Some grades after the Seahawks’ 34-31 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
When the Seahawks began the second half of the season with a rousing victory at New England, it appeared as if Seattle was on the way to again fulfilling the reputation it has earned under coach Pete Carroll as a team that gets better as the year goes on.
The Seahawks, recall, had records of 6-2 or better each of the last four years, going 26-6 in the second half overall.
But Saturday’s 34-31 loss to Arizona was Seattle’s third in the second half of the season — all since Nov. 27. The Seahawks are threatening to have a worse record in the second half of the year than the first since Carroll’s initial season in 2010.
And with that cheery thought, on to some grades.
Talk about a schizophrenic afternoon.
The Seahawks had 391 yards for the game — 390 in the final three quarters, 297 in the second half.
After allowing five sacks in the first half, the Seattle offensive line regrouped in the second as Russell Wilson threw for a season-high four touchdown passes and a season-high 350 yards, sacked just once in the final two quarters.
His favorite target was Doug Baldwin, who had career highs of 13 receptions and 171 yards — with nine catches for 117 yards coming in the second half.
So what happened?
Players and coaches said there were a few minor tweaks. It seemed as if Wilson got rid of the ball more quickly with an emphasis on shorter routes in the second half. But they mostly pointed to simply doing things better.
“It was really just one-on-one battles,’’ tackle Garry Gilliam said of what got better in the second half. “As an offensive line, we just need to hit our combos and get on the same page.’’
The injury of Tyler Lockett was not only heart-wrenching to watch but also robs of the team of maybe its best deep threat as the playoffs approach.
But give Seattle’s receiving corps credit for picking up the slack in the second half as Paul Richardson had season highs with four receptions for 42 yards while Jermaine Kearse shook off a tough start (he had his sixth offensive pass-interference penalty early in the game) to score his first touchdown of the season among four catches overall.
The running game was largely nonexistent, and that’s a long-term worry, especially if the bruised-shoulder injury to Thomas Rawls is serious.
Rawls had just 8 yards on eight carries in the first half before departing. Alex Collins looked as good as he has all season with 28 yards on seven carries, and depending on what happens could become a vitally important player.
But Wilson had to use his legs more than he has all season to get Seattle much of a running game with a season-high 10 carries for 36 yards.
The defense can’t blame this one on the offense, as the Cardinals too often were allowed to move it when the Seahawks desperately needed a stop.
If ever there was a game when Seattle seemed to miss Earl Thomas, it was this one. Steven Terrell gamely took the blame in the locker room afterward for the 80-yard TD pass in the second quarter that allowed Arizona to take a 14-0 lead. It was also tempting to wonder if Thomas might have at least held to smaller gains back-to-back long plays in the fourth quarter — a 33-yard David Johnson run and a 41-yard pass to J.J. Nelson — that set up another touchdown.
But Terrell wasn’t alone. Jeremy Lane was victimized off the line (even if Terrell could have helped make the play downfield) on the Nelson 80-yarder.
Richard Sherman was beaten initially for the 41-yard Nelson pass.
And the Seahawks had just one sack of 36-year-old Carson Palmer, that coming on the first series of the game.
Michael Bennett looked like his old self getting half a sack on that play (along with Jarran Reed) and four quarterback hits overall. But Seattle had only three other QB hits, two by linebacker K.J. Wright, as the Seahawks increasingly had to bring extra pressure to get pressure late in the game.
There haven’t been too many games when special teams have had as much of a negative impact as this one.
The Seahawks had both a field goal and punt blocked in the first three quarters.
Rodney Gunter blocked Stephen Hauschka’s 45-yard field-goal attempt late in the first quarter, which kept Arizona ahead 7-0.
Then, late in the third quarter, Alex Okafor blew right past Brandon Williams to deflect a Jon Ryan punt. The Seahawks got a fortunate bounce that went forward and Arizona took over at its own 39. Still, instead of starting deep the Cardinals had decent field position and drove for a touchdown that made the score 21-10.
Then there was the final missed PAT.
Carroll noted that the snaps on both the missed field goal and extra point were high. But this is obviously late in the season to be working out the kinks.
The coverage, however, was really good, so we’re not giving a failing grade.