SEATTLE — Under the heading of good news, the Seattle Seahawks won on Sunday to improve to 8-1, the best record in the National Football Conference and a mark that puts them 11⁄2 games ahead of idle San Francisco in the NFC West standings.
And now for the rest of the story.
Coming off a sputtering performance against St. Louis on Monday night, the Seahawks got off to a dismal start against winless Tampa Bay, falling behind 21-0 late in the first half at CenturyLink Field. The early showing was bad enough that choruses of boos sounded throughout the stadium, delivered by spectators who no doubt expected to see a blowout of the hapless Buccaneers.
The fans were not alone in their frustration. “I was disappointed that we weren’t able to do better than we did,” admitted Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
But with a rally that began in the final moments of the first half, then continued through a Seattle-dominated second half, and then in overtime, the Seahawks pulled out a 27-24 victory that set a record for the greatest comeback in team history. The winning points in OT came on a 27-yard field goal by place-kicker Steven Hauschka.
The previous mark for a Seahawks comeback victory was in 1995 when Seattle rallied from 20-0 to beat Denver 31-27.
“This was a huge win,” said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. “You think about the deficit … and to be able to come back in that fashion, and (with) the biggest comeback in Seahawks history, that’s big-time.”
“It was really just a tremendous statement that our guys made today about hanging together and believing,” Carroll said.
After getting thoroughly outplayed for most of the first half, the Seahawks got untracked just before halftime with a three-play, 36-second touchdown drive of 80 yards. Aided by two Tampa Bay penalties totaling 44 yards, Seattle reached the Buccaneers 16, where Wilson found wide receiver Jermaine Kearse over the middle for a touchdown.
In the second half the Seahawks spotted Tampa Bay an early field goal, but then scored 17 unanswered points capped by a 10-yard TD pass from Wilson to wide receiver Doug Baldwin with 1:51 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks were terrific in overtime, holding Tampa Bay to minus-4 yards on three plays after the kickoff and then taking possession following a punt at their own 40. Running back Marshawn Lynch, on his way to a 125-yard rushing game, carried on six of the team’s first seven plays in OT, with the last a 13-yard burst to the Tampa Bay 6.
Wilson then moved the ball to the middle of the field before taking a knee, giving Hauschka an easy kick for the game-winner.
Afterward, there were no high-fives or other celebrations in the Seattle locker room. Instead there was only a quiet relief at the win and an obvious pride at the team’s resolve to persevere.
“The past two weeks we’ve been making it harder on ourselves than it needed to be,” said Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. “We’re winning ugly, but that just shows we’re never out of the game. And that’s what I love about this team. We’re always going to fight to the end.”
“We had to persevere, you know?” said cornerback Walter Thurmond. “The game didn’t go the way we wanted it to … (The Buccaneers) showed us that we can’t take teams like that for granted.”
At halftime, Baldwin said, “Everybody was like, ‘Don’t worry about the score. Let’s play one play at a time. We’ll get back in this.’ … This team is the most resilient team I’ve ever been a part of. It doesn’t matter what the situation is or what adversity we face, we’re going to find a way to come out on top.”
The Seahawks are also discovering a fact of life shared by teams among the NFL’s elite. That is, opponents often show up with their best efforts.
“We don’t try to (start slowly),” Kearse said. “We definitely try to win easy, but teams are giving us their best shot. They know we’re playing well, they’ve giving us their best shot, and we have to expect that every week.”
“We expect teams to play at their very best (against us),” Carroll agreed. “And the farther you go, the more the hype builds. That’s a demonstration of their respect. … So we have to prepare every week to play a championship football game and then find a way to do that.”