Here is the unedited version of my game story that will appear in Monday's News Tribune:
By Frank Hughes
TAMPA – Things are going so poorly for the Seattle Seahawks right now that their best play in a disheartening 20-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night not only made impossible a defensive touchdown but knocked middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu from the game with a concussion.
If there were any remaining doubts that the karmic reservoir built up over the past five years of coach Mike Holmgren's tenure is now exhausted, those are officially gone.
Yes, the Seahawks are disintegrating and it does not appear it can be pieced back together any time soon.
"When it rains it pours – and we need to get it to stop raining," center Chris Spencer said. "We need some sunny days around here."
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The play in question came in the second quarter with Tampa Bay in scoring position. Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia hit 12-year veteran Ike Hilliard with a pass on a crossing pattern. Hilliard collided so violently with linebacker Leroy Hill that Hilliard was knocked cold before he hit the ground, dropping the ball as he fell.
The officials, however, did not see the fumble and whistled the play dead as speedy cornerback Josh Wilson scooped up the ball and dashed for the end zone, 96 yards away.
On top of that, Tatupu, who was trailing on the play, ran into the back of Hilliard and bore the brunt of Hill's vicious hit as well, forcing Tatupu from the game.
The play embodied the Seahawks' entire season, which has unraveled to the point that at 1-5 they now reside in last place in the NFC West because of St. Louis' stunning upset of the Dallas Cowboys.
"Seems like things just always happen to us," Julian Peterson said. "We get a flag on what should be an (offensive) interference call, the refs picks the flag up. We get a fumble and a possible touchdown for us, (the play is called dead). That's how it is. That's just how it is going for us right now."
The Seahawks can continue to say that with good health and hard work they will reverse their unanticipated misfortunes. But the fact of the matter is that they are losing precious time in an already short season and soon will be resigned to their disappointing fate, as many of their supporters already are.
They may already have realized it because for the first time this season signs of frustration appeared on the players' previously stoic faces. There were emotional outbursts on the sidelines. And players whispered amongst themselves in a postgame locker room rife with the tedium of answering the same questions following redundant results.
Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell sat high in a suite above the field where he learned many of the qualities that empowered him to lead Seattle. He was certainly hoping to show off this franchise to his old one. Instead, he was probably embarrassed by the all-encompassing ineptitude on display at Raymond James Stadium, in a nationally televised game no less.
It was the first time Seattle has ever lost in Tampa, and only the second time it lost to the Buccaneers in nine meetings. The Buccaneers had not scored more than seven points in any of the past four meetings but they matched that less than six minutes into the game on Sunday.
Seattle's offense, led by Seneca Wallace because Matt Hasselbeck remained at home with a bulging disk in his back, was vacuous at best, a late, meaningless touchdown saving them from scoring less than 10 points for the second time in three weeks.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden must have intuited Seattle's inabilities because after winning the coin toss he gave the Seahawks' offense the ball, a subtle affront to Holmgren, his first NFL boss.
Wallace was unable to complete even the most rudimentary passes, posting an 8.3 efficiency rating (on a scale of 156) at halftime, when Tampa Bay held a 17-0 lead. He threw for only 73 yards, 10 less than Charlie Frye managed last week.
Wallace failed to throw a pass to one of his starting wideouts until the third quarter. He did not complete a pass longer than 17 yards. He threw an interception. And he fumbled an exchange with Spencer. Third down conversions once again were a bugaboo, only two of 10 converted.
"Our confidence on offense is not where it should be right now," Holmgren said, severely understating the case.
The defense allowed 10 fewer points than the 30 it had been relinquishing, but it rarely applied pressure on Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia, who shredded the secondary for 310 yards on 27 of 36 passing, including a 47-yard touchdown to Antonio Bryant in the first quarter that opened the Buccaneers' scoring and set the tone for the remainder of the game.
The Seahawks covered the 10 ½-point spread on the game, but that did little to assuage Holmgren or his coaching staff, which is running out of answers.
This one was over so quickly and so decisively that the 64,811 on hand who decided to stick around instead turned their attention to the city's baseball team, which battled the Boston Red Sox only a few miles away in St. Petersburg for a berth in its first World Series.
"Let's go Rays" reverberated throughout the sprawling stands, while the Buccaneers on the field below threw a virtual shutout.