QB Chris Simms had an impressive debut but the Bucs still couldn't get the ball in the end zone
The last time Tampa Bay welcomed Seattle to Florida, it was the end of an era for the Buccaneers. Sunday's game, eight years almost to the day, could be the beginning of another one.
Both games were losses for Tampa Bay, unfortunately, as Seattle opened a 10-0 lead on Sunday and held on for a 10-6 lead. A Buccaneer rally came up short for the second time in two weeks, but the story in this game was the player who led that rally.
On September 22, 1996, the Bucs lost their fourth consecutive game to start the season, as Seattle rallied from a 13-3 deficit in the fourth quarter to win 17-13. After one more loss, the Bucs began a late-season run, ending 1996 with six wins in 11 games and winning their first five in 1997. Five playoff seasons in seven years followed.
On Sunday, Tampa Bay fell to 0-2 for the first time since 1998 by losing their third consecutive home opener, but not before second-year QB Chris Simms relieved starter Brad Johnson and did his best to rally the Bucs to victory. There is no official indication, of course, that Simms' relief effort will lead to an immediate hold on the starting job, but the 2003 third-round pick clearly seems to be the franchise's quarterback of the future.
"I'm proud of our team," said Head Coach Jon Gruden, who declined to name next week's starter after the game. "They competed very hard today. I'm disappointed obviously in the outcome. We made a quarterback change today to give our team a lift. I thought Chris did some good things in the game.
"We were looking for a spark. We felt Chris could come in and give us a different perspective, and he did."
If Sunday was the beginning of a Simms era, it was an impressive if ultimately unsatisfying debut. Simms completed 21 of 32 passes for 175 yards but was unable to rally the Bucs to victory. Though Simms' impressive arm strength was on display for three quarters – the crowd even cheered a deep pass over the middle that was well overthrown – he couldn't quite get the Bucs into the end zone as they failed to score a touchdown on offense for the second straight week. An extended drive on Simms' second possession netted a field goal, as did a similar march in the fourth quarter. Both drives reached first-and-goal situations before Seattle denied the end zone.
Simms and the Bucs' offense had one more shot to win the game, down 10-6 and 88 yards away from Seattle's end zone with 2:31 to play. Three penalties helped get the Bucs into Seahawk territory, including one roughing-the-passer call that erased an interception. However, Simms made a youthful mistake with his final pass, trying to throw as he was sacked and delivering the ball directly into the arms of S Michael Boulware.
The Bucs' offense battled poor field position most of the day, with an average drive start of their own 23-yard line, but that issue was not the work of Tampa Bay's defense, which turned in an inspired effort against a very strong Seattle offense. The Bucs held the Seahawks to 182 total yards, including just 56 on the ground, after giving up 166 rushing yards to Washington last week. Seattle converted just one of 14 third downs and QB Matt Hasselbeck was sacked four times RB Shaun Alexander, who had 135 yards and three touchdowns last week against New Orleans, was held to 45 yards on 17 carries.
Two of the Bucs' four sacks were recorded by DT Anthony McFarland, who is now playing the under tackle position long manned by Warren Sapp. McFarland posted his first two-sack game since a 2.5-sack effort against Detroit on September 17, 2000, his first year as a starter. McFarland finished with four tackles to go with his two sacks.
Simms came into the game with 10:32 left in the first half and, on his second drive at the helm, led the Bucs' 71 yards on 14 plays for a field goal that cut Seattle's lead to 10-3. Simms was met with a huge ovation from the Raymond James Stadium crowd and he returned the enthusiasm by motioning to the crowd after a 12-yard scramble got the ball down to the Seattle three.
Unfortunately, a fumbled exchange on third-and-goal forced the Bucs to settle for Martin Gramatica's 24-yard kick and a seven-point halftime deficit. That drive covered 71 yards, as did a Simms-led march in the fourth quarter that reached a first-and-goal at the Seahawks' six. A sack by Rocky Bernard killed that touchdown opportunity and the Bucs chose to take Gramatica's 27-yard three-pointer.
That cut the lead to 10-6 with four and a half minutes to play.
Tampa Bay's defense held on a third-and-one two minutes later, stopping Alexander inches short of a first down and forcing a punt. The Bucs had one last chance with 2:31 to play, starting at their own 12 but Simms' first career interception came with just over a minute left in the game.
Overall, Tampa Bay's offense shook off a slow start to look much more effective than it did in the season opener, when it was held to 169 total yards by Washington. With RB Charlie Garner gashing for 75 yards on 13 carries, the Bucs gained 92 yards on the ground 62 more than last week) and 271 yards overall.
WR Tim Brown led the team with seven catches for 49 yards and rookie WR Michael Clayton followed up his impressive debut (7-53 against Washington) with six more grabs for 61 yards despite fighting second-half cramps.
The Bucs also lost the turnover battle for the second week in a row, giving the ball away three times while forcing one takeaway. Brad Johnson's last pass of the day was intercepted early in the second quarter by CB Marcus Trufant and returned 41 yards, setting up the only touchdown of the game.
Simms had two turnovers, as he lost a fumble midway through the third quarter. After the Bucs started with good field position for virtually the only time in the game, they failed to capitalize when due to the turnover. A sack by Shelton Quarles forced Seattle to punt from deep in its own zone and Brown called for a fair catch at Tampa Bay's 44. However, three plays later on third-and-one, DE Grant Wistrom sacked a scrambling Simms and forced a fumble, which DT Rashad Moore recovered at Seattle's 41. Though the Buc defense then forced a three-and-out, the Seahawks were able to pin Tampa Bay at the Bucs' four on the ensuing punt.
Seattle built its lead early, scoring on two short drives in the first half to take a 10-0 lead. A 24-yard field goal drive from midfield led to K Josh Brown's game-opening score, a 44-yard kick, and Seattle pushed its lead to 10-0 just three minutes later.
The second score was set up by Trufant's interception and return on the final play of the first quarter. Two plays later, QB Matt Hasselbeck fooled the Bucs' secondary with a pump-and-go, hitting WR Koren Robinson wide open on the left sideline for a 27-yard touchdown.
Derrick Brooks, who helped organize a relief effort for Hurricane Ivan victims in his hometown of Pensacola before the game (see notes below), brought early relief to the Bucs when he intercepted a deflected pass on Seattle's first series. The Bucs wouldn't score off that turnover, but Brooks continued his strong play, making seven tackles and breaking up a pass.
DE Greg Spires also had a fine afternoon, notching five tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. Spires now has 13 stops in two games, an outstanding number for a defensive end. CB Brian Kelly broke up three passes and DT Chartric Darby recorded six tackles and a forced fumble.
The Bucs lost on a day when the other three teams in the NFC South earned victories. Tampa Bay travels to Oakland next weekend for a Sunday night game against the Raiders.
Notes: With the Bucs' help, LB Derrick Brooks organized a relief effort for his hometown of Pensacola, Florida at today's game. Pensacola was one of the cities battered by Hurricane Ivan in recent days. The Bucs and Derrick Brooks Charities collected donations from fans at all entrances to Raymond James Stadium. Every fan who made a donations had an opportunity to fill out a form to enter a drawing for merchandise signed by Brooks. In addition, Brooks pledged to donate $1,000 for every tackle he made during the game, which brought another $7,000 to the Pensacola relief effort … Prior to the game, as the stadium prepared to enjoy the national anthem, the Bucs took a moment to recognize former Arizona Cardinals S Pat Tillman. Tillman, whose number was retired today in Arizona, was remembered in stadiums across the NFL, honoring his commitment to the country as a member of the Armed Forces. … Brooks' interception in the first quarter was the 20th of his career, tying him for fifth on the Bucs' all-time list. Brooks matched teammate Ronde Barber on the chart and is just one behind S John Lynch (21) for fourth place. … Referee Johnny Grier delivered two 'sideline warnings' to the Bucs' side of the field in the first quarter, during Seattle's field goal drive. … For the second time in two games, the Bucs were trailing 10-3 heading into halftime … LB Shelton Quarles' second-quarter sack was the seventh of his career and his first since 2002, in a September 23 game against St. Louis.
Injury Updates: WR Michael Clayton left the game briefly with cramps but was able to return. Neither team reported any other injuries.
Inactives: The Bucs designated eight players as inactive for Sunday's game: QB Brian Griese, CB Torrie Cox, FB Jameel Cook, T Anthony Davis, G Jeb Terry, WR Joey Galloway, TE Will Heller and DE Josh Savage.
Quarter-by-Quarter Reports: During the game, Buccaneers.com provided updates of the action after each quarter. Those reviews of each period are below, providing a closer look at how the game unfolded.
First Quarter Review
The first quarter was a struggle for the Bucs offensively, as they gained just 30 yards and turned the ball over as the period came to an end. Earlier, Seattle turned great field position into a short field goal drive, scoring the only points of the quarter. Seattle went into the second period leading 3-0 and holding the ball at the Bucs' 29.
After winning the toss, the Seahawks sent RB Maurice Morris deep to take the opening kickoff and Morris got back to the 26.
On first down, pressure from DT Anthony McFarland right up the middle forced QB Matt Hasselbeck to dump the ball over the middle to WR Koren Robinson and LB Ian Gold nearly intercepted it. However, Hasselbeck hit WR Darrell Jackson for a 12-yard gain on second down. RB Shaun Alexander than ripped off another 12 yards up the middle on his first carry of the game.
Now at the midfield stripe, the Hawks ran Alexander up the middle again but DT Chartric Darby stopped him after a gain of three. Morris came in to take the next handoff but got just one yard going left. On third-and-six, the Bucs brought a big blitz, forcing another quick pass from Hasselbeck. This time, after CB Brian Kelly broke the pass up, LB Derrick Brooks hustled downfield to pick off the deflection at the Bucs' 38.
The Bucs started out on the ground and got a quick first down on two carries by RB Charlie Garner. Garner went up the middle both times, gashing for seven yards on first down and six on second down.
Three plays later, on third-and-six from Seattle's 45, QB Brad Johnson had little time to find an open man as he was sacked for a loss of 10 yards by DE Grant Wistrom. Josh Bidwell's resulting punt went into the end zone for a touchback.
Starting at the 20 after the touchback, Seattle got a quick 16 yards on an outlet pass to Jackson. Pressure up the middle forced Hasselbeck to throw his next pass awry, and Alexander lost a yard on second down when the Bucs audibled out of a blitz following Hasselbeck's audible. The Bucs blitzed again on third down and that helped force Hasselbeck's seam pass to Jackson just a bit off target. WR Bill Schroeder muffed the resulting punt but CB Corey Ivy was on the scene to recover for the Bucs at their own 15.
Johnson rolled right on first down looking for an open man but had to pull it down and run when everyone was covered, gaining three yards. After Garner was met in the backfield for a loss of four, Johnson had time to throw on third down but just missed WR Michael Clayton with a medium-range pass.
Seattle started its next drive exactly at midfield. FB Mack Strong took a pitch on first down and got three yards, though he fumbled, with teammate Steve Hutchinson recovering. Kelly came up quick on Strong on second down to break up a short pass in the right flat, but Robinson ran a 16-yard in on third down and caught Hasselbeck's pass for a first down at the 33.
CB Ronde Barber made an outstanding arm tackle in the backfield to force a loss of two by Alexander on the next play, and a short pass to Jackson gained just four. On third-and-eight, Morris took a carry over right tackle for a gain of four, setting up a 44-yard field goal attempt.
Frank Murphy got the ensuing kickoff out to the Bucs' 29, and the Bucs got a quick six yards on a pass to Brown on the right side. On second down, Johnson looked further downfield and hit Clayton for a gain of 20, with Clayton making an impressive leaping catch at the Seattle 45.
Two plays later, Johnson tried to hit Clayton again deep down the left side but the pass was intercepted by CB Marcus Trufant. Trufant got up and returned it to the Bucs' 29 as the quarter came to an end.
Second Quarter Review
Seattle stretched its lead in the game to 10-3 in the second quarter, scoring on a short drive off a Buc turnover, but the big news of the period was the debut of second-year QB Chris Simms. Simms led the Bucs on a 14-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a field goal near the end of the half.
It took Seattle only two plays in the second quarter to get the ball into the end zone. After a Shaun Alexander gained two yards on first down, QB Matt Hasselbeck threw a perfect pump-and-go pass to WR Koren Robinson for a 27-yard touchdown. Seattle took a 10-0 lead on the play.
The Bucs' next drive started at their own 19, with RB Charlie Garner gaining two yards on a run up the middle. Two plays later, on third-and-eight, QB Brad Johnson hit WR Tim Brown over the middle but the play was two yards two short for a first down and the Bucs had to punt.
From their own 27, the Seahawks opened up with an Alexander run up the middle and he gained five yards to the 32. DE Greg Spires fought off a block to keep Alexander from getting around the right corner on second down, forcing a loss of three yards. After a false start, Seattle faced a third-and-13 from their own 24 and settled for an underneath pass to Robinson, which LB Derrick Brooks stopped two yards short of the sticks.
After the punt, the Bucs started at their own 23 and second-year QB Chris Simms came in to direct the offense. Simms' first regular-season play in the NFL was a handoff to RB Charlie Garner, but it was a fine play, as Garner sliced off right guard for a gain of 25 yards.
Simms' first pass was incomplete, as DT Rocky Bernard tipped it away at the line, leading to a third-and-11, which became third-and-16 after a false start. Simms tried to hit WR Charles Lee on third down but that pass was also incomplete.
Starting at their own 19 after a fair catch, the Seahawks immediately picked up 16 yards on a pass to TE Jerramy Stevens near the right sideline. However, the Bucs forced a punt three plays later in large part due to the efforts of Spires. First, Spires combined with Brooks to stop Alexander for a loss of a yard. Two plays later, on third-and-11, Spires took advantage of a blitz on his side to shoot around right end and sack Hasselbeck for a loss of six.
Simms started his second drive with a pair of completions to the left sideline, hitting WR Michael Clayton for seven yards and TE Ken Dilger for 12. Simms' next pass was a bullet to TE Rickey Dudley up the right seam for a gain of 17 more.
Now at the Seahawks' 41, Simms handed off to Garner, who burst up the middle for a gain of six. After Garner got three more tough yards up the middle, Simms fired a four-yard pass over the middle to a well-covered Bill Schroeder, moving the chains.
On first down from the Seahawks' 28, Simms threw a short pass to Garner that was good for seven yards, and Garner got the ball inside the 20 with a six-yard run up the gut on second down. Two plays later, on second-and-10 from the 15, Simms scrambled around right end and got 12 yards, eschewing the sideline to get the last few yards down to Seattle's three.
The Bucs' first crack at the end zone was a Mike Alstott run, which gained just a yard. An outlet pass to RB Jamel White came up a yard short when S Terreal Bierria kept the back from stretching into the end zone. Tampa Bay intended to run it over left guard on third down, but the exchange was fumbled and Simms fell on the ball at the six to keep possession. The Bucs settled for Martin Gramatica's 24-yard field goal, cutting Seattle's lead to 10-3.
Seattle started another drive at its own 28 and got 10 yards on a slant to WR Darrell Jackson. Hasselbeck then hit Morris on the right sideline for two yards, with the back getting out of bounds with 19 seconds left.
Two incompletions forced Seattle to punt and the ball went into the end zone for a touchback as the half came to an end.
Third Quarter Review
Neither team scored in the third quarter as both defenses reigned. The Bucs fought out of bad field position for most of the period but fumbled the ball away the one time they took over at midfield. With one quarter to go, Tampa Bay had a total-yardage advantage of 174-146 but was trailing 10-3.
The Bucs started at their own 29 with Chris Simms still under center. After a first-down incompletion and an outlet pass to RB Charlie Garner for two yards, the Bucs faced a third-and-eight. Simms hit Garner again on third down but the back ran out of bounds at the 35 before he could turn it upfield.
Seattle's first possession of the second half began at its own 22. After an incompletion, QB Matt Hasselbeck tried to throw a quick slant to WR Darrell Jackson but the pass was high in the face of a blitz and incomplete. After an illegal formation call erased a first-down pass, the Seahawks tried a draw play to FB Mack Strong, and it worked for eight yards, but Seattle still had to punt.
Garner was stopped for no gain on first down from the Bucs' 34, and Simms was sacked for a loss of 10 yards on second down after a play-action fake that didn't fool blitzing LB Orlando Huff. After an incompletion, the Bucs had to punt again.
RB Shaun Alexander got four yards off left guard on first down, but a Shelton Quarles blitz got those four back plus two more on second down. On third-and-12, Hasselbeck had time to throw and bought more time scrambling right, but the coverage stayed strong and he had to throw it away.
Tampa Bay got nice field position after Tim Brown's fair catch at the Bucs' 44, and moved the ball five yards on a pass over the middle to Garner. Garner fought around right end for a gain of four on second down. On third-and-one, however, Simms was scrambling forward when DE Grant Wistrom caught him from behind and knocked the ball loose. DT Rashad Moore recovered for Seattle at the Hawks' 41.
Alexander got a quick five yards up the middle but was turned back by S Jermaine Phillips after a gain of one on second down. Hasselbeck tried to throw a screen pass to Strong on third-and-four, but the pass was out of Strong's reach. Unfortunately for the Bucs, WR Alex Bannister caught P Tom Rouen's ensuing kick on the run at the Bucs' four.
The Bucs tried to catch Seattle with a rollout pass on first down, but TE Ken Dilger was well-covered. After Garner's one-yard run, Simms scrambled up the middle to the 10, buying Josh Bidwell some room to punt.
Alexander ran around left end on first down but Quarles stopped him after a gain of five. A play-action rollout by Hasselbeck appeared to work on second down, but the quarterback passed up on an underneath throw to try for Jackson farther down the sideline, and it was overthrown. On third-and-five, DT Anthony McFarland beat his man off the ball and sacked Hasselbeck for a loss of three.
A short pass over the middle to Garner picked up a quick four yards from the nine, but Simms was forced to scramble on second down, getting just a yard. On third-and-five, Simms zipped a hard pass over the middle to Clayton, who split two tacklers to get 10 yards out to the 24.
Two plays later, Simms dropped a 14-yard pass into Brown's hands near the left sideline. That play gave the Bucs a first down at their own 40 and brought the third quarter to a conclusion.
Fourth Quarter Review
For the second straight week, the Bucs were unable to rally from a 10-point deficit, this time falling 10-6 to the visiting Seattle Seahawks. The Bucs scored the only points of the final period – and the second half – with a 71-yard field goal drive, but were unable to get the ball into the end zone to tie the game. The Bucs, who gained 271 yards to Seattle's 182, drop to 0-2 for the first time since 1998, while the Seahawks improve to 2-0.
The Bucs started the final period with a first down at their own 40 but QB Chris Simms' first-down pass went through FB Mike Alstott's hands on the left sideline. After Simms hit WR Tim Brown in the same spot for a gain of seven, he was sacked on third down by Antonio Cochran and the Bucs had to punt. Josh Bidwell's kick was fair caught by Bobby Engram at the Seattle 12.
Seattle moved away from its own goal line on first down when QB Matt Hasselbeck fired a 13-yard pass to Engram, who had found a hole in the Bucs' zone. Hasselbeck then tried to hit WR Darrell Jackson heading up the left seam, but the pass glanced off Jackson's hands. The Seahawks were able to hold off a Buc blitz on the next play, allowing Hasselbeck to deliver a 12-yard pass to a diving Koren Robinson.
RB Shaun Alexander got six yards over right tackle on first down but CB Ronde Barber flattened Alexander on second down as the back tried to sweep around left end, leading to a loss of one. Hasselbeck had to call a timeout before the third-and-five snap, but it was the Bucs that came out of the break with a big play. Though a Buc blitz was initially picked up, DT Anthony McFarland quickly broke through for a seven-yard sack.
After Seattle's punt, the Bucs took over at their own 20 with 10:25 left to play. A quick stop by WR Michael Clayton got him position for a four-yard pass from Simms on first down. RB Charlie Garner got four more yards up the middle on second down. On third-and-two, Simms had a well-formed pocket and he used it to fire a 14-yard pass over the middle to Clayton.
With a first down at the 42, Simms faked a handoff and fired to Clayton again, this time picking up six yards in the middle of the field. The Bucs tried a deep ball for the first time on the day on the next play, and though the post to WR Bill Schroeder was overthrown, it got a cheer from the crowd. Facing third-and-four, the Bucs had to call a timeout after Seattle's defense showed a blitz. After the break, the Hawks did blitz, but Simms threw a quick out to Alstott that just slipped past the defender for a gain of six yards and a first down at the Seattle 46.
Alstott got the next carry, as well, and made it around right end for a gain of five. On the next play, Alstott gave Simms time to pass with a great blitz pickup and Simms used the time to hit WR Charles Lee down the left seam for a gain of 35 to the Seahawks' six.
The Bucs tried to pass on first-and-goal but good coverage forced Simms to eventually throw the ball away. Simms was sacked on second, pushing the ball back to the 11, and his second down pass to Garner picked up just two yards. Tampa Bay chose to bring Martin Gramatica on for a 27-yard field goal try, and he nailed it to cut the lead to four, 10-6.
Seattle started its next drive at its own 30 and got one yard on an Alexander run into a pile in the middle. After a Hasselbeck-Jackson hook up gained eight yards, the Seahawks called a timeout facing a third-and-one with 2:56 to play. Seattle gave it to Alexander again, but the Bucs' defense held, stopping the back mere inches short of a first down.
Tom Rouen's punt forced the Bucs to start at their own 12 with 2:31 to play. The Bucs gave it to Garner on first down and he darted up the middle for a gain of nine. Simms then hit Brown for a gain of nine more and a first down at the 30 as the two-minute warning arrived.
Two penalties moved the Bucs into Seattle territory, as DE Chike Okeafor was flagged for roughing the passer and DE Grant Wistrom drew a pass interference call. Rocky Bernard dropped an interception on the next play, but Simms' next pass was picked off. Fortunately, another roughing-the-passer call gave the ball back to the Bucs and put it at the Seattle 31.
Simms tossed a four-yard pass to Brown on the next play, but his second-down pass would be his last. Nearly sacked, Simms tried to throw the ball in desperation as he went down and it went directly into the hands of S Michael Boulware.
The Seahawks started at their own 21 after Boulware's six-yard return. With 1:03 left, Alexander ran up the middle for two yards and the Bucs called a timeout at the 0:57 mark. Hasselbeck tried a rollout right on second down but decided to hold on after the Bucs covered his man. Hasselbeck was stopped for a loss of two and the Bucs used their last timeout with 49 seconds left. Alexander ran for four yards on third down and that was enough to run out the clock.