The burning question, of course, is whether the Seahawks’ loss to the Bucs was a fluke of a letdown that can be easily put aside by virtue of Seattle’s still-healthy divisional lead – or the latest warning sign of big trouble ahead.

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TAMPA, Fla. — Doug Baldwin is usually an eloquent spokesman for the Seahawks, able to sum up the essence of each game, positive or negative, with flowing analysis.

And in a way, he did again on Sunday, even though his message was terse and single-minded. To every question, in fact, Baldwin gave the same answer, until reporters got the hint and stopped asking:

“We didn’t play well.”

That was indisputable oration, after a 14-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that was so puzzling in its lackluster nature that the Seahawks were still struggling to come to grips with it in the immediate aftermath.

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“We were just in a funk,” mused linebacker K.J. Wright. “You saw both phases weren’t themselves. We didn’t find a way to complement each other — offense, defense. … It happens sometimes.”

The burning question, of course, is whether this was pure aberration, a fluke of a letdown that can be easily put aside by virtue of Seattle’s still-healthy divisional lead — or the latest warning sign of big trouble ahead.

I lean toward the former conclusion, with the realization that the Seahawks were playing without several key players who should be back in the near future. And they were facing a Tampa Bay team on the rise and making a strong playoff push.

Yet that doesn’t mean that this stinker of an outing wasn’t troubling in numerous ways, particularly on offense. To put it bluntly, and to reprise a painfully familiar story line that the Seahawks thought had gone away, if the offensive line doesn’t protect Russell Wilson better than it did Sunday, well, this kind of day will rear its ugly head again.

Pete Carroll used the phrase “oddity” twice to describe a performance that was uneven on defense and totally unhinged on offense. He seemed completely blindsided, particularly coming on the heels of three straight wins in which the offense, and the line, had been jelling.

“We didn’t play like we play, and it didn’t feel like it,” Carroll said. “That starts with me. If everyone plays a little off, then that’s me. I’ve got to do my part and they’ve got to do their part and we’ve got to get our game back and get a win.”

Wilson, who was sacked six times and seemed to be running for his life the entire game, also claimed the blame. He said he needed to figure out a way to get rid of the ball more quickly, and make more plays, which was certainly true at times. His passing touch was not at its sharpest, and Wilson finished with a season-low 151 yards through the air. His 38.8 quarterback rating, deflated by two interceptions, was the second lowest of his career, just barely exceeding the 38.7 against the 49ers on Oct. 18, 2012, the seventh game of his career.

With three rookies on the Seattle offensive line — including Joey Hunt making his first NFL start in place of injured center Justin Britt — Wilson was under siege all day. He rarely had the opportunity to go beyond his second read, and it manifested itself in hurried throws and repeated scrambles. He finished with 80 rushing yards, one of the few positives on the day. But the Seahawks failed to convert their first 10 third-down opportunities, high on the list of damning stats on the afternoon.

“They rushed the heck out of us,” Carroll said. “We didn’t protect like we needed to. … That’s just crazy because we haven’t been doing that at all. We have usually been on the other end of that, and that’s a real oddity for us. We’ve got to get back to work and fix it.”

This was the third game of the season in which the Seahawks haven’t scored an offensive touchdown, plus one other in which they scored just one. But the Seahawks thought those issues were behind them, which is why the postgame locker room was so grim.

Wilson could be seen in intense conversation with Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse by their lockers, which he said was the first salvo in figuring out how to move forward from this.

“I’m not going to get into too much detail, but we’re really positive about what we can do,” Wilson said. “We’ve obviously shown it in tons of different circumstances this year.”

Carroll, in fact, said despite their missteps, he felt the Seahawks were positioned to pull out the game in the end. The defense, after getting manhandled on Tampa Bay’s first two possessions, had stiffened the rest of the way. And the Seahawks might have done it, if not for three deadly turnovers in the game, each coming as Seattle was driving toward the end zone.

“It felt like we would (pull it out), but we just didn’t know how to do that,” Carroll said. “We’ve done it so many times, but the right things didn’t happen at the right time. We had that big fourth-down conversion, and it felt like, ‘OK, here it is, here’s the magic.’”

But this time, the magic fizzled. A Wilson interception on a rare shot down the field, intended for Tyler Lockett, extinguished their last hope. In the end, the Seahawks embodied Baldwin’s words. They didn’t play well, certainly far below the standards of a team that still fancies itself as a Super Bowl contender.

“We all know that was not us,” Kearse said.

At least, they’d better hope not.

Playoff picture
The Seahawks remain in the No. 2 spot in the NFC. Six teams make the playoffs in each conference, with the four division winners seeded by record, followed by two wild-card teams. The top two division winners earn first-round byes:
Team W-L Playoff status
1. Dallas 10-1 NFC East leader
2. Seattle 7-3-1 NFC West leader
3. Detroit 7-4 NFC North leader
4. Atlanta 7-4 NFC South leader
5. N.Y. Giants 8-3 Wild card
6. Washington 6-4-1 Wild card
7. Tampa Bay 6-5 Not in
8. Minnesota 6-5 Not in
Source: NFL.com