With Seattle’s hapless Seahawks showing about as much game enthusiasm as a four-year-old getting underwear and socks for Christmas, their expansion big brother Tampa Bay Buccaneers pummeled them senseless.
Furthermore the Buccanner’s LaGarrette Blount, made famous for belting a Boise State player and getting himself suspended for most of the 2009 college football season last year while playing for the Oregon Ducks, seemed determine to re-torment Seattle fans by running for 164 yards on 18 carries.
But the real star of the day was Tampa’s 6-6” 240 pound stud rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who finished the day with five touchdowns, going 21 for 26 with zero interceptions.
Still it was hard to be too impressed, since this was the Seahawks being played and not an actual legit NFL playoff team in spite of their misleading record and playoff hopes.
At Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the weather was nearly intolerable by Florida standards. A frigid 47 degrees at game time with wind whipping the hair of Buccaneer faithful into tangled frenzies. But it was nowhere near as ugly as this game.
How bad was it? When I flipped over to QVC’s hard-hitting special on Polish Stonewear history during a third quarter commercial break, it was like a jolt of electricity that riveted me back excitable and alert, in contrast to the slumberfest football contest I was watching.
In spite of Seattle fans whining about Matt Hasselbeck starting again after throwing a gaggle of interceptions in losses to Atlanta and San Francisco over the two previous weeks, here he was again over center to start the game midst patron grumbling and scowls.
The first quarter offense went typical, like Seattle fans have grown accustomed. After Tampa’s first drive stalled at their own 26, Seattle went three and out and punted.
But after Tampa punted too, following their scant five play drive, Seattle came to life with an 11 play TD drive making it 7-0 with just under six minutes left in the first quarter. Three short passes mixed nicely with runs up the middle.
The highlight of the drive, and indeed the day as it turned out, was a Marshawn Lynch romp up the middle for 27 yards. And ironically the mob of Seattle fans with burning torches demanding Hasselbeck’s head, were rewarded on the final play of this drive.
Hasselbeck injured his hip while running and scoring on a bootleg where he was barely touched.
Every over-the-hill fan who has ever injured themselves while sitting in a recliner knew exactly how he felt. One minute you’re fine, the next things just hurt and you don't know why. It’s what happens when you get to be social security age.
And for those worshipping the ground Charlie Whitehurst walks on, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Zero interceptions were thrown by Hasselbeck in this game, and before he could muck the game up he was gone, replaced by the sure-fire future Hall of Fame and quite possibly all-time league MVP former San Diego cast-off.
Saint Whitehurst, the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, would save the day for Seattle and lead them to a cinderella super bowl win! Starting right now, according to talk show callers and cranky bloggers alike, who were just positive Charlie Whitehurst could walk across Lake Washington without getting his feet wet.
What a wonderful guy.
Tampa’s Michael Spurlock returned the impeding kickoff 79 yards to the red zone, where Tampa’s offense again stalled and they were forced to settle for a field goal four plays later.
The time had finally come. Whitehurst was here to save the day and the season. But once Whitehurst’s first pass missed a wide open Ben Obomanu by ten feet above his head from a dozen yards away, quick muttering could soon be heard in bars and living rooms across Seattle.
And after Lynch got stuffed up the middle, Whitehurst again missed Obomanu, and just like that the patron saint became the very reason the Seahawks might not win it all this year. It was all Whitehurst's fault. Seattle was punting. Hardly the kind of drive a devine deliverer might put together, especially when Jon Ryan shanked the punt for half a dozen yards.
The Buccaneers graciously converted the gift with a 52 yards six play drive that ended with a touchdown a couple minutes later, and a 10-7 lead that they would never give up.
And after Whitehurst came back and engineered another three and out, followed by yet another Tampa Bay drive of nine plays to the Seattle red zone and a field goal, fans were wondering if this Christmas gift might not be like the new nerf gun you lusted for since July, only to have it break after a mere dozen shots at your kid sister.
At the commercial break was a pitch for Uloric gastric acid, which was ironic because most fans were ready to pop a couple dozen the way things had suddenly turned.
Tampa now lead 17-7 and suddenly the Seahawks appeared apathetic, with glazed eyed and a given-up look. Perhaps because they knew they would be playing St Louis next week for the division title, win or lose, so this one didn’t matter all that much.
On the last drive of the half for Seattle, Whitehurst and the Seahawks again looked terrible, this time managing a couple first downs but punting, and when Tampa Bay marched back down, things were looking indeed bleak, salvaged momentarily by a blocked field goal as time ran out ending the half.
How bad was it? In three drives Whitehurst had completed two short passes for 13 yards. And it wouldn’t get much better as he would end the day with a scant 53 more yards in spite of completing nine of his last 12.
The second half opened with FOX’s Chris Myers suggesting they take shots down the field and quit playing so tentatively, while fans at home had a few suggestions for what Chris Myers could do with his analysis. The Seahawks had tried that the last several games and come away with a dozen interceptions leading to blowouts.
Meanwhile Myers's pals in the booth pondered how a team this bad could be contending for a division title, followed by a ten minute debate on whether the playoff format in the NFL should be changed since they were clearly watching a bottom dweller that still could claim a division title.
A seemingly good question too, because after a couple more Seattle punts and Tampa scores in the third quarter to make it 31-7, Seattle viewers were flipping over to the cooking channel for more exciting programming.
Whitehurst did manage to put together a nine play TD drive finished with a lovely pass to Leon Washington, followed by a questionable ref call on a two point conversion, to make it 38-15, but this game had been over the moment Hasselbeck went down.
As time ran out fans were now lighting up phone lines demanding Whitehurst be horse-whipped and maimed, Hasselbeck released, and some stud college rookie be immediately drafted. Happy-fun family Christmas was now depressing Darth Vaderish as Seahawk Nation faced the reality.
It's not the coach, or the quarterback, or even the east coast bias.
The team is rebuilding with an impending off-season of many signings and releases.
And as St Louis and Seattle prepare for the final game to decide who wins the right to be pummeled by New Orleans, Seahawk fans are accepting the fact that this team won’t be winning much of anything this year.
So yes the Seahawks are finishing very similar to how they did last year, but it probably wasn't due to Hasselbeck or Whitehurst, or even former-coach Jim Mora.
Super-coach Pete Carroll can’t get a team of mediocre and aging talent to win big games any more than Mora could.
It was a near-miracle that they started out 4-2 this year before Red Bryant and half the team fell victim to injuries, and the sad fact is that this team that is paper-thin in terms of actual starting football talent, and it could be several years before enough moves can be made to change that fact.