Seahawks’ Wagner on defensive struggles vs Bucs: ‘We will be better’
The 6-2 Seahawks had two problems heading into a Week 9 game against the 2-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As it turns out, solving one of them was enough to get a 40-34 win in overtime and improve to 7-2.
Neither had anything to do with wind, nor rain, nor a hostile crowd on the road. The Seahawks returned home from a trip to the east coast for a game against a two-win team, in front of their own fans, on a crisp, sunny November afternoon.
Nor were they injury-related. New Seahawk Quandre Diggs remained out for a second week, but starting safety Bradley McDougald returned to action after dealing with back spasms for two weeks.
Instead, those two problems had everything to do with a hot-and-cold Tampa Bay team that has been equal parts explosive and self-destructive.
First, the Seahawks needed to adapt to (or overcome) a Bucs defense that excels against the run. Second, they had to pressure quarterback Jameis Winston into making a mistake, or risk him taking shots at two of the league’s top receivers.
They struggled to contain Winston, but a stellar night from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was enough to get the job done.
Wilson shines in overtime
Would Russell Wilson get more shots against the Buccaneers?
It’s a question that was asked all week, and Seattle answered with a resounding “yes.”
A lack of adaptability – specifically, a lack of pass plays for Wilson – was by far the loudest critique lobbed toward head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer following Seattle’s Wild Card loss to the Dallas Cowboys and their top-ranked run defense last season.
Seattle faced the same critique last week against Atlanta when a one-win Falcons team nearly rallied back from a 24-point deficit. Wilson threw the ball just six times in the second half against a defense that ranked near the bottom of the league against the pass.
The Buccaneers’ defense offered another opportunity for Seattle to let Wilson loose. Tampa had limited opponents to a league-best 68.6 rushing yard per game but ranked 31st against the pass. Until Week 9, no single running back had put up 100 yards or more against them, but they were also allowing an average of 285.9 passing yards per game.
The Seahawks clearly have faith in their star quarterback – enough to make him the league’s highest-paid player – but they also know who they are and strive to remain loyal to their run-first identity. Against Tampa Bay, however, Seattle proved they could be flexible.
Wilson completed 29 of his 43 pass attempts for 378 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf both finished with 100 or more yards, and tight end Jacob Hollister caught not just his first career touchdown early in the game, but also the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
Seattle didn’t completely abandon the run; Chris Carson finished with 105 yards on 16 carries for his fourth 100-plus yard game this season – therefore becoming the first halfback this year break the century-mark against the Buccaneers.
Carroll: ‘We struggled’ on defense
Seattle’s defense had its moments, including a sack by Mychal Kendricks that resulted in a fumble recovery by defensive end Rasheem Green. But for the second week, an opposing passer had a strong performance.
Winston was 29 of 44 for 335 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Mike Evans finished with 180 yards and a touchdown. Tampa Bay’s offense also converted on all four trips to the red zone and the Bucs’ 34 points were the most by any Seahawks opponent this year.
“I don’t think anybody on this defense expected them to be able to move the ball the way that they did,” defensive captain and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “Especially with the way we didn’t finish last week (against Atlanta), to come out like that, we have to do better. We will be better.”
Wagner added that there are lessons to learn from the win.
“To be in a position, 7-2, that’s amazing,” Wagner said. “But it’s only amazing if we learn from it. It’s important for guys like myself, K.J. (Wright), all the other guys, to make sure the message is not missed.”