Pictures from the Buccaneers' Week 12 matchup with the Seahawks.
Game Ball:** You need both hands to count the deserving candidates for this award: Mike Evans, Jameis Winston, Doug Martin and Kevin Pamphile on offense (Pamphile was singled out in the postgame locker room by Head Coach Dirk Koetter). Lavonte David, Bradley McDougald, Gerald McCoy, Noah Spence and Robert Ayers on defense. Bryan Anger and Josh Robinson on special teams. But the tiebreaker comes down to emotion. Cornerback Alterraun Verner played the game two days after the death of his father as a tribute to Robert Lee Verner, and he made a huge impact in the game. Verner took on a larger role in the defense in the absence of Jude Adjei-Barimah, and late in the first half he stifled a Seahawks rally by intercepting a Russell Wilson pass at the Buccaneers' 15. On Seattle's first drive of the second half, Verner made a diving breakup of a pass intended for WR Jermaine Kearse that would have been a big gain if complete. It's impossible to quantify the impact that the team's rallying around Verner had in the Bucs' best defensive effort in years, but it's also impossible to discount it.
Play of the Game:** Since Seattle never scored again after Verner's interception, it would be fair to also call that the play of the game. For variety's sake, we'll go with Lavonte David's forced fumble and 53-yard return in the fourth quarter. With seven minutes left in the game, the Buccaneers were trying to hold on to a nine-point lead but the Seahawks were threatening to cut the lead to two points. On third-and-seven, Wilson checked down to tight end Jimmy Graham two yards short of the sticks. Rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves reacted quickly and hit Graham low as the tight end turned upfield. The tackle flipped Graham in the air, and as his left hand touched the ground, David's knee jarred the ball out of his right hand. Initially unaware that the ball was loose, David realized there was a fumble when he inadvertently kneeled on the pigskin. He picked it up and sprinted down the right sideline for 53 yards to the Seattle 25. Though the Bucs would turn the ball over on an interception on the ensuing drive, the entire sequence essentially put the game out of reach.
Turning Point:** The Buccaneers scored the game's first 14 points in the first quarter and never trailed, so if this contest had a turning point it was early. In this case, it came when the Bucs faced a third-and-12 near midfield after a false start penalty. Winston dropped back to pass and enjoyed a well-formed pocket, giving him time to locate Evans, who had drifted behind cornerback Richard Sherman. Winston lobbed a perfect pass over Sherman's leaping hands and into those of Evans for a gain of 26 to the Seattle 30. That connection kept alive a drive that would eventually cover 78 yards on 14 plays and result in seven points.
It Was Over When: McDougald read Wilson's shot to hit WR Tyler Lockett deep and came over from centerfield to intercept the pass near the sideline at the Bucs' two. The odds against a Seattle victory were already low at that point, as McDougald's pick came with just over a minute left in the game, but it kept the home team from having to defend a potential onside kick and whatever possession would come after it if the Seahawks succeeded.