The start of second half of the Seahawks’ season looked much like most of the first half — Seattle needing Russell Wilson to turn in an otherworldly performance (aided greatly by Tyler Lockett and a rapidly emerging DK Metcalf) to bail out a shaky defense.
And maybe the way the Seahawks beat Tampa Bay 40-34 in overtime Sunday is just the way Seattle is going to have to do it throughout 2019.
After allowing a season-high 34 points and 418 yards to the Bucs, the Seahawks now are allowing an average of 380 yards per game and 6.2 yards per play.
Both would be the highest of the Pete Carroll era.
But after gaining 492 yards and scoring a season-high 40 points, the Seahawks now are averaging 395 yards per game, which would shatter the team record of 378 set in 2015, as well as 6.0 per play, which would also be a team record.
“I don’t think anybody on this defense expected that they would be able to move the ball the way that they did,’’ middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said of the Bucs.
With more tough tests for the defense on the horizon — and Josh Gordon now adding to an already dangerous passing game — maybe it’s time to simply accept that Seattle’s identity has shifted and go along for the ride.
On to the grades:
It was another game in which Wilson could hardly have been better. It was the third time in his career he has thrown for five touchdowns, tying a team record set eight other times, and he again did not commit a turnover. He now has a simply absurd 22-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, which is where any MVP talk should begin.
Chris Carson got some really hard yards (finishing with 105) and led Seattle to gaining 145 yards on the ground against what had been the No. 1 run defense in the NFL. But Carson also had two fumbles, losing one at what could have been a really key time in the fourth quarter. The games are just about gone when Seattle can get away with that.
As Carroll said later, Lockett “is ridiculous,’’ turning in a career-high 13 receptions for 152 yards, the latter just off his career best of 154 earlier this year against the Saints. And DK Metcalf just keeps getting better, with a career-high 123 receiving yards, all but 11 coming in the second half or overtime. There wasn’t much other than that, but the hope is adding Gordon will make Seattle that much more dynamic.
So, Jacob Hollister, huh? The player picked up for a seventh-round choice in April from the Pats more than proved his worth Sunday with two touchdowns as well as drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone, which led to one of his scores. Luke Willson added two receptions for 20 yards. And now Seattle might add Ed Dickson to the mix this week.
There were a few nervous moments early — Seattle had to punt on three of its first six possessions, Wilson at one point was sacked on consecutive plays when the Bucs led 21-7. But as the game wore on the Seahawks seemed to get a handle on the Bucs’ blitzes and the Seahawks could have scored on their last seven possessions (a missed field goal and a fumble killing the other two). Joey Hunt’s first start of the season — and fourth of his career — went off without a hitch and gaining 7.2 yards per play, a season-high, said it all.
The positive was that the Seahawks largely shut down Tampa Bay’s running game, holding the Bucs to 3.6 per carry, and only 67 yards on 18 carries after the first quarter (Jarran Reed had a nice game with five tackles). The bad was that Seattle again got little pressure out of its four-man rush, having to resort to more blitzing in the second half to get to Jameis Winston. Seattle’s only two sacks were by linebackers Bobby Wagner and Mychal Kendricks, and Seattle had only one other quarterback hit on 46 called passes by Tampa Bay, that by Poona Ford. Jadeveon Clowney had a few good moments but Ziggy Ansah again seemed largely unnoticeable.
As noted, Wagner and Kendricks came through with two big sacks at key times late in the game to scuttle Tampa Bay drives. The run defense was solid and most of the passing yards seemed to be more downfield. Wagner’s late hit on Winston that kept Tampa Bay’s first scoring drive alive and resulted in a touchdown, though, is the kind of costly mistake Seattle can’t make going forward.
The Seahawks simply couldn’t guard Mike Evans, to the extent that you wondered at times why Tampa Bay ever did anything other than throw him the ball. Evans beat everyone in the Seattle secondary en route to 12 catches for a whopping 180 yards. Seattle also got its hands on just four of Winston’s 44 attempts, one of which rookie Marquise Blair maybe could have had in the end zone, instead resulting in a Tampa Bay touchdown. Nine games in, Seattle has just seven interceptions, a far cry from the 28 of 2013 (Seattle had 12 last season).
What to do about Jason Myers, who now has missed five field goals this season (12 for 17) after going 33 for 36 last year with the Jets? The worries that his 2018 Pro Bowl season was the outlier in his five-year NFL career might unfortunately be coming to fruition. He missed two field goals and a PAT Sunday, and the miss at the end of regulation brought back too many ill memories of the Blair Walsh experience (Sebastian Janikowski at least made most of the really key ones last year). Seattle also allowed a 39-yard kickoff return late in the second quarter that could have resulted in a field goal for Tampa Bay. The only good news was a return-to-form day from Michael Dickson, who averaged 55.3 yards on three punts.