Ahead by 10 points with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Seahawks were eyeing a three-game winning streak. Then they blew it.

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Earl Thomas sat in the locker room, hunched over, elbows on knees. He kept on his uniform, except for the helmet, for 30 minutes after the game. He stared at the carpet, as if the explanation for this improbable defeat had been lost somewhere near his feet.

He sighed. He shook his head. He stood out as the ultimate bewildered Seahawk in the entire, disappointed room.

“We gave this one away,” said Thomas, the normally upbeat second-year safety. “That’s all I can say.”

For the first time this season, the Seahawks invented a way to lose a game that they deserved to win. The initial reaction is to call it uncharacteristic, but it’s not like the Seahawks have a history of success. They haven’t been in this situation enough to develop a characteristic.

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Ahead by 10 points with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Seahawks were eyeing a three-game winning streak. They were about to improve their record to 5-6, just one victory from reaching .500 for the first time this season. They were on the cusp of making you wonder if you had dismissed them too soon.

Then they blew it.

Opportunity shattered.

Mojo misplaced.

Washington scored the game’s final 16 points and beat the Seahawks 23-17 at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks’ 17-7 lead turned into another painful reminder to never assume anything with this team.

The Seahawks are as unconventional as their 330-pound defensive end, Red Bryant. They win games they’re not supposed to win, and they often lose in the most frustrating manner possible. They’re young, inconsistent and, at times, undisciplined. For certain, they don’t have enough equity in consistency to possess any uncharacteristic traits.

It was surprising to see the defense, the Seahawks’ most laudable unit, give up two fourth-quarter touchdowns and hand over a 10-point lead so easily. The Seahawks played terrific D in the middle quarters, but they started poorly and finished even worse.

In the previous two weeks, the Seahawks had built leads and closed impressively. Two weeks ago, they built a 22-7 lead over Baltimore and won 22-17 as the offense ran out the clock on its final drive. Last week, they overwhelmed St. Louis in the second half, went ahead by double figures and turned that game into a sack-and-turnover fest.

This time, the defense folded and allowed two long touchdowns — a 28-yard run by Roy Helu and a 50-yard pass from Rex Grossman to Anthony Armstrong (on third-and-19). But after Washington took a 20-17 lead, the Seahawks offense had three possessions in the final 6:18 and made nothing of those chances.

“They finished, and we didn’t,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “That’s pretty much how you sum it up. The only thing everyone is feeling is disappointment. For us, it’s just frustrating because we couldn’t find a way to finish.”

They couldn’t finish against a Washington team that had lost six straight games and had scored at least 20 points once in its previous eight games. They couldn’t finish despite feeling that Washington had shown them disrespect by dancing on the midfield Seahawks logo, which led to barking and near fights throughout the game. They couldn’t finish even with running back Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 111 yards, available to help run out the clock.

“I just knew we were going to win in that situation,” cornerback Roy Lewis said. “No question.”

No. Questions: When will this team stop committing so many killer penalties (nine more in this game)? Is Tarvaris Jackson’s torn pectoral muscle still a major issue, or is his recent bad play (averaging just 146 passing yards the last two games) a sign of serious regression? How can you win when your starting wide receivers don’t catch a pass? Why do they keep blowing timeouts because of substitution issues? Without a consistent pass rush (one sack in this game), can the Seahawks defense reach its full potential?

And to think the Seahawks were less than 10 minutes away from making a legitimate push to reach .500. Thoughts of a long winning streak were tiptoeing toward reality. Dreams of a playoff push were, well, still crazy, but not as crazy as they used to be. Instead, the Seahawks’ competitiveness was a mirage of the NFL’s parity. They’re getting better, but they haven’t risen above bad just yet.

Now, the Seahawks are in shock, and they have a short week to recover before Thursday’s game against Philadelphia.

“We’re better than that,” Lewis said. “We learned some humbling lessons.”

Most humbling: For all the progress the Seahawks have seemingly made, the pain of this rebuilding persists.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @Jerry_Brewer.

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