SEATTLE, Wash. (WFLA) The long road away from home comes to its conclusion today when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The Bucs are completing a five-game, six-week tour that has ventured to the west coast twice and as far east as London, England.
This difficult stretch of the 2019 schedule began with a thrilling 55-48 win over the Los Angeles Rams but has been followed but three straight losses marred by inconsistent play on both offense and defense. Last week, the Bucs fell behind the Tennessee Titans 14-3, battled back to take the lead in the third quarter but surrendered 10 points to fall 27-23.
The Seahawks found their way back into the win column with a road victory against the Atlanta Falcons. In their previous home contest, the Seahawks were humbled by quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
Here are three things to watch today:
Can the offense put together a complete game?
Two early drives last Sunday in Nashville resulted in turnovers and 14 quick points for the Titans. The Bucs erased that deficit but the math did damage by day’s end. Quarterback Jameis Winston threw a pair of interceptions, which were defended by head coach Bruce Arians. No matter how fault is assigned, Winston’s 12 interceptions for the season lead the league.
For all the criticism of Winston, the Bucs passing offense has still worked with effectiveness overall. Wide receiver Chris Godwin stands fifth in the NFL in receiving yards and fellow receiver Mike Evans is coming off a franchise record day against Tennessee. Evans finished with 198 yards receiving and became the Bucs all-time reception and touchdown catch leader.
Pass protection may get a boost as well as the right side of the offensive line may return to its normal depth. Guard Alex Cappa returned to practice this week in the latter stage of his recovery from a fractured arm and tackle Demar Dotson is on the mend with a hamstring injury.
Rushing to have a rush
The Bucs pass rush will have its hands full the entire day with one of the game’s top quarterbacks, Russell Wilson. Whether it is his arm or his ability to slip out of danger, Wilson can create big plays out of nothing.
The Bucs have enjoyed success against Wilson before but overall results are mixed and right now, opposing quarterbacks are able to pick apart the Bucs secondary. The rush will have to disrupt that time in the pocket.
Linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul made an immediate difference in his season debut last week, sacking Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill on his very first play from scrimmage. The Bucs took a cautious approach in Pierre-Paul’s returning from a fractured neck and after the game, Pierre-Paul more than hinted he was ready to play more. If health concerns are not as great today, look for way more repetitions and pressure from Pierre-Paul and the linebackers. Fellow linebacker Shaquil Barrett ended a mini-slump by collecting his NFL-leading 10th quarterback sack against the Titans. If Barrett and Pierre-Paul are active again, the quest to get a hand on Wilson stands a much better chance.
Holding breath in the defensive backfield
The Bucs defensive backfield is young and shows talent in spurts. It has also been isolated and left head-scratching as opponents celebrate touchdowns. If the play of the cornerbacks and safeties does not improve, the Seahawks may score at will.
Cornerback Carlton Davis was the victim on key plays last Sunday, drawing a pair of pass interference calls, nullifying interceptions. His coverage inside the 5-yard line was too deep. It was a rough day at the office. Head coach Bruce Arians has repeatedly called for more physical play by his corners. The risk is high and the Bucs have landed themselves near the bottom of the pack against the pass.
Takeaways on defense are the ultimate equalizer when playing an elite team in a hostile environment. The challenge today is very similar to what the Bucs faced in week five at New Orleans. That turned into a long, loud, Superdome day. Russell Wilson has thrown one interception all season. Just one, the league leader among full-time starting quarterbacks.
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