MMQB: Buccaneers 24, Seahawks 7

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (left) committed five turnovers as the Seahawks lost 24-7 to the previously 1-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24, Seattle Seahawks 7
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Qwest Field
Seattle, Washington

Play of the Day: After a Matt Hasselbeck pass intended for Deion Branch was intercepted, Buccaneers first-round quarterback Josh Freeman dumped the ball off to Cadillac Williams, who ran untouched into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown that gave the Buccaneers' a 13-7 game that would hope up. 

Handouts to the Standouts

John Carlson had a big game, catching seven passes for 86 yards and scored Seattle's lone touchdown.

Other than Carlson, 52 players and a gaggle of coaches stole money from the 67,011 people that showed up on Sunday to watch two teams with six wins combined.

Offense

Well, Hasselbeck turned the ball over 5 times on Sunday, and doing that usually won't result in much success.

I know some will use this performance to make the case to get rid of Hasselbeck, but I don't know how any quarterback can be effective with this offensive "system", this offensive coordinator/play-caller, and with no offensive line and perhaps one legitimate weapon on offense (Carlson) to work with.

The receivers simply aren't open, and when they are open, they're either dropping passes or lack the ability to do anything after the catch.

Deion Branch shouldn't even be on this team, yet he was starting on Sunday and led the team with 10 passes thrown his way. He caught four, the Buccaneers caught three. T.J. Houshmandzadeh appeared to have extra spring in his step early, but disappeared in the second-half.

With Nate Burleson out, Deon Butler was to be used more, yet Seattle didn't use nearly as much "Zebra" personnel (1 RB, 3 WR) as they normally do. Instead, tight end John Owens and both fullbacks saw more playing time. Butler did catch three passes for 30 yards, but had an inexcusable and untimely dropped pass in the 3rd quarter.

Seattle's running game was improved, with Julius Jones and Justin Forsett each breaking big gains as the ‘Hawks racked up 118 yards on the ground in the first half. Jones suffered a rib injury, and Forsett got dinged up a bit, as well. With Louis Rankin inexplicably inactive, Knapp called just four running plays for 10 years in the final 30 minutes.

I will say this, though: Seahawks fans can stop wondering what the team has in Forsett.

Forsett is a good third-down back. He picks up the blitz well, has excellent hands, but he doesn't have the vision or breakaway speed to be a 15-20 touches per game back. Sadly, he's the best option on the team right now, but this is an area of the roster that the new "leader" will have to address in April.

Not in March, or in May, April.

Up front, Max Unger played well in his first game at center, in that there were not botched exchanges and his shotgun snaps were sharp, accurate, and more importantly, consistent. Unlike with Spencer's off-hand snaps, Hasselbeck didn't appear to have any problems fielding those snaps and making his reads (before scrambling for his life or throwing the ball away as no one was opened or a rusher came free).

The other "newbie" Seahawks fans and observers were eager to see was right guard Mike Gibson, who played the second quarter. That's the quarter the ‘Hawks scored their touchdown in, but they apparently saw enough and Spencer played the remainder of the game.

Defense

Hard to put a positive spin on a unit that allowed three touchdowns to an offense that hadn't scored one since Week 12, and failed to notch one sack on a rookie quarterback who entered the game with a Sammy Hagar-esque passer rating of 55.4.

Freeman threw for 205 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and compiled a passer rating of 95.8, the second-highest of his young career. Freeman's passer rating last week: 12.1, in a home game against the New York Jets, Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn's former team.

Seattle's defense couldn't get off the field on third downs (Tampa Bay converted 7-of-16, 44%, of attempts), and in the second half, gave up six plays of 20 yards or longer, including the 22-yard touchdown by Williams where no Seahawks player laid a finger on him.

Three of the more notable performances were turned in by safety Deon Grant, who intercepted a Freeman pass in the first quarter and would've had another if it weren't for the cast on his injured wrist. Veteran safety Lawyer Milloy (one hit on Freeman, two passes defended) and Corey Redding (three hits on Freeman), two players who are unlikely to be in Seattle in 2010, also had solid performances on Sunday.

Linebacker David Hawthorne, as he usually does, led the ‘Hawks with 10 tackles, while two of Darryl Tapp's four tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. Will Herring saw plenty of action in place of Aaron Curry, who injured his left shoulder in the 3rd quarter. Leroy Hill moved to strong-side linebacker, with Herring stepping at weak-side ‘backer. When Curry was hurt last week, Lance Laury replaced him for the final defensive play.

Marcus Trufant had a pass defensed, and more impressively, was not flagged on Sunday.

Special Teams

If the offense wasn't going to show up, and the defense wasn't going to show up, why should Bruce DeHaven's units show up?

Seattle's special teams got off to a bad start, with long-snapper Kevin Houser releasing his inner dirtbag by committing a personal foul penalty. Houser's bad day got worse when his low snap thwarted a chip-shot field goal attempt by Olindo Mare. Houser would later injure his shoulder, and was taken to a local hospital after the game.

Punter Jon Ryan was only called upon four times, and had a gross average of 43 yards, but the Seahawks struggled to cover the punts, allowing Buccaneers rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter to average 18.5 yards per return, which sunk Ryan's net average to 24.5 yards.

The Seahawks return game was also non-existent, as Ben Obomanu, Justin Forsett, and Josh Wilson averaged 15.3 yards per return and never pushed the ball beyond their own 20-yard line.

Special teams captain Lance Laury led the ‘Hawks with four special teams tackles on Sunday.

Summary

By losing at home to a previously 1-12 team that was starting a rookie quarterback, less than 24 hours after the one man who had been openly pining to run your franchise turns down your offer to do so and appears headed to Cleveland, it's safe to say that as a franchise, the Seahawks have reached rock bottom.

I mean, it's hard to imagine how it could possibly get any worse, right?

Then again, claims of reaching rock bottom could have been made a week ago, when on a Monday in mid-December, the Seahawks took a backseat in the Seattle sports scene to a 21-year old college quarterback and a three-team baseball trade that, at the time, was rumored to be happening at some point in the near future.

Sunday's loss, however, could make Jim Mora look fondly upon how most of the ink devoted to the Seahawks last week was because he threw even more players under the bus, and openly longed for more dirtbags. (But not guys who are too dirtbaggish, because too much dirtbaggery is a bad thing. You want a moderate level of dirtbaggishness, at least I think that was the consensus that was agreed upon)

So now that rock bottom appears to have been reached, the only way to go is up, right?

No, not necessarily.

Based on Seahawks' CEO Tod Leiweke's "We're not going to join them, they're going to join us" approach to finding a new "leader"—one who won't demand the actual power required to lead this franchise out the downward spiral it's currently in—the Seahawks have the potential to stay exactly where they are, which means things could actually get a lot of worse before they ever get any better.

How is that possible? Well losses like the one to the Buccaneers on Sunday would still occur, they just won't come as a surprise to anyone.

Leiweke can take solace in one thing this holiday season: That Seahawks fans are upset and concerned with the direction this franchise is headed is a sign that apathy hasn't set in.

Yet.

His own bio on the Seahawks' website brags that "In 2006 under Leiweke's direction, the Seahawks sold out of season tickets for the first time since the early 1990's and developed Blue Pride, the team's season ticket waiting list."

Quite a feat. Not mentioned: That it took three straight playoff seasons, including a trip to the Super Bowl, for the Seahawks to sell out of season tickets. Still, Leiweke operates as if this team, which will have back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1993-94, can somehow afford, in a recession, to continue to field a losing product and expect the fans to continue to pony up their even-harder-to-earn money to support a franchise stubbornly pretending as if nothing's structurally wrong.

Can Leiweke really afford to be so arrogant as to structure an offer in such a way that the man who returned the franchise to respectability, and who openly politicked to come back and run the franchise again, would turn it down the job to work in Cleveland? (By the way, Browns players were chanting for Mike Holmgren during their practice last week, and went out and actually won a football game this month)

We're about to find out, because he's gambling on his "they're going to join us" approach at a time where it's obvious that the Seahawks do not need a president or a general manager, they need a demolition man.

The Seahawks need someone who is going to remind everyone in the VMAC that it wasn't too long ago that the Seahawks were California-bound, and that Qwest Field was once infested with fans from opposing teams and lacked the home-field advantage that 67,000+ screaming fans have provided the 'Hawks with.

This administration needs to be realize that we're in an economic and jobs climate where entertainment options, particularly expensive entertainment options like the National Football League, take a backseat to paying the mortgage and putting food on the table. Even the Kansas City Chiefs, who have some of the most loyal fans in the NFL, were blacked out this Sunday, the first time in nearly 20 years that's happened.

So the last thing the Seahawks can do right now is assume that the same organizational structure that's produced a 9-21 record over the last two seasons, can stay the same and expect to produce different results in 2010 and beyond.

Unfortunately, that's the message coming out of Renton, so yes, Virginia (Mason Athletic Center), it can get much worse than this.


In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog. You can follow Brian on Twitter, and if you'd like to e-mail him, you can always do so by clicking here.

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