MMQB: Seahawks Upend Bucs for Opening Win

Seahawks.NET's Dylan Johnson explains how, despite weird penalties, early offensive ineffectiveness, special teams blunders and some kinda really big whistle, Seattle beat Tampa Bay on opening day.

Seattle Seahawks 20, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6
Sunday September 9, 2007
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington

Play Of The Day:  RB Maurice Morris went in motion on 3rd and 5 with 8:41 left in the fourth quarter and smoked over-the-hill LB Derrick Brooks for a 34 yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck that put Seattle up 20-6 and put the game out of reach..

Handouts To The StandoutsWalter Jones, Rob Sims, Chris Spencer, Chris Gray and Sean Locklear.  Heading into the season, the Seattle offensive line was a major question mark and the front five answered the call by consistently blowing the Tampa defense off of the line and by not just giving Matt Hasselbeck time in the pocket, but by opening the front of the Tampa defensive line for him to scramble through when the going got tough in the backfield.  LB Lofa Tatupu finished the day as the teams leading tackler and made big hits all day long - from when he broadsided RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and knocked him out of the game with a rib injury, to his second forced fumble of the game after a completion to Earnest Graham with three minutes and change left on the clock to ice the game. 

Things That Made Me Go, "Blech":  Poor punt and kick coverage that gave the Buccaneers better starting field possession then they should have had all day long, combined with poor decision making on behalf of Josh Wilson and Nate Burleson (although Burleson earns a pass thanks to his 58-yard punt return in the second quarter). …Two roughing the passer penalties by the defense on third and long plays that extended drives, one by Leroy Hill and one by Rocky Bernard.  Both hits were late and deserving of the 15 yards awarded to the Bucs…In an attempt not to be a prototypical Seahawks fan, I'll merely steal a comment from former New Orleans Saints GM Jim Finks who once opined that "I'm not allowed to comment on lousy officiating"…I'm eagerly awaiting Mike Pereira's explanation of how a shin is actually a knee and how a whistle from the crowd that only the punter hears should result in an elementary school playground "do-over".

Offense:  The aforementioned offensive line played a rock-solid game, giving Alexander room to cutback and keeping the heat off of Matt Hasselbeck for a majority of the snaps.  Hasselbeck, for his part, finished the day 17-22 with 222 yards and a TD pass, showing solid decision-making in the pocket.  Shaun Alexander answered the call rushing for over 100 yards and a touchdown, but, perhaps more importantly, he was particularly hard-nosed when it mattered most, rushing for 30 yards on six carries that ate up three and a half valuable minutes at the end of the game.  Tight End Marcus Pollard led the team with 5 grabs and has easily justified the front office's decision in signing him during this past offseason. 

Bobby Engram once again proved himself invaluable as Matt's safety valve grabbing three key receptions that kept drives alive (and one that led directly to the Seahawks first points of the game).  Maurice Morris did well on his few carries and hauled in the play of the game by streaking down the sidelines and nabbing a Hasselbeck rainbow for the game's final score. 

On the downside, D.J. Hackett left the field after his first and only reception with a sprained ankle and Deion Branch only made the offensive stat sheet by dropping a pass, which does make him an effective replacement for the departed Darrell Jackson.  Mike Holmgren called a few head-scratchers during the course of the game, including a failed flea-flicker and one of his patented third and long draw plays to Mack Strong that quickly brought out the boo-birds at Qwest Field, but by the second quarter Holmgren returned to what he does best:  straight up West Coast Football and all's well that ends well.

Defense:  The front seven finished the game with six sacks, three forced fumbles and knocked both Jeff Garcia and Cadillac Williams out of the game.  Leroy Hill had an up and down game with an early bonehead roughing the passer call on third and long that would ultimately allow Tampa to kick a chip shot field goal offset by a bone crushing hit on Garcia in the third quarter that forced the him from the game.  Julian Peterson and Patrick Kearny earned their big paychecks by getting up in Garcia's grill all day long contributing 2 sacks each.  Chuck Darby and Darryl Tapp both played strong games from the interior of the line contributing to the sack total, stuffing runs and, in the case of Tapp, swatting down a few passes. 

The Seattle secondary was victimized early by Garcia and Joey Galloway, but a quick double-team adjustment on Galloway effectively shut down the Tampa offense for the rest of the game.  The run defense was very stout, keeping the entire Buccaneer team from gaining more than 100 yards on the ground.  Admittedly, the Tampa Offense ranked 30th in the NFL last year in Football Outsider's DVOA (for an explanation of what that means click here), but it was refreshing to see that the Seattle could put away a team when they were expected to.

Special Teams:  Nate Burleson's fantastic 58 yard punt return aside, the Seahawks' special teams was considerably less-than-stellar.  Burleson and rookie Josh Wilson seemed lost on most of the returns, and by lost I mean that they seemed blissfully unaware that the point of football is to matriculate the ball downfield.  The duo spent the lion's share of their returns running towards the sidelines or towards their own end zone rather than towards the opponent's goal line. 

On the other side of the ball, Ryan Plackemeier and Josh Brown saw booming kicks offset by the coverage teams' complete inability to get downfield in a timely manner which lead to returns when there shouldn't ought to have been any.  Against the Tampa Bucs, this didn't lead to disaster, but against a better team, this could have been the difference between victory and defeat.  That said, both Plackemeier and Brown nailed all of the various kicks they were asked to make, be it a long field goal or a short pooch punt, with the strength and accuracy that has made them the strongest kicking due in the league.    

Additional Notes:  Perennial trouble-maker and ex-Seahawk Jerramy Stevens made one catch late in the game and promptly coughed it up after contact with NFC Playoff hero Jordan Babineaux.  The play would be negated by a Rocky Bernard roughing the passer penalty, but the play was not lost on the home crowd in Seattle. 

Marcus Pollard ran over Tampa Bay LB Quincy Black on the first play from scrimmage of the second half.  The play only went for six yards, but I'm betting that Quincy won't be happy in the film room tomorrow.

Another Buc who won't be happy in the film room will be rookie DB Tenard Jackson who was juked out of his shoes by Shaun Alexander on 16 yard dash early in the second quarter.

When Lofa Tatupu blasted Cadillac Williams on the first play of the Buccaneers second drive in the third quarter, the Rookie of the Year 2005 met the Reach of the 2005 Draft.  The Reach won … bigtime.

The Golden Microphone Award:  One must wonder what the Seahawks did to deserve the "A Team" of Dick Stockton and Brian Baldinger as the announcing team for the season opener. 

Between Stockton calling second downs as third downs, announcing Marcus Pollard receptions as catches for Mack Strong and "Baldy" noting how the Seattle crowd wasn't in the game right before Tampa got called for their first false start deep in the Hawks' Nest end zone or spending the vast majority of the first half gushing over elderly Derrick Brooks (who proceeded to get smoked for the game-changing play only after a costly face mask penalty and missing several key tackles against Shaun Alexander), I had a hard time choosing which of the pair was more deserving of the Golden Microphone. 

Ultimately I went with Stockton, because Baldinger has the Chuck Bednarik pinky on his hand, proving that he at least played the game.

Summary:  The Seahawks won a game they were supposed to but not without showing a bit of early season rust.  The offense and defense were sluggish out of the gate but managed to dial it back in by the second quarter and put away the Bucs for good before the halfway mark of the fourth quarter. 

Both of the units that were questionable heading into the season, namely the offensive line and the defensive secondary, had solid outings against an inferior opponent, but the struggles of the special teams unit is a concern, especially seeing as how Philadelphia lost a game against the lowly Packers due to poor special teams play earlier in the day.  Still, the Seahawks gave the fans at Qwest Field a solid outing and early jump on the rest of the division with an opening day victory.

Dylan is a die-hard Seahawks fan trapped in Eagles Country. He firmly believes that "Live At Leeds" is the single greatest live performance since a deaf Ludwig Van debuted his final symphony in Vienna in 1824.  You can e-mail Dylan at Top Stories