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Originally published December 26, 2010 at 8:18 PM | Page modified December 27, 2010 at 3:05 PM

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Steve Kelley

Seahawks good at taking the joy out of a good title chase

There's plenty of talk, and a shot at a title, but players keep showing little resolve

Seattle Times staff columnist

TAMPA, Fla. — This was a loss that meant nothing but said everything about the state of the Seahawks.

It was a loss that sucked most of the joy out of next week's NFC West showdown with the St. Louis Rams, a loss that looked like so many of the losses the Seahawks have suffered in their three-season swoon.

It was a loss that felt like fodder for all of the critics who have mocked the rightfully mocked NFC West since mid-October.

"We did not accomplish anything in this game," coach Pete Carroll said after this latest pummeling, 38-15 by Tampa Bay.

They haven't accomplished much this entire season. Fifteen games into the Pete Carroll Era, the Seahawks aren't any better than they were at this point last season. These double-digit defeats are the same kind of losses that got their last coach fired.

"I don't think it feels at all like last year," argued quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who injured his hip, scoring on the Hawks' second possession and didn't return. "We are a team that is trying to do a 180-degree turn (from the past two seasons).

"We were a really good team (in the playoff years) and then we became a really bad team and now we're trying to make the turn. It's not a real easy thing to do. Are we a great team right now? No, we're not a great team. But we're trying."

This uncompetitive, passionless mess of a game against the Bucs, however, was a sharp reminder of how far away from greatness these Seahawks are.

"I'm disappointed in the way that we're executing right now," Carroll said. "We're going to fight and we're going to scratch our way into this thing and see what happens next week. They (the players) know what's at stake right now, and we're going for it again."

At this point in the season, however, it's as if all of the college rah-rah energy that sustained the players for much of September and October has leaked out of them.

Going into this final week of the season, all Carroll can hope for is the prestidigitatory power of Qwest Field.

"We go into Qwest and anything can happen," Carroll said, firing off sentences as if he were in his two-minute offense. "Whether it's on special teams, or whether we can do it on defense by taking the ball away. There's a lot of chances for us that seem to come alive at Qwest. There's some magic there, and hopefully we can call on that again."

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The Seahawks are six and nine, baby and heading home with their destiny in their hands. Six and nine and still "All in." Six and nine and in position to win the West.

Just doesn't sound right, does it?

"We're going to play for the NFC West championship. That's all there is to it. Whether anybody likes that or thinks that isn't what's happening. That's the truth," Carroll said. "The players know that. Now we have to go out and have a heck of a week in practice and perform like it means something to us and come out here on game day at Qwest and do something special.

"After you look at tonight, you're going to wonder how that's going to happen. But we're going to find a way. We have an opportunity this week to play for our division, which is what we set out to do from the start. Regardless of what it looks like, or what it feels like, that's the fact."

But as players were saying after the game, teams don't suddenly flip a switch and start playing like champions, especially 16 weeks into the season.

"I don't know if we all understand it. It's ridiculous the opportunity that we still have," Hasselbeck said. "It's huge, awesome. We should be saying, 'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.' Because this is just amazing.

"There are teams who have had pretty good seasons, but they're out of the playoffs. They don't get a chance. For us to still have this opportunity, as poorly as we've played at times, as poorly as we played tonight, is a huge opportunity, one that very, very few teams get."

Then Hasselbeck added one sobering thought:

"Having the opportunity is one thing. Doing something about it is another thing."

And, at this point in the season, the Hawks have shown no indication they are ready to take advantage of this last opportunity. Flip the switch? Right now, they can't even find it.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

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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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