TAMPA , Fla. -- As Matt Hasselbeck was jogging off the field yesterday, all the Seattle Seahawks quarterback could do was roll his eyes.
It was a fitting piece of body language after the defense had again made the plays that staked the Seattle Seahawks to a 2-0 start with a 10-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
On a hot, humid day, the pressure applied by the Bucs defense reduced Hasselbeck and the Seattle Seahawks' high-octane offense to pedestrian status.
Hasselbeck completed only 12 of 26 passes for 147 yards -- his fewest since the season opener last year. But one of them was a 27-yarder to Koren Robinson for the game's only touchdown.
Shaun Alexander, who was playing on a bruised knee, gained only 45 yards -- his fewest since a Nov. 17 game against the Denver Broncos in 2002; and 90 fewer than he had in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints last week.
The offensive line had such a Dickens of a time blocking the Bucs' blitzes that you would have thought they were trying to decipher Old English prose, rather than the creations of Tampa defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
"I'll take this one," coach Mike Holmgren said. "I don't think I put them in great spots today. For whatever reason, we couldn't get untracked on offense. Then when we had chances, we didn't hit them.
"But it had nothing to do with Shaun Alexander or Matt," he added. "I take this one on me."
But, and it's a bold-faced, capital-letter disclaimer, the Seattle Seahawks won anyway.That's because the defense stepped in, and stepped up.
They intercepted two passes. The first was returned 41 yards by second-year cornerback Marcus Trufant to setup Hasselbeck's scoring pass to Robinson on the third play of the second quarter. The other, the second in as many games by rookie safety Michael Boulware, halted the Bucs' final, frantic drive at the Seattle Seahawks' 15-yard line with 63 seconds remaining.
They produced five sacks, including four on Bucs second-year quarterback Chris Simms, who replaced starter Brad Johnson in the second quarter. Two belonged to defensive end Grant Wistrom, who also pressured Simms into throwing the final pass that Boulware picked off.
The Seattle Seahawks made history. For the first time since 1991, the Seahawks have held back-to-back opponents to seven or fewer points -- and they did it on the road, matching their win total away from home for last season.
"It was a great effort, and I think everybody had their part in making plays today," said linebacker Anthony Simmons, who was on the field for each of the Bucs' 68 offensive plays and had eight tackles.
"We knew going into the year that we had something special on defense."
The outcome gave the Seattle Seahawks a very early one-game lead in the NFC West, because the defending division champion St. Louis Rams lost to the Atlanta Falcons yesterday.
It also makes the next three weeks even more significant, because the Seattle Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers (0-2) in their home opener Sunday and then, after the bye week, the Rams (1-1) on Oct. 10.
"When you looked at the schedule -- at New Orleans , at Tampa -- I don't think many people really, really believed that we could come out of it 2-0," Hasselbeck said. "So we just feel really fortunate to be where we're at right now."
The Bucs' final possession -- which fluctuated between frustrating and fulfilling, often on the same play -- was a microcosm of the game. The Seattle Seahawks seemingly had the Bucs put away, only to let them wriggle back.
Simms threw incomplete on first down, but picked up 15 yards anyway because defensive end Chike Okeafor was penalized for roughing the passer because he got a finger on Simms' face mask.
Simms threw another completion on the next play, but Wistrom was called for pass interference.
Trufant intercepted Simms' second-down pass, but it was erased because Okeafor was penalized for roughing the passer.
Another second down, another interception -- this time by Boulware. But it appeared Simms' knee was down before he released the ball. The officials reviewed the play, but the original call stood.
As did the Seattle Seahawks defense. Time and again.
The Seattle Seahawks found ways to lose games like this last season -- at Washington , Cincinnati and Baltimore . In this season only two-games-old, they already have found ways to win games like this twice.
"When you're playing aggressive defense, like we were, things like that happen," Boulware said of the penalties on the last drive. "Sooner or later, those penalties turned into a big mistake on their part and we were able to capitalize on it."