The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held steady under the cacophony of CenturyLink Field, held onto the football far better than they had in the last two games and held serve against a red-hot opposing quarterback. They just couldn't hold the lead.
And when the game went to a fifth period following a last-minute touchdown run by Dare Ogunbowale, a Buccaneers' defense loaded with young contributors couldn't quite hold its ground one last time against the Seattle Seahawks' MVP candidate, Russell Wilson. Wilson's fifth touchdown pass of the game, a 10-yard strike to TE Jacob Hollister capped a 75-yard drive on the first possession of overtime and gave the home team a 40-34 victory.
The Bucs were left frustrated for a second straight week after a narrow loss in Tennessee the previous Sunday, but Head Coach Bruce Arians was very pleased with his team's effort.
"We've just got to grow up," said Arians. "We're really, really, really young. Just keep growing. But I love the way they competed. It's a bright future, yet we're pissed off about losing a game that went to overtime that we thought we should win, just like last week. But I see the growth. I see us getting better."
The visiting Buccaneers raced out to a 21-7 first-half advantage but saw it slip away in the second half as Wilson directed four scoring drives in the span of five possessions. Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston held his own against the Seahawks MVP candidate, throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, but didn't get one last shot to counter in overtime after Seattle won the toss.
"Offensively, I don't think we could have done much better, maybe a couple third downs," said Arians. "I was really, really proud of our guys. Jameis played probably as good as he's played all year."
The loss, Tampa Bay's fourth in a row, dropped the team to 2-6 at the season's midway point, while the Seahawks improved to 6-2. The Buccaneers' unprecedented six-week, five-game road swing started well with a 55-40 win over the Rams in Los Angeles but that would prove to be the only win in that run despite significant improvements in ball security and red zone production in Seattle.
The Bucs did rally twice, tying the game at 27-27 and 34-34 in the game's final five minutes. Tampa Bay's offense had to keep countering punches from the Seahawks, who finished with 492 total yards, but Arians also lauded his defense for keeping the team in the game despite losing CB Carlton Davis and OLBs Carl Nassib and Anthony Nelson to injury. Davis hurt his hip in pregame warmups, forcing rookie CB Jamel Dean into a much bigger role on defense.
"I'm really, really proud of our guys," said Arians. "At one time we had six rookies out there on defense and they were fighting their asses off. This was an NFL game for some of them, they got broken in pretty good.
After committing 11 turnovers in a pair of losses to Carolina and Tennessee, the Buccaneers avoided giving it away until a fluky play in the fourth quarter, when Winston's arm hit the back of T Donovan Smith on his windup, causing a fumble that was returned to the Buccaneers' 15. That set up a 22-yard Jason Myers field goal that gave Seattle its first lead of the day with eight-and-a-half minutes to play.
DE Rasheem Greene seemed destined for the end zone on the return of Winston's fumble but he was chased down from behind by Evans to eventually save four points. Rookie ILB Devin White had a similar hustle play in the third quarter when he caught RB Chris Carson from behind at the end of a 59-yard run, forcing a fumble that unfortunately went out of bounds.
"Yeah, everybody gave some great effort. I thought Devin White's play on Carson was unbelievable, we just don't get that fumble," said Arians. "That's what these young guys are all about."
Evans' hustle play was particularly impressive considering how busy he was on offense, catching 12 passes on 16 targets for 180 yards and a touchdown. Following his 198-yard performance last week in Tennessee, Evans is the first player in franchise history to post two consecutive 150-yard receiving games. The Bucs got 99 yards on the ground, too, led by 67 and a touchdown from Ronald Jones, who supplanted Peyton Barber in the starting lineup for the first time.
If there was a self-inflicted problem in this one, it was penalties. The Bucs were flagged 11 times for 82 yards, including a 38-yard pass interference penalty on Devin White that set up a Seattle touchdown. The Bucs also lost touchdowns on two consecutive plays in the third quarter, eventually settling for a Matt Gay field goal. There was even one illegal contact penalty on the game-winning drive in overtime.
That said, the Buccaneers seemed to handle the Seattle crowd noise well, particularly after opening up an early lead. Winston was sacked just twice, none in the first half, and routinely had time to throw downfield.
Winston and the Buccaneers' offense started fast, with a 75-yard game-opening touchdown drive, and had 21 points by halftime, their most since a Week Four win over the Rams in Los Angeles. The reason was a significant improvement in situational football: Tampa Bay was five-of-seven on third downs, three-of-three on red zone drives and two-of-two on goal-to-go possessions before the intermission. The Bucs later made it four-of-four and three-of-three in those two latter categories on Ogunbowale's game-tying touchdown.
The Buccaneers did miss a chance to tack onto their eight-point halftime lead when Gay missed a 50-yard field goal attempt. The Bucs had just 20 seconds to work with after T.J. Logan's 39-yard field goal return and got in range with a 16-yard catch by Evans. Gay missed that one but made two others plus four extra points, the last one to tie the game near the end of regulation. Arians said he did not contemplate going for two, and the Buccaneers were fortunate less than a minute later when Jason Myers missed a 40-yard field goal with time running out.
"I thought our kicking game was solid," said Arians. "That field goal before the half, I knew it was going to be huge. In these games up here, they always are. Those three points – I thought it was a hell of a drive in 40 seconds to get into field goal range and I was counting on Matt to make that one.
The Buccaneers' offense opened the game with an attractive 75-yard touchdown drive, most of it belonging to Jones (four carries for 28 yards ) and Evans (two catches for 28 yards). On third-and-three from the 17, Winston escaped a collapsing pocket and scrambled right but couldn't find an open man, eventually throwing it away. That proved to be a good decision, as Bobby Wagner shoved Winston out of bounds and drew a roughing-the-passer penalty to make it first-and-goal from the eight. Winston then gave it to Jones, who shot over left guard and spun through a tackle to get into the end zone.
Seattle's offense was just as precise and explosive to begin the game, taking their first possession 75 yards for a game-tying score. Wilson completed all five of his passes for 73 yards, ending it in a beautiful 19-yard lob to Tyler Lockett in the back right corner of the end zone. The fast start for both teams was made a bit more impressive by the fact that the play clocks in the stadium were not operational until the third drive of the game.
After an exchange of three-and-outs, the Buccaneers took the lead back with a 69-yard drive that included two more catches by Evans plus a pass-interference call on CB Tre Flowers as he tried to cover Evans deep. The touchdown as a bit of fluky luck, as Winston scrambled up and to his left on third-and-11 from the 15 and tried to fire in a laser to Evans in a crowd of defenders. The ball never got to Evans because S Marquise Blair got the first, but the ball deflected off Blair towards the end zone sideline, where an alert Perriman dashed over to grab it for his first Buccaneer score.
View photos of Tampa Bay's Week 9 matchup against Seattle.
The Seahawks got into Bucs' territory on their next drive but Myers missed a 47-yard field goal try. Tampa Bay thus took over at its own 37 and from there drove 63 yards for another touchdown. Winston converted two third downs with sharp passes to Evans (11 yards on third-and-10) and Chris Godwin (18 yards on third-and-six). A tough Barber run got the ball down the one but a false start on Antony Auclair moved it back five yards. Winston once again scrambled forward before getting the ball to Evans for a six-yard score and a 21-7 lead with 4:32 left in the first half.
Seattle was able to make it a one-score game before halftime thanks in large part to a pass-interference call on rookie LB Devin White, who was in deep coverage on Hollister. The 38-yard foul occurred in the end zone, making it first-and-goal at the one-yard line, and Wilson threw a play-action pass to Hollister on the next snap for the touchdown. Myers hit his extra-point attempt off the right upright to keep the Bucs' lead at eight points.
The 39-yard kickoff return by Logan gave the Bucs reason to try to score in the final 20 seconds of the half, and Winston hit a sliding Evans at the Seahawks' 32 with eight seconds left. After a timeout and one shot to Evans in the end zone, the Bucs sent out Gay for a 50-yard field goal try. Gay was lined up on the left hash and his kick was long enough but it stayed left, snapping a streak of 21 consecutive successful placekicks by the rookie.
The Seahawks got the first scoring opportunity of the second half when Carson broke through several tacklers near the line of scrimmage and got into the open for a 59-yard run to the Bucs' 26. Devin White showed off his speed by catching up to Carson and nearly made a huge play by chopping the ball out of the back's arm from behind. Unfortunately for the visitors, the football shot 10 yards sidewise and went out of bounds before it could be recovered. Wilson finished the 85-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Lockett just over the hand of a leaping Dean. The game was tied when Wilson found Metcalf in the end zone for a two-point conversion.
The Buccaneers responded with a scoring drive on the ensuing possession but still left points on the board. Another scrambling touchdown pass by Winston, this time to rookie Scotty Miller, was erased because Miller was ruled to have stepped out of bounds before making the catch. On the next play, Winston scrambled and weaved his way through traffic for 20 yards to reach the end zone but right tackle Demar Dotson was called for holding. The Bucs settled for Gay's 41-yard field goal and a three-point lead.
Seattle tied the game again 30 seconds into the fourth quarter on Myers' 37-yard field goal after a third-down hit by Vita Vea on Wilson ended a drive that covered 56 yards, the biggest chunk on a 30-yard sideline catch by Lockett.
The Seahawks' first sack of Winston, by Wagner, killed the Bucs' next drive and Seattle got the ball back at their own 31 with 12 minutes left. However, the ball was back in Tampa Bay's hands moments later when White forced another Carson fumble. This time the bounce was a fortunate one, as Carson was nearly at the sideline when he went down but the ball came out behind him and was recovered inbounds by Jordan Whitehead at the Seattle 45.
The Seahawks' first takeaway of the game flipped the momentum right back. Winston hit his arm on the back of T Donovan Smith on a third-down pass attempt, losing the ball deep in the pocket. Green scooped it up and nearly scored, only denied the end zone by a hustling Evans. An acrobatic pass breakup by Dean in the end zone on third down forced the Seahawks to settle for Myers' 22-yard field goal, but it was enough to give the home team its first lead of the afternoon.
A 25-yard catch by Evans started the Bucs' next drive but it stalled at the Seahawks' 27, bringing on the field goal unit. Gay drilled his 45-yard attempt right down the middle to tie the game at 27-all with just over five minutes to play. That tie didn't last long, as Wilson needed just three plays to move the home team 75 yards, the score coming on a 45-yard touchdown pass to WR D.K. Metcalf.
The Buccaneers got into Seattle territory on a leaping 23-yard catch-and-run by Evans, a play that was challenged by the Seahawks in search of an offensive pass interference penalty but eventually upheld. Winston converted a fourth-and-five with a scramble to the Seattle 30 and then found Evans again over the middle for 17 yards to the one-yard line. The offense hustled up to the line and Winston handed off to Ogunbowale for the game-tying score, as the Bucs elected to kick the extra point with 46 seconds remaining.