SEATTLE — In the end, it didn't matter that the Bucs had a three-touchdown lead against the best team in the NFC and dragged the Seahawks into a bloody-knuckle fight all the way to overtime.
Nobody really cared that rookie Mike James rushed for 158 yards and threw a jump pass for a touchdown, or that the defense produced three turnovers, or that rookie quarterback Mike Glennon had the most efficient game of his career in the league's loudest outdoor stadium.
And although nobody envisioned coach Greg Schiano's winless team — which entered Sunday's game as a 15½-point underdog — coming close to pulling off the upset, nearly everybody saw it losing.
And so it did.
Steven Hauschka kicked a 27-yard field goal with 8:11 left in overtime as the Seahawks beat the Bucs 27-24 for their biggest comeback victory in franchise history.
It was the 13th loss over the past 14 games dating to last season for Tampa Bay, which fell to 0-8 on the season. It also highlighted the Bucs' failure to finish under Schiano, who now is 0-7 in games decided by a field goal or less.
The Bucs led 21-0 in the second quarter, 24-7 in the third and 24-17 in the fourth.
"We've got to close out," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "There's nothing else you can say but that. You have to close out, especially with one of the best teams in the NFL. I mean their record (8-1) speaks for itself. They've got great players on their team. When you have a team down like that, you've got to choke them out. Choke them out."
The Bucs dominated the first half, taking a 21-0 lead late into the second quarter on touchdown passes from Glennon to Tim Wright (12 yards) and Tiquan Underwood (20). Glennon finished 17-of-23 for 168 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 123.1 passer rating (the best among his five starts).
But the biggest surprise was the way Tampa Bay dominated the line of scrimmage and carved holes for James, who made only his second start in place of the injured Doug Martin. Until Sunday, James, a sixth-round pick out of Miami, had not reached the century rushing mark since Ridge Community High School in Davenport (just east of Lakeland).
James also threw a 2-yard jump pass to tight end Tom Crabtree, who had fallen in the end zone before getting back up and making the catch.
"We've run that for a number of weeks, getting it ready," Schiano said. "We felt like the situation was right. It almost went awry."
In fact, the Bucs rushed for 205 yards, but 172 — not including Glennon scrambles — came in the first three quarters.
The second half continued to plague the Bucs. The team that has averaged 4.5 points after halftime managed only a Rian Lindell 33-yard field goal on the first possession of the third quarter to pad its lead to 24-7.
That's when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson came alive. He was 15-of-18 for 189 yards in the second half, throwing for one touchdown and rushing for another.
The momentum really shifted late in the third. With Seattle trailing 24-14, Golden Tate returned a punt 71 yards to the Tampa Bay 25. Even though the Bucs defense held, forcing Seattle to settle for 36-yard field goal, the sellout crowd at CenturyLink Field was back in the game.
"It hurt us. It really hurt us," Revis said of the punt return. "You could see the momentum shift, and the crowd got into it and got pumped."
The Bucs got a big play from safety Keith Tandy (starting for the injured Dashon Goldson) when he stepped in front of a Wilson pass intended for Doug Baldwin and intercepted it at the Bucs 1 with 7:51 to play in regulation.
But the Bucs went three-and-out on their ensuing possession, and Wilson found Baldwin for a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 24 with 1:56 remaining.
The Bucs drove the ball to midfield and faced fourth and 3 at the 50 with 25 seconds left and one timeout. A first down could keep their hopes alive for a winning field goal.
"There was no thought of going for it; zero," Schiano said.
"We were just going to try to draw them offside. To give them the ball at the 50-yard line with a chance to kick a field goal, that wouldn't be real smart."
The Bucs won the coin toss, went three-and-out and lost the game.
"I honestly don't know what to say because every game like this, you don't want to say, 'Oh we played good. We almost had them,' " Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.
"Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. We lost again. I'm tired of losing."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.