TAMPA, Fla. — The tailspin continued Sunday for the Seahawks.
So, too, did their playoff chase.
Yes, it’s been that kind of season for the Seahawks and the NFC West. Seattle suffered its seventh lopsided loss in nine weeks, falling 38-15 to Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium, but in a historically bad division, that result once again didn’t hurt the Seahawks’ playoff hopes.
And after an up-and-down season it all comes down to the final game for the Seahawks. Beat St. Louis at Qwest Field on Sunday, and the Seahawks, 7-9 record and all, will be champions of the division that has turned into a punch line.
“It’s ridiculous the opportunity that we still have,” said quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who left the game in the first quarter with a hip injury. “It’s huge, it’s awesome. We should be saying thank you, thank you, thank you, because this is just amazing.”
Of course for the Seahawks to take advantage of their ridiculous opportunity, they’ll have to play substantially better than they have of late. Since starting the season 4-2, the Seahawks have gone 2-7. The Seahawks fell further down the rabbit hole against the upstart Buccaneers, looking inept in all phases of the game.
“We came here and got nothing done in this game in any phase,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Offense, defense, special teams, we just didn’t accomplish anything in this football game. … There’s just nothing to take out of this game at all.”
And while the Seahawks have everything to play for against the Rams, the fact is that there is nothing in Seattle’s recent body of work to suggest that they’re on the verge of turning things around against the Rams.
“We’ve got to get back to work,” receiver Mike Williams said. “There ain’t nothing about this week or the previous week that makes me think that we can just turn it on for next week. … It’s not like a light switch – play bad, play bad, play bad, and then think all of a sudden we can play good. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
While the final score wouldn’t indicate it, the game actually started pretty well for the Seahawks. The defense, which had allowed opponents to score touchdowns on their opening drives in four straight games, forced three-and-outs on Tampa Bay’s first two possessions, and Hasselbeck led the Seahawks on a 62-yard touchdown drive to give Seattle a 7-0 lead. Hasselbeck suffered a hip injury scoring that 1-yard touchdown, however, and was unable to return to the game.
With Charlie Whitehurst under center, the offense did nothing until the game was already well out of hand, and the defense, which played so well early, fell apart as the game went on. After those two three-and-outs, Tampa Bay kicked a field goal on its next possession, then scored touchdowns on five of its next six possessions to bury the Seahawks.
Hasselbeck’s status is up in the air for next week, but with or without him, the Seahawks, against all odds, are playing a very meaningful game next weekend despite another Sunday they’d love to forget.
“That’s how we left it in the locker room,” Carroll said. “We know, we know we’re going to play for the NFC West championship, and that’s all there is to it.”