Seahawks Insider Blog

Seahawks’ key to Sunday in Tampa: Turn No. 3 loose on the Bucs, adjust to life without Thomas

The Seahawks on Sunday are doing something they’ve never done since he joined their roster in the spring of 2010: Play a game without Earl Thomas. The three-time All-Pro free safety is out for the game at Tampa Bay with a strained hamstring after 118 consecutive starts to begin his career.
The Seahawks on Sunday are doing something they’ve never done since he joined their roster in the spring of 2010: Play a game without Earl Thomas. The three-time All-Pro free safety is out for the game at Tampa Bay with a strained hamstring after 118 consecutive starts to begin his career. jbessex@gateline.com

TAMPA, Fla. Happy Sunday vs Florida’s Gulf Coast.

For my game-advance story in today’s News Tribune I focused on the origins of Russell Wilson’s wowing, wrong-feet, across-his-body touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham last weekend in the win over Philadelphia. Those origins include the Tri-Cities Dust Devils, the Asheville Tourists and Wilson’s backyard growing up in Virginia.

My colleague Dave Boling with me again down here in Tampa comments on Seahawks coach Pete Carroll getting his 100th NFL victory last weekend -- and says “don’t bet against” the 65-year-old coach getting 100 more wins.

And the TNT’s Todd Milles looks at this first, big Seahawks chance for rookie running back Alex Collins, whom the team mothballed again just last weekend but needs now.

Here are my facts, key players and pick for today’s game:

SEAHAWKS GAMEDAY

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-2-1) at TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-5)

Sunday 1:05 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

TV: KCPQ Channel 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.

The series: The Seahawks have won eight of the 12 meetings between expansion partners from 1976. Seattle won the last meeting 27-24 in overtime on Nov. 3, 2013, overcoming an early deficit at CenturyLink Field. The Buccaneers won the last time these teams played in Tampa, 38-15 on Dec. 26, 2010. The Seahawks have played at Tampa Bay just twice in the previous 10 seasons.

Line: Seahawks by 6.

SEATTLE’S KEYS

Turn No. 3 loose: Russell Wilson has proven the last two weeks in wins at the Patriots and over the Eagles he is as healthy as he’s been since his first leg injury in the third quarter of the opener Sept. 11. Lead runner Thomas Rawls is banged up but will start after playing 40 snaps, more than expected, last weekend in his first game in two months. Fellow running backs C.J. Prosise (broken shoulder blade) and Troymaine Pope (high-ankle sprain) are out. Expect Wilson to run more read options and carry more of the running load than he has all season – or to throw it all over Raymond James Stadium to keep Rawls from getting further damaged. And as the last three weeks and wins have showed, turning Wilson loose to make most of the plays is still Seattle’s best way to move and score on offense.

Avril, Clark, Wagner and pals getting after Winston: Buccaneers second-year QB Jameis Winston threw eight interceptions in his first four games. But he’s hot, with 12 touchdown throws and two interceptions in the last six games. He enters confident but with a history of making risky throws under pressure. As Richard Sherman noted this past week "sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t." Without Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett, out again following arthroscopic knee surgery three weeks ago, end Cliff Avril (10 sacks), Bennett’s fill in Frank Clark and blitzing linebacker Bobby Wagner have the task to pressure Winston out of his present and back to his mistake-filled past.

Adjust without Thomas: This will be the first time in the 119 game weeks Earl Thomas has been a Seahawk that Seattle’s defense won’t have the three-time All-Pro at free safety. It’s going to be Steve Terrell in the middle of the field this time, because Thomas is out with a strained hamstring. The Buccaneers will be targeting Terrell. Fellow safety Kam Chancellor has an added responsibility in pass coverage and communication he’s not used to doing. Not when Thomas is (just about) always back there with him.

The pick: The Bucs are 25th in the league against the pass. The Seahawks’ running backs are either out or, in Rawls’ case, banged up. Wilson throws it all over Tampa Bay in one of his best passing days of his career. Seahawks 35, Buccaneers 17.

PRIME NUMBERS

SEATTLE

No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year

3 Russell Wilson QB 5-11 215 fifth

Safeguards against his injuries, and the injuries, are long gone. Time for more sandlot, improv fun

23 Steven Terrell FS 5-10 197 fourth

SEA’s most underused backup must fill its largest shoes: 3-time All-Pro Earl Thomas’ in the middle

53 Joey Hunt C 6-2 299 rookie

Justin Britt didn’t practice all week (ankle). Looks like Hunt makes his 1st start. Communication key

TAMPA BAY

No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year

13 Mike Evans WR 6-5 231 second

Big, physical star 2nd in NFL in TD catches, 3rd in recs & yards. Richard Sherman likely to shadow

3 Jameis Winston QB 6-5 237 rookie

Hot the last 6 games, 12 TD passes, 2 INTs. Going to test SEA, especially Terrell, deep

22 Doug Martin RB 5-9 223 fifth

3rd game back after 6 weeks out. Had 24 carries last week at KC. Needs to run to help Winston

Here is what Carroll had to say about this one on Friday, on the team’s way out the door of team headquarters to fly here:

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