Losing Matt Hasselbeck is bigger than losing the game
Quarterback leaves the game after scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run in the Seahawks' 38-15 loss to Tampa Bay
Seattle Times staff reporter
TAMPA, Fla. — The most significant loss the Seahawks suffered Sunday wasn't on the scoreboard. That defeat didn't matter a bit in terms of playoff position.
The biggest loss occurred when quarterback Matt Hasselbeck walked off the field in the first quarter. It was the turning point in Seattle's 38-15 defeat against Tampa Bay and perhaps the tipping point in this season.
Because while this game meant nothing, the home game this Sunday at 5:20 p.m. against St. Louis now means everything in the NFC West. One game to decide who "wins" the NFL's sorriest division, and Hasselbeck left the game with a hip injury that leaves him unable to run and unlikely to practice.
"We don't expect him to practice," coach Pete Carroll said. "We're going to rest him all week and see what happens at the end of the week."
Unlike recent outings, Hasselbeck's mistakes didn't decide this game. His absence did. He left the game after suffering an injury on a 1-yard touchdown scramble in which he was not hit.
Charlie Whitehurst entered the game, Seattle gained one first down in its next six possessions and Tampa Bay scored 31 consecutive points.
"We came here and got nothing done in this game in any phase," Carroll said. "Offense, defense, special teams. We did not accomplish anything in this game."
Yes, this game was in fact that one-sided, but the defeat didn't have any bearing on Seattle's playoff position. Not after St. Louis beat San Francisco earlier in the day, thereby eliminating the 49ers from playoff consideration. The winner of Seattle's regular-season finale against St. Louis will make the playoffs as the NFC West champs and play at home in the first round.
Yet the Seahawks were beaten so thoroughly by the Bucs, Carroll confessed concerns when asked about the effort and his team's level of play.
"I'm concerned about what that looked like tonight, yeah. I'm concerned about that. That didn't look like the kind of play that would have warranted this situation and this opportunity."
The offense had 92 yards midway through the third quarter while the defense allowed Josh Freeman to throw five touchdown passes and LeGarrette Blount to have two second-half runs of more than 45 yards. Even Seattle's ordinarily excellent special teams were especially ordinary, allowing an 80-yard kickoff return by the Bucs in the first quarter and shanking a 17-yard punt in the second.
Good thing Seattle had nothing to lose in this game because the Seahawks didn't earn anything except a tongue-lashing from Carroll.
"He's mad right now," Hasselbeck said. "And he should be. We didn't play very well."
Defensive end Chris Clemons also spoke to the team after the game, and Hasselbeck said the message of those two summarized the situation.
"There's really nothing else that needs to be said," Hasselbeck said. "What needs to be done is we need to execute our game plan properly. We need to make plays when they're there to be made. We need to be more consistent, and we need to show up and make a difference."
Turnovers had been Seattle's problem entering the game. Hasselbeck had committed 13 of them in the previous four games. He didn't commit any in Tampa. Of course, he was in the game for only two possessions. He led the team on a 62-yard touchdown drive, which he capped off with a 1-yard scramble on third-and-goal.
He reached for his lower left back almost as soon as he crossed the goal line. He stayed on the field, tended to by trainers, and at one point laid down on his back. He walked off the field on his own, but never returned to the game.
"It's weird," Hasselbeck said. "I'm not in pain. It's just, I'm not able to move the way I need to move to play quarterback."
For the second consecutive week, the Seahawks left a game unsure of their starting quarterback for the following week. This time, it's a much different scenario. Hasselbeck will undergo a magnetic-resonance image (MRI) exam Monday. He is not expected to practice, and the Seahawks will prepare as if Whitehurst will start.
"As fast as we can put this game behind us, we'll do it," Carroll said.
And they'll do it, staring eye-to-eye with a question at quarterback. The season is down to a single game, and Seattle might be missing its starter.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Tale of two quarterbacks|
|Matt Hasselbeck played only two series before leaving the game with a hip injury. Charlie Whitehurst played the rest of the game at quarterback. Here's how the offense did while each quarterback was under center.|
|7:26||Time of possession||21:06|
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