Seahawks performance fails in front of ‘unforgettable’ crowd in Munich

MUNICH — All week, Munich has been brimming with Seahawks-infused energy.

Oh, to be fair, there was also a fairly obvious Tampa Bay Buccaneers presence on the streets, but undoubtedly the preponderance of affection and affinity leaned towards the Pacific Northwest. The sight of a few hundred German fans meandering around the block on Saturday for a meet and greet with Noah Fant and Marquise Goodwin at a shoe store told that story eloquently.

But after days of parties, rallies and general frivolity, European fans who had gone into a frenzy of anticipation over Seattle’s appearance in the NFL’s first German game – many of them decked them in all sorts of Seahawks gear – must have wondered what had happened to their beloved team. Was he stuck at customs?

Buccaneers 21, Seahawks 16 in Germany

For one half, the Seahawks laid an egg (or das ei). They allowed the NFL’s hottest team by several measures to crush them. Tom Brady was his precise, bossy old self, while Geno Smith couldn’t get the Seahawks’ offense humming (and then made a fatal error late in the third quarter that all but secured the 21-16 loss of Seattle at the Allianz Arena, despite coming back too late in the second half).

The atmosphere was everything we had hoped for, and more. Brady, who has toured the neighborhood (and the world), said it was unprecedented in his vast experience.

“It was one of the best football experiences I’ve ever had, so that says a lot about 23 years in the league and for a regular season game,” he said. “I’ve played at Wembley twice. I’ve played at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico, which has been another amazing experience, and it’s as good as it gets. I think the fan turnout has been amazing It was very electric from the moment we walked onto the pitch.

Indeed, the crowd rumbled virtually from start to finish, even when the action dragged on. Playing in the much-vaunted football stadium that is home to Bundesliga powerhouse FC Bayern Munich, all the nuances of American football seemed to captivate them. It started, unsurprisingly, with the kicking game – particularly the high, booming punts of Michael Dickson and Jake Camarda, two of the best in the league.

“There was a lot of screaming for punts more than offensive plays,” DK Metcalf observed. “But yeah, it was a fun environment.”

Smith said he particularly enjoyed the football chants. Another notable moment that thrilled players from both teams occurred when the stadium’s AP played John Denver’s “Country Roads” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and the sold-out crowd of 69,811 people (the NFL says it could have sold 3 million tickets) sang. with solid enthusiasm, as if it were the biggest karaoke event in the world.

Country roads, take me home where I belong
West Virginia, Mountain Mom, Take Me Home, Country Roads

“Pretty epic,” Brady said.

Seahawks practice linebacker Aaron Donkor, who grew up in Germany, said his teammates were particularly surprised by the songs that echoed around the stadium.

“It was a great vibe because maybe they didn’t expect German fans to know a song from West Virginia,” Donkor said. “They didn’t expect them to know the lyrics so well. It was cool to experience something new, and for me and for my teammates, it’s an experience that we will grow from.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll added, “I’ve never been to a stadium where a crowd was as unified and connected as it was. We’ve been in loud stadiums, and maybe even louder, but never where everyone — how do they do that? I don’t know how they sing the exact same thing like that, but it really was a spectacle.

The Seahawks, however, waited far too long to give their legion of fans something to cheer on – and the vast contingent of Seahawks fans just couldn’t wait to get loose. As Carroll said afterwards, “It feels like a real missed opportunity. … We allowed them to do things that they hadn’t done.

At halftime, the Seahawks led 14-0 as the Bucs stunned them with running prowess they hadn’t expected. And after an interception from Tariq Woolen on a funky (read: ill-advised) play — running back Leonard Fournette was trying to throw a pass to Brady, which didn’t go as well as it looked — Smith made the mistake that ultimately thwarted their comeback effort. After the Seahawks went to 9 with a chance to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 14-10, Smith fumbled on a scramble turned strip-sack that turned the Bucs’ recovery.

“That can never happen,” Smith said. “Guy made a great play as I was going down but if I don’t turn him in the red zone I think it’s a different game.”

Smith led two impressive drives in the fourth quarter to bring Seattle within five points, but after the last one with 3:58 left, the Seahawks never had a chance to pull off a miracle when Tampa Bay ran out of time.

“They finished running the ball in the fourth quarter, which kills me,” Carroll said.

What has to be most frustrating for the Seahawks is that they took every precaution to ensure they wouldn’t be undermined by the transatlantic trip and the nine-hour jet lag. Carroll has insisted all week that his players accept the trip rather than see it as a nuisance. Still, it was the team that looked lethargic and off-kilter in the first half, while the Bucs, who flew out a day later, were snappy. The Seahawks, however, did not blame the loss on their haywire body clocks or any other aspect of the arduous journey.

“You have to come here and play this fucking game, and I don’t care if it’s in Germany or China or America,” said safety Ryan Neal. “We are here to play football. I mean, at the end of the day, we just didn’t show up when we needed to.

It could have shaken the spirits of those Seahawks fans for whom it was their only chance to watch them play – but only temporarily. Carroll came away amazed at the intensity and related (the word he used again) they were for the whole three hours – and beyond. Fans were encouraged to stay for a post-game show due to the expected tighter train schedule, and most seemed to have done just that.

“It’s an unforgettable event,” Carroll said. “I respected that they had to do it a lot, because they’re really good at it.”

Previously, this type of coordinated grounding was most likely reserved for the version of football that most people follow. But it’s been abundantly clear this week that the American style of football has a bright and noisy future in Germany – even if the Seahawks haven’t delivered the end that so many hoped for.

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