Three Key Plays Sink Defense
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune, published 10 September 2007

According to the official NFL summary for Tampa Bay's 20-6 loss to Seattle, the Bucs defense was on the field for 60 plays Sunday afternoon. Three snaps counted more than the others.

The Seahawks capitalized on a 56-yard punt return by Nate Burleson to set up their go-ahead touchdown late in the opening half, but three critical defensive breakdowns hurt the Bucs in an opening-day loss that dropped Jon Gruden's overall record in Tampa to 42-43, including the postseason.

'We felt good at the half and then we had our share of self-inflicted wounds,' said 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks, who was beaten by running back Maurice Morris for a 34-yard scoring pass midway through the fourth quarter that sealed the loss. 'We can bounce back from this, and we will bounce back. There's no silver lining in losing, but we can stick our chins up.'

The Seahawks boast one of the league's most-balanced attacks and they owned the field-position battle Sunday, but Seattle converted only four of 12 third-down situations. Shaun Alexander, the league's MVP in 2005, was limited to 58 yards on the ground until late in the third quarter, when Tampa Bay's defense began to tire.

With the Bucs leading 6-0 late in the first half and Seattle facing third-and-12 from its 44-yard line, Matt Hasselbeck stepped up in the pocket and fired a 49-yard strike to Bobby Engram that led to a field goal. 'We hustled and hunted today, but you've got to make plays in space,' Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber said. 'You can't miss tackles and you can't make mistakes on the ball.'

Engram found an open seam deep down the middle, behind linebacker Barrett Ruud, and free safety Jermaine Phillips arrived a second after the critical catch that awakened a dormant crowd. 'Tampa's defense is tough to deal with and they made it a dogfight today,' Engram said. 'They'll be OK.'

The Seahawks were clinging to a 13-6 advantage in the fourth quarter when Burleson caught a 20-yard pass to the Tampa Bay 39. 'Nate's like that,' Engram said. 'He's a home run hitter who swings for the fences every time.'

Two plays later, Seattle dispatched Morris wide to the left and isolated him against Brooks, a 13-year veteran. The longest reception in Morris' six-year career ended any suspense. 'Most of the time, when you see a running back split out that far, teams are just trying to use him as a decoy and clear out a defender,' Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson said. 'I think we caught Derrick by surprise on that play by throwing to Maurice. It was the right call at the right time and a big play happened.'

Brooks, who finished with eight stops, offered up no excuses. 'I was with him stride for stride and then I couldn't find the ball,' he said. 'The next time I saw the ball, he caught it. He made the play and I didn't. Like most games, you can point to one or two key plays Sunday that decided the game.'

Rookie defensive end Gaines Adams was credited with one tackle, emerging from his tutorial against Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones with a candid assessment. 'I didn't do too good,' the first-round pick out of Clemson said. 'I didn't get any sacks and we didn't win the game. Jones is a good player, but no one's perfect. All I know is I had some chances.'