With playoff implications at hand, the Seahawks traveled cross-country on Christmas Day to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16.
TAMPA – A recap of the Seahawks’ 38-15 loss to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Josh Freeman. The Bucs’ second-year quarterback was everything the Seahawks expected, and then some.
Freeman passed for “only” 237 yards, but 21 of his completions (in 26 attempts) went for touchdowns – two each to tight end Kellen Winslow (10 and 21 yards) and rookie wide receiver Mike Williams (20 and 7 yards) and the other to wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2 yards). He also completed passes to 10 different receivers, including seven to Winslow for 98 yards. Put all that together, and the fact that he did not throw an interception, and it creates a passer rating of 144.2.
The last QB to pass for five scores against the Seahawks? Neil O’Donnell did it in 1997 while playing for the Jets. The only other QB to ever do it? Yeah, that was O’Donnell, too, in that season-opening 41-3 loss at the Kingdome.
“Josh looked great,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a terrific quarterback. He did all you can do.”
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: The run that produced the Seahawks’ first touchdown, and cost them their starting quarterback. It was a third-and-goal play from the Bucs’ 1-yard line on the Seahawks’ second possession. Matt Hasselbeck rolled to his right and – finding no one to pass the ball to – ran it in for the score. But Hasselbeck also injured “a muscle or two,” as he put it, in his left hip. He did not return and his status for next week’s winner-takes-the-division-title game against the Rams at Qwest Field is in question.
The scoring drive Hasselbeck led covered 62 yards, and including him completing each of his three passes for 24 yards. On their next six possessions, with backup Charlie Whitehurst at QB, the Seahawks generated 37 yards.
Defense: Make it plays, and make them the two that preceded Hasselbeck’s costly scoring run. On first-and-goal from the 1, Bucs strong safety Sean Jones and defensive tackle Al Woods stoned Marshawn Lynch for no gain. On second-and-goal, defensive tackle – and Seahawks castoff – Frank Okam and linebacker Geno Hayes not only stopped Lynch, they knocked him backward. If the Seahawks had knocked in one of those runs, the run that cost them Hasselbeck for the remainder of the game never happens.
Special teams: With apologies to Bucs’ kickoff returner Michael Spurlock and his 79-yard return, this one goes to Craig Terrill for its historical significance. The Seahawks veteran defensive tackle blocked Connor Barth’s 44-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the first half. It was the eighth of Terrill’s career, tying the franchise record Joe Nash set from 1982-96. It also was Terrill’s third this season, tying Nash’s club record from 1989.
Pre-game: Who was that familiar-looking figure standing on the Seahawks’ sideline during warm-ups? Tod Leiweke, the team’s former CEO who re-signed in July to become president and part owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL.
In-game: On a first-down run late in the third corner, Seahawks strong safety Lawyer Milloy was moving into position to tackle LeGarrette Blount after an already impressive gain. But before Milloy could wonder what was happening, the Bucs’ 247-pound rookie back hurdled him. The run went for 46 yards.
Post-game: Hasselbeck’s explanation of his injury after a writer tried to connect it to the back issues he had in 2008. “No, it’s not my back,” the Seahawks’ QB said. “It’s embarrassing. It’s more my butt.”
Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu had a game-high 10 tackles, including his first sack of the season – and first since 2008.
Leon Washington scored his first offensive touchdown on the season, on a 16-yard run. He also has scored on a league-high three kickoff returns.
Linebacker David Hawthorne had eight tackles, increasing his team-leading total to 98 and leaving him two shy of reaching triple digits for the second consecutive season.
Tight end John Carlson had three receptions to share team-high honors with rookie wide receiver Golden Tate. Carlson had two catches in his previous three games.
The Seahawks finished 2-6 on the road this season, with the losses coming by an average of 20.2 points. Last season, they were 1-7 on the road and the average losing margin was 21.9 points.
The Seahawks ran three fewer plays (53) than the Bucs but were outgained 439-174 in total yardage, including 208-90 rushing and 231-84 passing.
In addition to Hasselbeck, who is scheduled for a MRI on Monday, wide receiver Brandon Stokley had to leave the game and did not return after hitting his head on the turf following a 6-yard reception on a third-and-5 play in the third quarter.
YOU DON’T SAY
“They say if you argue with a fool people can’t tell who’s who. So we’ll let those people talk about who deserves to be there and what not.” – wide receiver Mike Williams, when asked about the possibility of the Seahawks advancing to the playoffs with a 7-9 record
Peephole perspective: The Seahawks score again, but so did the Bucs. Tampa 38-15.
Player of the quarter: LeGarrette Blount. He had some big runs – including a 53-yarder – but when it came time to burn some clock it was his shorter runs that got that job done, too.
Play of the quarter: On third-and-10 from the Bucs’ 16, RB Leon Washington started up the middle and then bounced to his right to score the Seahawks’ second TD. It was Washington’s first offensive TD, to go with the three he has returning kickoffs.
Number of the quarter: Five. The number of TD passes thrown by the Bucs’ Josh Freeman to tie a club record, before Tampa turned things over to Josh Johnson with six minutes to play.
The bigger picture: The Seahawks had the ball as the final quarter started and back-to-back completions by Charlie Whitehurst to TE John Carlson (13 yards) and WR Ben Obomanu (14) moved it to the Bucs’ 16. RB Leon Washington then took it in for the Seahawks’ second TD, Whitehurst passed to Obomanu for the two-point conversion and the score was 31-15 with 10:14 left in the game.
On the Bucs’ next play, Blount went for 53 yards to the Seahawks’ 19. The run gave Blount 149 yards for the game – on 13 carries. Four plays later, Freeman threw his fifth TD pass – this one a 2-yarder to Maurice Stovall – to make it 38-15. Freeman has now completed passes to 10 different receivers.
Peephole perspective: Two more TD passes from Bucs QB Josh Freeman, the first capping a 98-yard drive. Tampa 31-7.
Player of the quarter: Yes, Freeman threw his third and fourth TD passes. But let’s go with TE Kellen Winslow, who scored the first TD and had three catches for 55 yards on the drive.
Play of the quarter: On the opening play of the Bucs’ second TD drive, LeGarrette Blount broke into the open and then hurdled an attempted tackle by Seahawks SS Lawyer Milloy. The 46-yard run set up – what else? – another TD pass by Freeman.
Number of the quarter: 27. That’s Blount’s uniform number, and when Freeman wasn’t passing the Bucs past the Seahawks the back from Oregon was running past them.
The bigger picture: The Seahawks opened with a three-and-out, but P Jon Ryan then pinned the Bucs at their 2-yard line. No worries for the Bucs, who drove 98 yards – to tie the franchise record – in 10 plays to Freeman’s 21-yard TD pass to TE Kellen Winslow. Freeman completed each of his six passes for 78 yards, with three going to Winslow for 55. RB LaGarrette Blount added a 20-yard run.
The next time the Bucs got the ball, Blount hurdled them into position for Freeman’s 7-yard TD pass to WR Mike Williams that made it 31-7 with 1:28 left in the quarter.
Peephole perspective: Bucs QB John Freeman threw a pair of TD passes. Tampa 17-7.
Player of the quarter: Freeman. He completed 3 of 4 passes on the drive to the Bucs’ first TD and 3 of 5 on the drive to the second, when he also ran for a first down on a third-down play.
Play of the quarter: On the Bucs’ first possession of the quarter, and with the Seahawks leading 7-3, FS Earl Thomas stripped the ball from RB LeGarrette Blount. But the Bucs recovered at the Seahawks’ 8 and scored three plays later.
Number of the quarter: 93. That’s Craig Terrill’s uniform number. He blocked a field-goal attempt late in the quarter, his third this season and the eighth of his career to tie Joe Nash’s club record.
The bigger picture: The Bucs took the lead on the eighth play of the quarter as Freeman passed 10 yards to TE Kellen Winslow for a TD. The play capped a six-play, 52-yard drive that was set up when Jon Ryan’s 17-yard punt went out of bounds at the Bucs’ 48. Freeman opened the drive with passes of 16 and 19 yards to WR Mike Williams. The series also included Thomas stripping the ball from Blount, but the Bucs recovered at the Seahawks’ 8. Freeman was 3 of 4 for 45 yards in the drive. But the Bucs lost WR Arrelious Benn to a knee injury.
Charlie Whitehurst’s second possession while subbing for an injured Matt Hasselbeck turned into a second three-and-out. Another subpar punt from Ryan into a stiff wind – this time a 34-yarder – gave the Bucs the ball at their 41. The Bucs capitalized again, as Freeman went to Williams for a 20-yard TD and third-and-10 to cap a nine-play, 59-yard drive. Freeman was 3 of 5 for 45 yards. Freeman also ran for 3 yards on a third-and-1 play. But the drive cost the Bucs another player, as FB Earnest Graham went out with a neck injury after colliding with Seahawks LB Aaron Curry.
The Seahawks moved the Bucs’ 37 on their next possession, but the six-play drive stalled when Whitehurst scrambled on third-and-2 and was dropped for no gain by MLB Barrett Ruud. The play was ruled a sack.
Freeman went to work again, passing and running the Bucs to the Seahawks’ 26. On consecutive plays, Freeman passed for 13 yards, ran for 11, passed for 20 and ran for 9. But when the drive stalled, Terrill blocked a 44-yard field attempt.
Peephole perspective: A TD run by Matt Hasselbeck. A late field goal by the Bucs. Seahawks, 7-3.
Player of the quarter: Hasselbeck. He didn’t last long because of a left hip injury. But before he left, the veteran QB scored on a 1-yard run and also surpassed 3,000 passing yards for the season.
Play of the quarter: On fourth-and-1 from the Bucs’ 4, the Seahawks had FB Michael Robinson lineup in the wild-cat to take the snap. He was hit short of the needed yardage, but spun to get to the 1.
Numbers of the quarter: 81 and 80. The Bucs’ Michael Spurlock (No. 81) broke an 80-yard kickoff return to setup Tampa’s field goal.
The bigger picture: The Seahawks scored first, on a 1-yard run by Matt Hasselbeck. But the QB grabbed his left side after crossing the goal line and went down in the end zone. He was able to walk to the sideline. The score capped an 11-play, 62-yard drive that consumed almost six minutes. Marshawn Lynch broke a 29-yard run on the second play, but was then stopped for no gain on first and second downs from the 1. In between, fullback Michael Robinson gained 3 yards on fourth-and-1 after taking the snap from a wild-cat formation. Hasselbeck was 3 of 3 for 25 yards.
Hasselbeck was being tended to on the sideline for a hip injury as Olindo Mare kicked the PAT and backup QB Charlie Whitehurst was warming up.
The Seahawks’ special teams then gave up an 80-yard kickoff return to Michael Spurlock, giving the Bucs a first down at the Seahawks’ 17. But the defense put the Bucs in a fourth-and-21 as DE Chris Clemons and DE Raheem Brock teamed up on a 13-yard sack of Bucs QB Josh Freeman. Connor Barth kicked a 46-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 25 seconds left in the half. The kick capped a four-play, minus-11 yard drive.
Thanks to the Rams’ just-completed 25-17 win over the 49ers in St. Louis, the NFC West title will be decided next Sunday at Qwest Field – regardless of what happens in the Seahawks’ game against the Bucs.
The Rams are 7-8, but if the Seahawks beat them both teams will be 7-9 – if the Seahawks lose to the Bucs. The Seahawks would win the division, and playoff berth that goes with it, based on a better division record.
Of course, if the Seahawks win today, they wouldn’t need that tiebreaker if they also win next week.
Former starter Jeremy Trueblood returns to that status today for the Bucs, because right tackle James Lee is among the team’s inactive players for its game against the Seahawks. Lee has an ankle injury that prevented him from practicing all week.
Also inactive for the Bucs:
- WR Sammie Stroughter
- S Dominique Harris
- RB Kregg Lumpkin
- CB D.J. Johnson
- DE George Johnson
- TE Nathan Overbay
- 3rd QB: Rudy Carpenter
Will Herring’s sore hamstring will not allow him play against the Bucs today. The veteran backup linebacker and special teams standout is among the Seahawks’ inactive players. Herring was injured in last week’s game against the Falcons.
His questionable status was one of the reasons rookie Joe Pawelek was signed off the practice squad this week. He is active and will play on special teams, where the Seahawks also lost Roy Lewis this week.
Also inactive for the Seahawks:
- CB Marcus Brown
- OG Paul Fanaika
- OT Breno Giacomini
- OT Will Robinson
- OL Stacy Andrews
- WR Ruvell Martin
- 3rd QB: J.P. Losman
TAMPA – Seasons greetings from a blustery and seasonably chilly Raymond James Stadium, where the Seahawks are preparing to meet the Buccaneers in a Week 16, Christmas weekend game that has playoff implications for both teams.
It was 75 degrees here on Christmas Day, but the forecast today is calling for a high of 55 and it has been breezy all day.
Will one of these team’s postseason hopes also be gone with the wind?
The Seahawks can capture the NFC West by winning their final two games. If they lose against the Bucs, they still can win the division title if the Rams beat the 49ers today and then the Seahawks beat the Rams at Qwest Field next week. If the 49ers win out, they’re in because they would hold the tiebreaker because of a better division record.
The Bucs are rooting for wins by the Giants and Falcons this week, because it would help them in their quest to capture a wild-card spot. But for that to happen, the Bucs must beat the Seahawks today and the Saints in New Orleans next week.
For the Seahawks to win here they have to avoid turnovers – and that starts with QB Matt Hasselbeck, who has committed eight turnovers in the past two games that have led to 35 points by the 49ers and Falcons. Hasselbeck’s plight was the main topic surrounding the Seahawks all week, but Pete Carroll is sticking with the veteran – after benching him in the third quarter last week – because the team’s first-year coach believes Hasselbeck gives the team its best chance to win.
“Matt had a very good week,” Carroll said on Friday. “He came out with his attitude just right, just like a pro. He put stuff behind him and was very focused, upbeat and very much looking forward to having a good game and doing the things that we want him to do. So he was great all week long.”
Now, Hasselbeck needs to be good – if not great – today.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris has put this game, and the rest of the season, on his offense because the defense has lost six starters to injury or suspension.
“He said in the meeting the other day, ‘We always put it on our defense. It’s our offense’s time. You’ve got to go out and win us a game. Go out and win us a game,’ ” rookie receiver Mike Williams told reporters in Tampa this week. “He said it in the team meeting, and that’s what we’ve got to do. He put it on us.”
The Bucs’ “Big Three” could make some history if they’re able to carry out their coach’s marching orders.
Williams leads all rookies in receptions (58), receiving yards (880) and TD catches (eight). Former Oregon back LeGarrette Blount leads all rookies in rushing yards (777) and touchdowns (six). The last time two rookies from the same team accomplished that in the same season was 1968 – Paul Robinson and Bob Trumpy for the Cincinnati Bengals of the old AFL.
Josh Freeman has passed for 2,959 yards, and could become only the fourth Bucs QB to reach 3,500 in a season.
To keep his injury-ravaged defense off the field, Morris could rely on running the ball with Blount. But the Seahawks also have been susceptible to the pass – allowing a league-high 54 pass plays of 20-plus yards. So Freeman-to-Williams also will be tempting for offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
The team that can shutout the implications of this game and just play their game will have the inside track on winning this game.
We’ll be back with the inactives for both teams …