By Brady Henderson
Jermaine Kearse had a big hand in the biggest comeback in Seahawks history – both the record rally and deficit Seattle had to overcome to set it.
It was Kearse who fumbled a second-quarter kickoff return, giving Tampa Bay possession and a short field. The Buccaneers had jumped out to a 14-0 lead moments earlier, and when Tampa Bay found the end zone two plays after Kearse’s fumble, things had just gone from bad to worse for a Seahawks team that suddenly found itself in a 21-0 hole.
Jermaine Kearse scored Seattle’s first touchdown after his fumble helped the Bucs take a 21-0 lead. (AP) | More photos
Kearse, the former undrafted free agent who’s in his second year out of the University of Washington, was also responsible for the 16-yard touchdown reception on the ensuing possession that helped kick start the Seahawks’ comeback.
“I never had any doubt in my mind that I could bounce back from that,” Kearse said, referring to his fumble. “Things happen during the game. That’s a part of the game, and you’ve just got to bounce back.
“Just to get that touchdown before half and go down to the locker room down by 14 instead of 21, that was huge.”
The Seahawks began that drive on their own 20, and with the help of two defensive penalties they found themselves at Tampa Bay’s 16 just three plays later. Kearse, lined up on the right side of the formation in the middle of a trio of receivers, ran toward the defensive back as if he was blocking for a bubble screen. Russell Wilson faked a throw to Doug Baldwin before finding Kearse wide open for Seattle’s first touchdown.
“We knew if we could get them to bite on the bubble we had some areas where we could attack them,” Kearse said. “Russ made a tremendous throw and I just tried to make the play.”
The touchdown was Kearse’s third of the season, tying him with three others for the team lead. He finished Sunday’s game with two catches for 43 yards.
Lynch gets back on track
Some brief stomach discomfort was about the only thing that could slow down Marshawn Lynch on a day that represented a return to form for Seattle’s running game in general, and its running back in particular.
Lynch ran four times for 43 yards on Seattle’s first possession alone, nearly doubling his rushing total from a week ago when he finished with 23 yards against St. Louis. It wasn’t just the total in that game, but the fact that he carried a season-low eight times led to questions about whether Seattle was losing its offensive identity.
Apparently not. Lynch finished Sunday’s game with a season-high 125 yards on 21 carries.
“I thought he was great today. He was just a warrior out there,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He took advantage of some really good work up front, and it was a great finish.”
Lynch left the field during Seattle’s first possession, sitting out the remainder of that series and another because of what Carroll said was stomach sickness. Robert Turbin briefly replaced Lynch and finished with 37 yards on eight carries. Wilson added 36 yards of his own.
Not only did the Seahawks finish with 198 rushing yards – their second-highest total of the season – but they did it against the league’s seventh-ranked run defense.
“That’s a big day against these guys,” Carroll said. “We really moved the line of scrimmage and did an excellent job.”
Bennett’s satisfying sack
Based on Michael Bennett’s description, it would be an understatement to say the Seahawks defensive lineman took a great deal of pleasure in recording a sack against his former team.
“It felt like a newborn baby,” he said.
Bennett’s sack came on a third-and-3 play early in the fourth quarter. He bull-rushed the Buccaneers’ tackle right into Mike Glennon, causing the quarterback to fall.
Most players will admit that big plays are especially satisfying when they come against a former team. That was especially true on Sunday for Bennett, who played for Tampa Bay the past four years and has been outspoken in his dislike for coach Greg Schiano’s authoritarian style.
Bennett’s sack extended his team lead to 5.5.
“It was just something I wanted so bad,” he said, “and I got it.”
• C Max Unger left the game in the second half and did not return after sustaining a concussion, the severity of which Carroll was unsure.
The only other Seahawks injuries were minor, as RT Michael Bowie returned to the game after injuring his knee and LB Bruce Irvin sustained a stinger that Carroll said “should be OK.”
• Seattle briefly shuffled its offensive line in the second quarter, inserting undrafted rookie Alvin Bailey at LT and moving Paul McQuistan to LG in place of James Carpenter.
“We just wanted to get Alvin going a little bit,” Carroll said. “And just in the competitive sense, the guy’s been working hard. We’ve waited a long time to give him a shot.”
• Despite facing constant pressure from Tampa Bay’s defense, Wilson was not sacked for the first time this season.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.