Send in the clowns.
The Seattle Seahawks keep piling up ugly losses in their unlikely, backward march toward a potential playoff berth.
The latest was a lackluster, 38-15 thumping by Tampa Bay on the road Sunday.
And yet for the Seahawks – losers of seven of their past nine – unbelievably there’s still hope. Although they wouldn’t admit it, most players likely knew beforehand this game was meaningless because St. Louis already had defeated San Francisco at home earlier in the day, 25-17, eliminating the 49ers from postseason contention.
The Seahawks have lost nine games by an average of 21 points per contest, yet still have a chance to be the first 7-9 team in league history to reach the playoffs with a win at Qwest Field Sunday night against the visiting Rams (7-8).
If Seattle wins, it will advance and host a playoff game based on a better division record than St. Louis (4-2 vs. 3-3). Seattle lost at St. Louis earlier this season, 20-3.
League observers must wonder if the Seahawks deserve that chance after watching their performance against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The Seahawks don’t.
“I don’t make the rules,” Seattle offensive tackle Sean Locklear said. “It sucks. Nobody wants to hear that, but that’s part of the game. Whether you have a chance at 7-9 or 8-8 to go to the playoffs, and you win your division, you get a home game. That’s part of the game. I’m not going to turn it down, so let’s go and play.”
The Seahawks got on the board first on a 62-yard, 11-play drive, with Matt Hasselbeck scoring from a yard out on a bootleg midway through the first quarter. But Hasselbeck winced in pain as he crossed the goal line and had to leave the game with a hip injury.
Coach Pete Carroll said Hasselbeck will miss practice all week and is questionable for Sunday’s game.
Reserve Charlie Whitehurst, at the center of a quarterback controversy last week because of Hasselbeck’s poor play, was called in for duty. He struggled to move the team, completing 11 of 18 passes for 66 yards. Seattle finished with 174 total yards.
Seattle’s defense also failed to slow down Tampa Bay’s young playmakers. Josh Freeman had plenty of time in the pocket, finding tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and receiver Mike Williams for big gains. Freeman was 21-for-26 passing for 237 yards, a career-high five TDs and a gaudy 144.2 passer rating.
Winslow made seven catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie running back LeGarrette Blount gave the Bucs balance, rushing for 164 yards on 18 carries.
Now, the Seahawks have no alternative but to put another miserable performance behind them and get ready for St. Louis.
“No one’s panicking,” linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. “People better show up because the Rams are playing some good ball and we got them at Qwest. They got us bad the first time. They beat us up good, so we need to show up.”