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Originally published December 20, 2009 at 4:28 PM | Page modified December 21, 2009 at 9:06 PM

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Seahawks hit rock bottom in 24-7 loss to Buccaneers

Matt Hasselbeck threw four interceptions and lost a fumble as Tampa Bay scored 24 unanswered points in the second half.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Did you hear that giant thud echoing through town Sunday afternoon?

It was the sound of the Seahawks hitting bottom, losing at home to a team that had yet to score a touchdown this month.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered Sunday's game tied with St. Louis for the worst record in the league. They left town having scored 24 unanswered points in a stadium that used to be among the most difficult places to win in the NFL.

Seattle's 24-7 loss to Tampa Bay left Seattle and its quarterback struggling to describe the depth of the morass this franchise has fallen into.

"I'm speechless about that," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said of losing to a one-win team. "It's not something I thought would ever happen."

If not for the day the moving vans relocated the team to Southern California back in 1996, Sunday's loss would have concluded the worst 24-hour period in franchise history.

Rejected by Mike Holmgren on Saturday, the Seahawks were routed by the 1-12 Bucs on Sunday in the stadium where Seattle once set the league's gold standard for home-field advantage, going 24-3 from December 2002 through September 2007.

Fans didn't just start leaving Qwest Field in the fourth quarter, they fled. The Bucs, who had not yet scored a touchdown this month, reeled off two in a span of 5 minutes, 3 seconds in the third quarter.

The 34-7 egg Seattle laid last week in Houston had nothing on the stinker the Seahawks turned in Sunday.

"You thought after last week it couldn't get any worse. Surprise," wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. "I don't know what's going on, to be honest with you."

Seattle never scored after John Carlson's 29-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, and even that may not have stood up had Tampa Bay challenged it. Replays appeared to show Carlson stepped out of bounds at the Bucs' 2-yard line.

Explaining why Seattle lost wasn't all that difficult. In fact, it didn't require looking beyond the five turnovers Seattle committed, all by Hasselbeck.

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His first-quarter fumble negated the Seahawks' chance for a field goal; his first interception of the game set up the Bucs' first field goal with 15 seconds left in the first half; and his third-quarter interception put Tampa Bay in position to score on a 22-yard screen pass to running back Carnell Williams on the very next play.

That was the Bucs' first touchdown since the third quarter of their Nov. 29 game at Atlanta. They went more than 11 quarters without reaching the end zone, a span of more than 170 minutes.

Five minutes later, Tampa Bay scored another touchdown, and Hasselbeck's final two interceptions short-circuited any possibility of a Seattle comeback.

Of Tampa Bay's five scoring possessions, none spanned longer than 50 yards, and both of the Bucs' touchdown drives began in Seattle's half of the field.

Meanwhile, Seattle blew a chance at one first-quarter field goal with Hasselbeck's fumble and botched what would have been a 21-yard field goal with a poor snap later that period. In the second half, Seattle failed to advance the ball past midfield on its first three possessions of the third quarter.

The biggest question after Sunday's game was whether this marked the low point of a season that started out with the promise of bouncing back into contention.

"For me, every loss is excruciating," coach Jim Mora said. "Every time, something is ripped away from you. Going into this game, you're hanging on to the chance you could go 8-8."

Consider Sunday's game a reality check, then. A punch in the stomach, a kick in the teeth or whatever kind of metaphor that would equate to having a rookie quarterback who had been intercepted 13 times in his past seven games come in and pilot a 1-12 team to victory.

"We're in a stage of trying to build something that was broken," Mora said. "And it's not easy."

Not for the coaches, not for the players and certainly not for the city that was subjected to the team's performance Sunday.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Losing ugly
Seahawks' losses to zero- or one-win opponents (when the other team has five-plus losses):
Date Opponent Score
Dec. 20, 2009 Bucs (1-12) 24-7
Oct. 20, 2002 Rams (1-5) 37-20
Nov. 6, 1994 Bengals (0-8) 20-17
Nov. 10, 1991 Chargers (1-8) 17-14
Nov. 28, 1976 Giants (1-10) 28-16

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