Jermaine Kearse got his 256th penalty this season for offensive pass interference on Sunday.
OK, it only seems like that many on the Seahawks’ veteran wide receiver.
“I probably lead the league in OPI calls,” Kearse said.
Yes, he does.
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Kearse’s flag for essentially blocking or at least obstructing a Buccaneers cover man trying to get down the field in the third quarter of Seattle’s 14-5 loss at Tampa Bay was the second time in as many games he’s been called for OPI. Though the Bucs declined his foul because Russell Wilson’s third-down pass to Tyler Lockett was incomplete down the sideline past Kearse, it was the NFL-leading fifth time he’d been flagged for that infraction this season.
The Seahawks have sent requests to the league for explanations on the previous four calls. Kearse said Sunday the NFL had reported back that “there might have been maybe one” of the previous flags were actually penalties.
“It’s pretty evident that I do a lot of things in our offense,” Kearse said. “And I guess they are targeting me.
“I’m going to continue to do my job. It’s just something that comes with that job, I guess. I’ve been doing the same things I’ve been doing this whole time (since he joined the Seahawks and NFL in 2012).
“Last week, that one last week (against Philadelphia) they came back and said that wasn’t offensive pass interference.”
Then Kearse just chuckled in lieu of an explanation.
“Honestly, I really don’t know,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve been penalized — ever. ... When we played the Patriots (two weeks ago) I saw some routes out there that looked exactly the same.
“But, I guess I’ve just got to find a better way to do it, to do my job.”
INJURED ALL OVER
Sunday was fill-in day for the Seahawks.
Injuries to starters left the following replacements: Steven Terrell for three-time All-Pro Earl Thomas at free safety; Jeremy Lane for DeShawn Shead (hamstring) at cornerback; rookie Joey Hunt for Justin Britt (ankle) at center; Jordan Tripp for Brock Coyle (foot) at strongside linebacker; and Frank Clark for Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett ( knee surgery).
Coach Pete Carroll said Thomas and Shead “have a chance” to play, and is “counting on” Bennett returning, for the upcoming Sunday night home game against Carolina.
Bennett’s missed the past five games.
Thomas’ absence (strained hamstring) for the first time after 118 consecutive starts hurt Seattle right away.
EVANS VS. SHERMAN
Tampa Bay trucked the Seahawks and their zone coverage on its opening, 14-play drive culminating in Jameis Winston’s 3-yard touchdown pass to leading receiver Mike Evans.
Evans, third in the league in catches and yards coming into Sunday, spent much of his day shadowed by Richard Sherman. But on the first touchdown, Evans ran a curl route just inside the goal line in front of Terrell. Terrell, making the first start of his four-year career, said he had deeper responsibility along the back line of the end zone.
Evans had six catches on seven targets for 84 yards and two touchdowns — all in the first half. Most came against Sherman as did the Bucs’ second touchdown.
Following a three-and-out by the Seahawks’ offense, Winston threw down the left sideline from the Seattle 27. Evans and Sherman traded shoves. Evans had scant time to react to Winston’s pass hitting him in the hands and chest in the end zone. Sherman protested to the officials for a penalty on Evans.
“He grabbed my jersey early and pulled me down ... and then I thought maybe a push off at the end and you get that call,” Sherman said. “But it’s the league, and they’re not going to call that.”
Presto! The Seahawks trailed 14-0 less than 12 minutes into the game.
BIG DAY WITH HEAVY HEART
Wilson’s first interception in 121 throws came during a 2-minute drill at the end of the half and cost Seattle a chance to close within six points by halftime. Tampa Bay’s Alterraun Verner stepped in front of Paul Richardson on a seam route to pick off Wilson’s throw at the Bucs 15.
It was Wilson’s third interception in 343 throws this season.
Verner’s play came two days after father passed away at the age of 61. The Buccaneers ran over to him, some of them off the sidelines, while their teammate fell to the ground following his interception.
“My dad was my biggest fan. He made so many sacrifices to get to where I am today,” Verner, a seventh-year veteran from UCLA, said. “I just know he wouldn’t want to be the cause for me not to play, so that’s why I decided to play.
“I wanted to honor him.”
WOE ON ‘O’
The Seahawks’ only points came from officials’ calls in their favor.
Defensive end Frank Clark was held in the end zone by Tampa Bay tight end Luke Stocker in the second quarter. When the spot foul happens in the end zone it is a safety. Seattle trailed 14-2.
Seattle’s biggest offensive play of the opening half came on the post-safety possession. Wilson had time to throw downfield for the first time in eight passes. Doug Baldwin was interfered with from behind before the ball arrived for a 29-yard penalty on third down. That set up Steven Hauschka’s field goal to make it 14-5.
Wilson completed just three of eight passes in the first half for 20 yards and a miniscule passer rating of 6.2.
EXTRA POINTS: Carroll said Seattle’s only injury was tight end Luke Willson’s sprained right knee. He got that catching and 11-yard pass in the first quarter. Carroll didn’t elaborate on how injured Willson may be. … Coyle had been starting for Mike Morgan. Morgan is due back for next weekend’s game as the Seahawks injured-reserve player designated to return from surgery for a sports hernia. The rest of the Seahawks’ inactives: running backs C.J. Prosise (broken shoulder blade) and Troymaine Pope (high-ankle sprain) and defensive lineman Damontre Moore (foot). ... Defensive-line coach Travis Jones not in Tampa because of what team says is "an illness." Veteran assistant Dwaine Board was on sidelines as in Jones’ role.