PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. — The late comeback that gave Seattle hope maybe made it feel all that much worse.
Dead in the water for much of the night, the Seahawks drove 96 yards for a touchdown in 2:04 that set up a tying two-point play with 15 seconds left Monday night against the Washington Football Team.
But a Russell Wilson pass intended for Freddie Swain was picked off by Kendall Fuller, and a loss that seemed in the offing all night was all but assured.
Instead, Seattle momentarily appeared as if it might have one more shot at one of the more unlikely wins in team history when Gavin Heslop recovered an onside kick from Jason Myers at the Seattle 45.
A completion or two and Seattle could set up a winning field goal.
But maybe fittingly for a team struggling to get out of its own way much of the season, Seattle was called for illegal formation — apparently on Nick Bellore for lining up inside the hash mark on the right side — and a second attempt was recovered by WFT. The home team held on for a 17-15 win.
“Just an alignment error,” coach Pete Carroll said later, saying “we needed another guy outside the hashmark. We didn’t line up right.”
“We were all celebrating,” punter Michael Dickson, watching from the sidelines, said of the moments after it appeared would have at least a shot or two to get into range for a winning field goal. Then when the flag came, Dickson said it was “devastating.”
Few better words suffice for a Seattle season that has shockingly descended into one of the most disappointing in team history.
It was Seattle’s third straight loss, all since Russell Wilson returned from a middle finger injury, and sixth of seven overall. Seattle’s 3-8 record also means the Seahawks now have a 1% chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
Seattle’s record is better than only the 0-10-1 mark of the rebuilding Detroit Lions, and Monday gave Seattle its most losses since a 7-9 season in 2011, the year before Wilson was drafted.
Coach Pete Carroll later called the locker room “quiet. … The guys don’t have a whole lot to say right now.”
Carroll said receiver Tyler Lockett spoke and that Wilson did as well and made himself “very accountable” for what was another tough day.
“It’s a lot of emotions, man,” safety Jamal Adams said. “Just frustrated. Just trying to find that win.”
But linebacker Bobby Wagner insisted that while things may look bleak, the team will not start checking out.
“Everything man,” Wagner said when asked what’s left to play for. “There’s six games left. There’s lots that could happen.”
Certainly, the end showed the Seahawks are still fighting.
But maybe it was fitting the chaotic last-second drive that gave Seattle life ultimately proved futile as this was a game dominated by WFT.
On his 33rd birthday, Wilson threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Gerald Everett and two long passes to Lockett in a first half in which he looked the best he has since his return from the injury. He was 8-for-11 for 145 yards in the first half, including throws of 55 and 39 yards to Lockett, but Wilson again looked like a shell of his usual self for most of the second half.
Seattle held the ball for just 18:20 and had just one rushing first down.
Afterward, Carroll was frank about the impact of Wilson’s struggles on the offense.
“The film doesn’t lie, you know,” Carroll said. “We’re missing some stuff. … I felt there’s some guys open tonight with some chances and unfortunately didn’t pick it up.”
Wilson didn’t shy away from that when he met the media roughly an hour after the game, saying, “I could have been a little cleaner.”
It was here a year ago that the Seahawks took a big step toward a 12-4 season and an NFC West title with a 20-15 win in December.
But that happy celebration seems years away now for a Seattle team that had only a gutty defensive effort to feel good about Monday.
The Seahawks stopped WFT on fourth down with 2:19 left, one of several key third-down or red zone stops that kept Seattle in the game, to five the Seahawks one last shot.
WFT was forced to go for it with kicker Joey Slye injured after he hurt his hamstring chasing Rasheem Green on a return of a blocked PAT for two points late in the second quarter that tied the game 9-9.
Heinicke tried to hit Logan Thomas in the front of the end zone. The ball got to Thomas as he was hit by Jamal Adams. It was originally ruled a TD before being overturned upon review.
That gave Seattle 96 yards, no timeouts and 2:19 to go to attempt to tie the game.
At that point, WFT had an edge in yards of 372-190 and in first downs of 27-5.
Somehow, Seattle found life as Wilson went 8-for-10 for 86 yards to drive the Seahawks down the field aided by a 19-yard pass interference penalty drawn by Lockett.
Wilson capped it with a 32-yard TD toss to Freddie Swain with 22 seconds left that made it 17-15.
Swain said he saw WFT in a Cover Two and just cut down the middle of the field and into the end zone.
But Seattle had to go for two because WFT had gone for two following a TD in the third quarter with Slye injured.
Wilson had other options initially, and DK Metcalf appeared momentarily open in the back of the end zone. But Wilson instead fired over the middle to Swain, only to see the ball picked off.
“It could have gone to a number of guys,” Carroll said. “It depended on how the space opened up.”
Wilson said WFT “kind of doubled DK (Metcalf), kind of doubled Tyler for a second. Saw Freddie pop open and tried to zoom it in there and the guy just made a good play.”
Wilson tried to see a silver lining saying “the last few minutes of the game shows that we have the right character of guys.”
But Wilson also seemed as subdued afterward as any time in his Seattle career.
“When it doesn’t end the way you want it to, it’s always tough,” he said. “What I do know is we will respond the right way. We’ll come back tomorrow and be better and give it all we have. That’s all we know.”