John McGrath: Another lowly team gives Seahawks its best shot

Staff writerNovember 3, 2013 

Another flawed victory over another pronounced underdog continued a pattern Sunday for the Seattle Seahawks. For the second time in six days, they survived an opponent that looked at a game against them as an opportunity to beat the NFC’s best team.

Tampa Bay showed up at CenturyLink Field with an 0-7 record and playoff prospects only an advanced mathematician could prove. Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano isn’t out the door yet, but he’s heading down the hallway, and the expected clock-cleaning at the hands of the Seahawks only figured to hasten the inevitable.

But the Hawks didn’t face misfits who had no business drawing an NFL paycheck. They faced a tough-luck team desperate for something to feel good about.

“This one was tough,” Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon said after the Seahawks' 27-24 overtime victory. “To come in here against the No. 1 team in the NFC, at their place ...”

For hopeless teams like the Buccaneers, all games are not equal. CenturyLink Field on Sunday was as close as they’ll get to the postseason spotlight in 2013.

“We definitely have a target on our back,” said Hawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. “People are gonna come out and give us their best shot. What are we, 8-1?”

That would be correct, B-Dub.

“Every week, no matter what, teams are gonna give us their best shot,” Wagner went on. “And we gotta be ready for it.”

The Seahawks are getting practice at this drill. Last Monday night, a Rams team in the throes of its own disappointing season took the field in St. Louis and controlled both sides of the line. No matter that they were forced to start a career backup at quarterback. No matter that St. Louis fans were more invested in the local baseball team’s World Series game than anything they were watching at the Edward R. Jones Dome.

The Rams put forth an impassioned effort against the Seahawks, offering Schiano and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan a blueprint on how to counter the Hawks’ attack-style defense: Give the ball to a running back who has the patience to wait for his blocks to develop.

Last Monday, Rams rookie Zac Stacy gained 134 yards on the ground. On Sunday afternoon another rookie, Mike James, rolled up 158 yards against a defense that’s supposed be the Seahawks’ ticket to home-field advantage in the playoffs.

“It’s a copycat league,” said safety Earl Thomas. “When we take on impatient running backs, we have a lot of success. Right now that aggressive nature we’ve got, teams are using it against us. These past two weeks, we’ve been making it harder on ourselves than it needs to be.”

Perhaps, but surviving back-to-back thrillers against weak opponents — the combined record of the Rams and Bucs is 3-14 — is about more than the Seahawks’ attempt to cope with some midseason blahs.

The Rams' effort against Seattle was superior, and the Bucs pretty much played out of their minds through the first five minutes of the third quarter, when they owned the stat-sheet advantage in first downs (21-10), passing yards (128-29), rushing yards (146-97) and total yards (274-125).

“In the second half, we really tailed off,” said Schiano. “Did the defense get tired? I don’t know; that’s a pretty physical football team. That was a physical football game both ways. They rushed for yards, we rushed for yards. Both teams were committed to doing it; you could see that and feel that.

“Yeah, that’s a tough one to lose.”

And for the winners? It was tough, period.

“We’ve talked about how we’re going to bring out the best in other teams,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “And we expect to teams to play at their very best. The farther you go, the more the hype builds and all. That’s a demonstration of their respect. I like to point it out.

“As soon as we stop thinking that’s going to happen, we’re in deep trouble. We have to prepare every week to play a championship football game. That’s kind of the way I like it.”

Next test for the Seahawks is the Falcons this Sunday in Atlanta, where the Falcons are 2-6 after opening the season as Super Bowl contenders. The Falcons won’t have any championship aspirations at stake, but thanks to the Seahawks, they’ll compete with a championship effort.

Bank on it.

john.mcgrath@thenewstribune.com

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