
And while it was a performance Carroll was happy to leave as far behind as possible, he felt the spirit Seattle showed in the fourth quarter was worth taking home.
“The team, we talked about how important it is to realize that we were right back in this game and that we weren’t out of it, and we never thought that, and we didn’t show that,” Carroll said. “That is the same kind of mentality that’s going to help us finish this season and do something special with this year. We don’t think anything changes in that regard. Just on this night, they did a better job than we did.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.