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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

December 27, 2010 at 10:00 AM

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What we learned from Sunday's debacle

Posted by Danny O'Neil

I. Three things we learned

     a) Be careful what you wish for regarding Matt Hasselbeck.
Plenty of people wanted to see him replaced as Seattle's starter after he committed 13 turnovers in four games. And he did leave Sunday's game. Only it was because of injury, and Charlie Whitehurst wasn't any more a solution on Sunday in Tampa Bay than he was when he started on Nov. 7 against the Giants game. The Seahawks couldn't run the ball in Tampa, and they didn't protect the quarterback particularly well, but Whitehurst played more than three quarters and didn't complete a pass of more than 15 yards.

     b) The Seahawks can't run against anyone.
Not even the Bucs, who were allowing a league-high 4.9 yards per carry entering the game with a defense missing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Marshawn Lynch's 29-yard in the first quarter was promising. Trouble was that one run accounted for nearly one-third of Seattle's rushing yardage in the game. Seattle still hasn't had a back rush for more than 100 yards this season.

     c Seattle's defense is only half bad.
The Seahawks stopped the run pretty well -- for a half. They held LaGarrette Blount to 22 yards on six carries in the first two quarters, but in the second half -- when the Seahawks knew the Bucs were going to run -- Blount went barreling over Seattle's defense and finished with 164 yards. It's the second most yards Seattle has given up to any player this season. Seattle's run defense has improved since Colin Cole's return from a high ankle sprain, but couldn't pitch a complete game in Tampa Bay. Heck, they didn't get much past halftime.

II. Three things we don't know

     a) Will Matt Hasselbeck be able to return this season?
Early signs don't look promising since coach Pete Carroll said after Sunday's game Hasselbeck isn't likely to practice this week. The most troubling thing is that it isn't a question of pain tolerance for Hasselbeck, but rather a muscle injury that is preventing him from moving the way he needs to in order to play quarterback.

     b) What happened to Seattle's pass rush Sunday?
The Seahawks had a sack on two of the Bucs' first three possessions, holding Tampa Bay without a first down to that point. Seattle didn't have another sack the rest of the game. Some of that was the product of the situation as Tampa Bay nursed the clock. Some of that was because Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman was elusive. But mostly, Seattle failed to capitalize on several situations when blitzers came free.

     c) What does Seattle have to do to recover a fumble?
The Bucs put the ball on the turf four times Sunday, and the Seahawks didn't cover a single one. This comes a week after Atlanta fumbled twice, each time the ball bouncing squarely to the Falcons. Can't blame the results on unlucky bounces, but recovering a fumble or three in those games certainly would have helped. Seattle hasn't recovered an opponent's fumble in any of the past four games.

III. Three things we're still trying to figure out

     a) How much does Seattle's playbook shrink with Charlie Whitehurst in the game?
That's impossible to answer based just on Sunday's game because he entered the game at a disadvantage with no rehearsal time since Hasselbeck takes the first-team practice repetitions in practice. But Seattle's offense looked similarly stagnant against the Giants -- a game Whitehurst started. Seattle failed to gain a first down in its first four possession against the Giants, and it had only one first down in its first six possessions with Whitehurst Sunday. Whitehurst has a strong arm, but the play calls have focused on quick, short passes to simplify the reads.

      b) Why do John Carlson's receptions increase with Whitehurst at quarterback?
Of all the issues in Seattle this season, Carlson's lack of production might be the most puzzling. He is smart, hard-working and disciplined. Hasselbeck has called him one of his favorite teammates, and yet Carlson has not had the season many expected. Carlson hasn't helped himself with several drops, but he caught three passes once Whitehurst entered the game, which continues a trend from last week when he didn't catch a pass until Whitehurst entered the game, and then he grabbed a 31-yarder.

     c) Why are all these losses so lopsided?
It's hard to make a sweeping condemnation of Seattle's season considering that no one expected much in the way of contention before the year began. But for the second consecutive year, the margin of the Decembers defeats are alarmingly large. Every one of this team's nine losses are by 15 points or more, and this team has not shown an ability to weather difficulties in a game and overcome a deficit against anyone other than Carolina.

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