If “almost” counted for something in the NFL, give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a gold star. Heck, maybe five of them. Since near-misses on Sundays are as satisfying as curdled milk, though, remember this: The Bucs fell to 0-8, the Seattle Seahawks won and the bottom line came into focus as expected.
This was one wacky ride. In a bizarre turn of events, the Bucs jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first half at CenturyLink Field. They entered halftime ahead 21-7, looking primed to pull one of the largest upsets in recent memory within arguably the NFL’s loudest house.
Then, reality. Behind Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks stormed back in the second half, outscoring Tampa Bay 17-3 to force overtime. The Bucs stalled to begin the extra period, opening a window for Steven Hauschka to make a 27-yard field goal to clinch the 27-24 victory.
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Some thoughts and observations from the Bucs’ latest loss …
1. Mike Glennon exceeded expectations until late in the second half.
No one — absolutely no one — could have guessed the rookie making his fifth start could have fared this well early in such a crazy setting. Good luck finding ways to nitpick his first-half play: He went 10-of-11 passing for 124 yards with two touchdowns.
His performance declined in the second half, though, and he finished the day 17-of-23 passing for 168 yards with two touchdowns. The three-and-out to start overtime was deflating. By the end, he didn’t do enough.
Even with all his good, that’s how this day will be remembered. A hard, cold memory.
2. What a day for Mike James.
In only his second start, the rookie ran for 158 yards on 28 carries. Big credit goes to the offensive line, which opened truck-worthy holes for the young player, who seemed to grow more confident as the day went on.
And who can forget the Miami product doing his best Tim Tebow impression with a 2-yard jump-pass touchdown to Tom Crabtree in the second quarter?
In retrospect, the decision to place Jamon Meredith at left guard was a savvy move to spark the rushing threat. There are many things to like from this game: Glennon’s confidence early, tight end Tim Wright having another big day (four catches for 58 yards), etc. But James’ output was the most impressive … and surprising.
3. Russell Wilson is ridiculous.
Face it, Seattle is too good to be blown out in its own building, and Wilson is too mature, too composed, to allow that to happen.
Even with a 21-point lead, the Bucs had to be prepared to weather Wilson’s storm. As the minutes passed in the second half, you could almost feel the Bucs’ grip growing weaker with each second.
Good teams find ways to win, and bad teams stumble over themselves, even with fate prepared to smile upon them. The Seahawks and Bucs settled into their roles well.
In the end, Wilson did enough to break the Bucs’ will. The second-year starter finished 19-of-26 passing for 217 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also had 36 yards on six carries. That production complemented Lynch, who had a monster day of his own with 125 yards on 21 carries.
Wilson is too big-time. He was too much for Tampa Bay.
4. Very little about this day made sense, except the result.
A winless, bumbling team entered the NFL’s chamber of nightmares, a place where the Seahawks had won 11 consecutive games.
And you know what? None of it mattered early. The blowout predictions. The history. The drama that had drowned the Bucs through their first seven games.
Who could have predicted James’ big day? Who could have dreamed the Bucs had it in them to enter the Pacific Northwest, where hope goes to die, and push around one of the NFC’s big boys?
In the end, though, the Earth tilted back on its axis. The sky faded back to blue. Seattle won. Tampa Bay lost. Just like most had it pegged.