SEATTLE - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers walked to their CenturyLink Field locker room late Sunday afternoon virtually en masse, each player wearing the same blank look on his sweaty, soiled face.
It was a look of bewilderment, the kind that comes only after you trek into the building of the best team in your conference and build a 21-point lead, but fade down the stretch and lose 27-24 in overtime.
“It (stinks),'' defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said flatly as he stood in a corner of the locker room, staring straight ahead as he buttoned up a black-and-white polka-dot shirt. “It really does.
“You don't want to say that we played good and that we almost had them, because at the end of the day all we did was lose again, and I'm tired of losing. I'm really tired of saying that.''
The losing has not only reached tiring proportion, it is also reaching historic proportions. This one left the Bucs at 0-8, making this Tampa Bay's worst start since the 1985 team began 0-9.
It dropped the Bucs to 0-7 under head coach Greg Schiano in games decided by three points or fewer, as Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka broke the overtime tie with a 27-yard field goal.
That completed the Seahawks' comeback in a game in which the Bucs won both the turnover battle and the ground game, but lost because they couldn't find a way to build on their three- touchdown lead or slow the Seahawks' rally.
“We have to close out,'' cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “There's nothing else you can say but that. When you have a team like this down like that, you have to choke them out because great teams come back.''
The Seahawks, now an NFC-best 8-1, began their comeback with a late first-half touchdown drive that was fueled by 44 yards in Bucs penalties, including a 29-yard pass interference call against corner Mike Adams.
It continued with a 10-yard touchdown run by quarterback Russell Wilson that trumped the field goal the Bucs scored on their first second-half possession, and it really changed gears on a 71-yard Golden Tate punt return seven plays later.
“We talked about it as players during halftime, about coming out and starting fast in the second half, but they made some key plays, and the biggest was probably (that) Golden Tate punt return,'' Revis said.
“He took that thing all the way down into red-zone territory (the Bucs' 25-yard line) and that was a big momentum change. That really hurt us, because you could see the momentum shift there and the crowd got back into it at that point.''
The crowd stayed in it through the 36-yard Hauschka field goal that Tate's punt return netted and through the 10-yard Wilson touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin that tied the game at 24 with 1:51 to play in regulation.
The Bucs got the ball first in overtime but the inability to keep drives alive that plagued them in the second half continued and they gave it up after three plays.
That gave the Seahawks a chance to complete their rally, which they did by leaning almost exclusively on running back Marshawn Lynch, who ran six ? five ? times for 44 ? 50 ? yards to set up Hauschka's game-winning kick.
Wilson played a big role in the comeback, too, completing 19 of 26 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns and running six times for 36 and a score, but there's no avoiding the fact the Bucs had Wilson and Seattle on the ropes.
They had snuffed out one potential Seattle score by intercepting Wilson in front of their own goal line and rookie quarterback Mike Glennon had thrown touchdown passes of 12 yards to Tim Wright and 20 yards to Tiquan Underwood.
They were running the ball effectively, rookie back Mike James carrying 17 times for 82 yards in the first half. They turned punter Mike Koenen's recovery of a fumbled punt return into a touchdown ? .That happened with 2:46 to play in the first half and what the Bucs did to produce that score after taking control of the ball at the Seattle 31 spoke volumes about their confidence level at the time.After Glennon kicked off the drive by hitting Wright with a 27-yard pass, ? when James threw a 2-yard Tim Tebow-like jump pass to Tom Crabtree for a 21-0 lead.
That score gave the Bucs 21 points in the second quarter alone, which is more than they've scored in all but one of their games this year. Their halftime lead, meanwhile, was their first since they led the Eagles 17-14 on Oct. 13.
In the end, though, it was all for naught. Again.
“There were a lot of things the guys did right,'' Schiano said. “Mike James ran very hard and Mike Glennon was very, very efficient running the show. The offensive line did the best job they've done in a while.
“But when you play a very good football team the margin of error is very, very small. You win the turnover battle, you run the ball, you handle the noise but you lose. That's just tough. It's a tough one. A tough one to lose.''