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Originally published October 18, 2009 at 5:56 PM | Page modified October 18, 2009 at 11:41 PM

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Steve Kelley

Forget about the Seahawks making the playoffs

A week after quarterback Matt Hasselbeck stood at the podium and said his team never should lose at home, it was humbled at home. A week after their shutout rout of Jacksonville, the Seahawks hit the kind of turn in the road that leads to places they don't want to go.

Seattle Times staff columnist

For the second season in a row, the Seattle Seahawks aren't going to the playoffs.

Forget all of the optimism at draft time last April. Forget the undefeated preseason. And the pronouncements that last season's 4-12 finish was an aberration and that this season would be resurgent.

Forget the idea that the new offensive system will fit perfectly with the Seahawks' personnel.

One-cut-and-go has become one-cut-and-no.

And forget the ideas that the defense would be more aggressive and that the unprecedented injury jinx that stalked this team last season couldn't possibly happen two seasons in a row.

It has.

These Seahawks, like last season's Seahawks, are going nowhere in January. In the latest tragedy for this season by Aeschylus, they lost defensive leader and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu for the season Sunday with a torn pectoral muscle.

Their offensive line remains a "who's-he" of mismatched parts. When they opened camp in July, nobody on the Seahawks' staff expected to start a line of Kyle Williams, Steve Vallos, Chris Spencer, Max Unger and Ray Willis.

Forget about the playoffs.

Entering this bye week, the Hawks are 2-4. Hall of Fame-to-be offensive tackle Walter Jones still hasn't played a down. His heir apparent, Sean Locklear, has missed most of the season.

Cornerback Marcus Trufant's back is getting better, but he has missed the first two months. And defensive end Patrick Kerney had to leave Sunday's game with a recurrence of his groin pull. For all of his hard work, he can't seem to stay healthy.

In this latest loss to the Arizona Cardinals, 27-3 — quite possibly the dreariest day in Qwest Field's history — the Seahawks couldn't run the ball. They couldn't pass protect. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was sacked five times.

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Hasselbeck couldn't get the ball to receivers Nate Burleson or T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Late in the game, Hasselbeck tried to squeeze a pass into tight end John Carlson. But as Carlson made his cut, the ball was already on top of him and smacked him in the facemask.

It was just another insult to an insulting day. A metaphor for all of the mistakes.

The defense couldn't make stops on third down. The smaller Seahawks defensive backs couldn't make plays on Arizona's tall, talented wide receivers.

They couldn't stop the 2-yard touchdown lob to Larry Fitzgerald in the first quarter, or the 16-yard scoring gem to Steve Breaston in the third quarter.

This season is done.

Against the Cardinals, the class of the NFC West, the Seahawks never looked ready to play. The first quarter was a whirlwind of wrongs. Where was the urgency?

Say what you want about the injuries, or the new offensive and defensive systems, the Seahawks still made the kind of mistakes playoff teams don't make.

They were victimized by a surgical 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that swallowed the first 10:42 of the game.

Then, inexcusably, they were caught napping on Neil Rackers' ensuing pooch kick.

Even though he'd seen the play on film the day before, return team member John Owens watched the kick flutter over his head and land on the turf. Then he was outhustled to the ball by Arizona's Greg Toler.

Three plays and 23 yards later, Arizona scored again. By the time the Hawks offense finally got on the field, Seattle trailed 14-0 and 12 minutes had leaked out of the terrible, swift first quarter.

On this must-win Sunday, the Seahawks laid an egg.

They carried the ball 11 times for 14 yards. They had 128 total offensive yards. They didn't convert any of their 11 third downs. This was epic futility.

A week after Hasselbeck stood at the podium and said his team never should lose at home, it was humbled at home. A week after their shutout rout of Jacksonville, the Hawks hit the kind of turn in the road that leads to places they don't want to go.

Playoffs? After this sobering loss, nobody was talking about the playoffs.

"We're not focused on playoffs now," coach Jim Mora said. "We're focused on how we can be a better football team."

The Hawks will get better. Rookie linebacker Aaron Curry and second-year defensive end Lawrence Jackson are improving remarkably week to week.

With cupcake home games remaining against Detroit, Tampa Bay and Tennessee and a road game at St. Louis, they will improve on last season's 4-12 record.

But this isn't a playoff team. Not even close. And for the second season in a row, the Seahawks are stuck in mid-October, searching for the answers to impossibly difficult questions.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Numbers don't lie
Statistically, this was one of the Seahawks' worst performances.
Fewest yards gained rushing, game
Yds Opponent Date
14 Arizona Oct. 18, 2009
20 N. England Dec. 4, 1988
23 L.A. Rams Nov. 4, 1979
23 L.A. Raiders Nov. 17, 1991
24 at Denver Dec. 27, 1998
Lowest time of possession, game
Time Opponent Date
14:28 L.A. Rams Nov. 4, 1979
17:10 Arizona Oct. 18, 2009
17:10 S. Francisco Sept. 25, 1988
17:45 at K.C. Oct. 29, 2006

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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