A day after the most successful head coach in franchise history said no thanks to an offer to take a vacant senior leadership position with the organization, the Seattle Seahawks played perhaps their worst game of the year on Sunday, falling to the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-7 at Qwest Field.
With former head coach Mike Holmgren declining the franchise’s offer and likely headed to Cleveland to be that team’s football czar, the Seahawks’ focus shifted to Qwest Field on Sunday.
However, somebody forgot to tell the players. Coming into the game Tampa Bay had a lone win on its résumé, a 38-28 victory over Green Bay at home.
But after getting throttled on the road a week ago against Houston, the Seahawks did themselves one better at home, with a lack of execution and uninspired play on both sides of the ball again leading to their demise.
Seattle’s dismal performance followed a week in which head coach Jim Mora called for more nastiness from his players, particularly the offensive line, stating he’d like to see more of a “dirt-bag” mentality up front.
Further, Mora also pointed to the fact that his team is perceived around the league as being soft, an image it appeared to live up to on Sunday.
The Seahawks are now 5-9, and with games at Green Bay and at home against Tennessee – both are contending for playoff berths – the time for wins for Seattle this season might be over.
Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had his worst game of the season, throwing four interceptions and fumbling an attempted pitch to Justin Forsett after trying to scramble for a first down in the red zone.
Hasselbeck’s miscues led to 10 points for the Buccaneers, who improved to 2-12.
It’s the first time Seattle has lost to a one-win team this late in the season since the team’s inaugural season in 1976, when Seattle fell to the New York Giants in the Meadowlands, 28-16, on Nov. 28. The Giants were 1-10 heading into that contest, and finished 3-11 that season. Seattle finished 2-12.
“I’m speechless about that,” Hasselbeck said of losing to Tampa Bay. “It’s not something that I ever thought would happen.”
Asked what he believes is the perception around the league of his team on finding out they’ve lost to Tampa Bay, receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was blunt in his assessment.
“We suck,” he said. “I mean I’m sure that’s what they’ll say. But it is what it is. You can’t change it.”
Seattle actually looked good early, moving the ball well in the first half after switching to rookie center Max Unger, with Chris Spencer moving over to right guard. The Seahawks finished with 234 yards of offense in the first half, but only had seven points to show for it, leading 7-3 at halftime.
The Seahawks had their opportunities. Hasselbeck fumbled at Tampa Bay’s 29-yard line early in the first quarter while attempting to pitch the ball to Forsett after trying to scramble for a first down. Tampa Bay linebacker Geno Hayes recovered the loose ball.
On Seattle’s next drive, the Seahawks marched down the field, stalling on Tampa Bay’s 4-yard line.
But kicker Olindo Mare’s chip shot never got in the air, as holder Jon Ryan couldn’t handle a bad snap by Kevin Houser.
Seattle’s only score of the game came with 4:31 left in the first half, when Hasselbeck found tight end John Carlson on a crossing route for a 29-yard score.
Tampa Bay scored 21 unanswered points in the second half, and the Seahawks were out-gained 263-104 by the Buccaneers in the final half, with Hasselbeck throwing three of his four interceptions during that time.
Hasselbeck’s final pick came with 13 seconds left in the contest as Tampa Bay cornerback Elbert Mack intercepted a pass intended for receiver Deion Branch. The play was greeted by a chorus of boos from the spattering of fans at Qwest Field who stayed to watch the end of the game.
Branch, who started for an injured Nate Burleson, was targeted a team-high 10 times, but only finished with four receptions for 28 yards.
With the Seahawks hitting what appears to be rock bottom this season, Mora said the coaching staff will continue to look for answers to what ails this struggling team.
“All we can do is continue to try to find ways to get better,” he said. “We have what we have. We are what we are right now, and we’re going to continue to work and try to improve. That’s really all I can say right now.”