Sunday's top game: Winston, 'D' lead Bucs over Seahawks
Tampa, Fla. — A grieving Alterraun Verner never seriously considered staying home.
The Tampa Bay cornerback said his late father, who died Friday, would have wanted him to play Sunday. Robert Lee Verner would have been even prouder to know his son had an interception off Russell Wilson to help inspire a 14-5 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
“He was my biggest fan. He made so many sacrifices for me to get to where I am today, and I just know that he didn’t want to be the cause for me not to play,” Verner said. “That’s why I decided to play. I wanted to honor him, knowing all he did to get me to where I am today.”
Jameis Winston threw a pair of touchdown passes to Mike Evans and Tampa Bay’s rejuvenated defense shut down Wilson, forcing three turnovers and sacking the Seattle star six times.
Verner’s first interception of the season stopped the Seahawks after Wilson drove his team into field-goal range in the final minute of the opening half.
The seventh-year pro sobbed on the sideline, where he was embraced on the sideline by teammates, who’ve rallied around him.
“I just knew what his response would have been. He would have been smiling and would have been very, very proud,” Verner said. “I was definitely thinking about him, and how he would have been reacting.”
Evans scored on receptions of 3 and 23 yards in the opening quarter and finished with eight catches for 104 yards.
Winston completed 21 of 28 passes for 220 yards and one interception, while Doug Martin rushed for 87 yards on 23 attempts.
The Bucs (6-5) have won three straight to climb back into contention for a playoff berth . In addition to stopping Seattle’s three-game winning streak, they remained one game behind first-place Atlanta in the NFC South.
The Seahawks (7-3-1) were limited to Steven Hauschka’s 43-yard field goal and a safety, awarded when the Tampa Bay tight end was penalized for holding while blocking for Winston in his end zone.
“They made their plays and we didn’t,” said Wilson, who threw for 902 yards, six TDs and zero interceptions during Seattle’s three-game winning streak.
“It’s pretty simple. Sometimes you make your jump shots, and some days you don’t,” the quarterback added. “Unfortunately today, we didn’t hit ours. But we will next time.”
Bradley McDougald had Tampa Bay’s second interception off Wilson, who had thrown two in 335 attempts this season entering Sunday. Lavonte David returned a fumble 53 yards, ending another promising Seattle drive in the fourth quarter.
Wilson finished 17 of 33 for 151 yards. The Seahawks were held to 1 yard net passing in the first half, when Wilson was sacked four times for 19 yards in losses.
The Seahawks played without Earl Thomas , stopping a streak of 106 consecutive regular-season starts for the star safety, who had never missed an NFL game.
Starting cornerback DeShawn Snead, who injured his hamstring during last week’s victory over Philadelphia, also sat out, leaving the Seattle secondary vulnerable.
Winston took advantage, leading TD drives of 78 and 62 yards on Tampa Bay’s first two possessions. Evans’ first TD catch finished a 7-minute, 26-second drive. The second — over cornerback Richard Sherman — dumped the Seahawks into an early 14-0 hole.