The reality of the situation is there for everybody on the Seattle Seahawks. On the heels of the 20-10 loss Sunday at Tampa Bay, there is little coach Mike Holmgren or the rest of the team can do but to gather the pieces and begin anew for the trip to San Francisco this week to meet the 49ers.
Monday, Holmgren singled out the boost from the special teams as something to build on, particularly with a couple of great returns from Josh Wilson, a good one from Justin Forsett and the first appearance of young linebacker Will Herring after dealing with an unusual joint inflammation.
Add to that the 47.4 punting average for Jon Ryan and Olindo Mare's touchbacks on kickoffs, and there was something to that concept.
Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough to pull out a win.
"If I had to come away from the game with a couple things that were positives, the special teams really had a pretty good game - they really did," Holmgren said. "They battled like crazy. Will Herring came back and gave a little bit of juice to the group. Justin Forsett made a couple nice plays. Josh Wilson made a couple nice plays. And for those guys to get returns, you have to block pretty well. So, the special teams…it was a good special teams effort in the game that allowed us to keep the game manageable, somewhat.
"But right now, we're not playing offensive football good enough to win a game like that."
And therein lies the key for now and the immediate future, with the team failing to generate 200 yards in total offense for the third consecutive week. Palpably, it begins at quarterback, with Seneca Wallace the third quarterback in three weeks to start. Pro Bowl starter Matt Hasselbeck is still going through treatment for disk problems, Wallace didn't have enough time to gain sharpness due to his strained muscle and splitting reps during the week with Charlie Frye, who started the previous week against the Green Bay Packers.
The Seahawks gained 73 yards passing Sunday, and scored their touchdown in the final two minutes. But at this point, Holmgren is hardly about to point any fingers at anybody considering the quarterback situation along with the inconsistency of going through about nine different wide receivers this season due to injury. Wallace hardly had time to prepare normally, let alone being healthy, against the hyper-active Buccaneers defense.
"I think part of it was that, and I think part of it was, he was playing against a pretty good defense and we got in situations…that were difficult," Holmgren said of Wallace. "But he hasn't played a lot lately."
And the status of Hasselbeck remains up in the air this week as the Seahawks doctors and trainers work at connecting the dots between his bulging disk and leg weakness.
"That's going to be on almost a day-to-day basis on what his progress is with his rehab," Holmgren said. "I have not seen him today (Monday). I'll see him tomorrow. The last medical report is that he is feeling better each day. They have this measuring stick, though, before they'll allow him play—that's my understanding—and until he reaches that, then he probably won't play. Now, we said last week there was a possibility he'd play against San Francisco, and I will say that. There's a possibility he'll play this week.
"I don't think it's as much of a pain issue as it is…a little weakness in his leg, they're telling me, which comes from the disk pushing against the nerve. We all kind of understand that one. Some people live their whole lives like that, with a little bit of a back thing and your leg gets a little funky. I don't think he's in pain. Now, you'd have to ask him, but it's more that, and then more this line that he must get to before the medical people are willing to give him the OK."
Of course, there are other matters, like the concussion that middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu suffered in the game that Holmgren believes won't keep him out this week. And he was pleased with the improvement of the defense, holding the Bucs to a field goal in the second half. But it still comes down to jump-starting the offense in some way, shape or form.
The uncertainty at quarterback, along with all the wide receivers – including the unknown status of flanker Deion Branch's heel – can turn a game plan into a mystery wrapped in a riddle.
"We tried it the conservative way and it's not working that well," Holmgren said. "So, it's something we're going to talk about this week. The offensive situation is very unusual right now. I'm not quite used to it. We have to try and figure out the best way to improve this week and do it quickly."
Defensively, he cited the play of Jordan Babineaux, Darryl Tapp and rookie Red Bryant in increased roles, along with improvement from rookie Lawrence Jackson. Experimentation will continue. Ultimately, it still comes down to the offense making enough plays to win a game and coming up with a way to make that happen is the ultimate test of this week. And when it really comes down to it, a team can't be 2-for-10 on third down and allow the opposition to be 10-of-18 and expect to win as what happened Sunday.
At this point, all Holmgren can do is help prevent the team from getting down.
"So, the thing is, they're going to watch me, how I act, how I respond, the things I do," Holmgren said. "They're going to watch the coaches. They're going to watch each other. So we just have to make sure that when we go through tough times, we are consistent in how we treat each other, we continue to respect one another, and it's important that we continue to still have confidence to rely on each other. That'll be my message this week.
"Look: it's hard right now, and everyone's disappointed. Everybody is disappointed. There's only one thing you can do, though. There's only one thing: you're not going to quit, and you're not going to just cash it in and start thinking about next year. That's not going to happen. So the only other alternative you have is to keep plugging away, and my job is to keep them positive."