The Seahawks seemed generally glad that they have to wait just four days to play again Thursday at Arizona. But they need an immediate reduction in the mistakes that were prevalent in Sunday's 17-14 loss to Washington.
Remember the glow of optimism that prevailed last week when Russell Wilson pulled off a dramatic comeback victory, and then the Seahawks went out and traded for All-Pro tackle Duane Brown?
That glow was extinguished Sunday in one of the messier and more maddening Seahawks losses of recent memory. That doesn’t mean it can’t be re-lit, but even if it is, the Seahawks’ 17-14 loss to Washington stands as a defeat that could haunt them the rest of the season.
Instead of being hot on the trail of Philadelphia for the best record in the NFC, Seattle is playing catch-up in its own division to the Rams. Every favorable playoff scenario for the Seahawks is predicated on home-field dominance, and yet they let a very winnable home game slip out of their grasp. Their margin for error tightened as if in a vise grip.
Brown – who in successive weeks has been on the losing end of two remarkably similar frantic finishes at CenturyLink Field, first for the Texans, then for the Seahawks – declared afterward, “The sky isn’t falling.”
That’s true. The season is just half over, after all, and the Seahawks at 5-3 have plenty of time to fix what ails them. But it’s also true that what ailed the Seahawks on Sunday was particularly galling, and far from the sort of effort put forward by a team that fancies itself a Super Bowl contender.
Not against a Washington team that was so depleted it suited up just 43 players, had six starters inactive and two others who suited up but didn’t play.
As Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said, “I don’t think they beat us; we beat ourselves.” Teammate Thomas Rawls expressed the same sentiment in slightly different terms: “We feel we probably did it to ourselves. I’m not sure if they won or if we just lost to ourselves.”
You get the picture. This one was self-inflicted, whether it be the two interceptions Seahawks defenders couldn’t hang onto; the two interceptions thrown by Wilson, who in the words of coach Pete Carroll was off rhythm and out of sync all day long; the three missed field-goal attempts by Blair Walsh that proved deadly; or the final drive by Washington when a Seahawks defense that had been stout all day long couldn’t stop a four-play, 70-yard touchdown march.
And the 16 penalties committed by Seattle were inexcusable, a tangible manifestation of undisciplined play that cost them 138 yards but so much more in halted momentum. Carroll’s teams tend to be highly penalized, which can be regarded as an acceptable trade-off for their high-speed, on-the-edge style of play, particularly on defense. Seattle led the NFL in penalties in both 2013 and 2014 and made the Super Bowl both years.
Now the Seahawks once again find themselves atop the NFL in both penalties and penalty yardage, but on Sunday it wasn’t an offshoot of great play. It was simply a compendium of unforced errors or desperate attempts to compensate for misplays: Three holding penalties, three false starts, three pass-interference calls (two offensive and one defensive), an illegal substitution, an offside, an unnecessary roughness, a roughing the passer and three special-teams penalties.
Carroll seemed distressed over the mistakes and to his credit took the blame.
“I’m just really disappointed tonight, because we’ve been addressing it and we haven’t cleaned it up, and that really bugs me,” he said. “We could have made this way easier for us. We really played against ourselves all day long.”
Seahawks tight end Luke Willson, who scored Seattle’s first touchdown early in the fourth quarter, confirmed that limiting the penalties was a coaching point all week.
“I thought Coach Carroll was pretty clear on it, and obviously we let everybody down with the amount of penalties we had,” he said. “It will be a huge emphasis this week and from here on out. It’s tough to win games with 16 penalties.
“Statistically, we had some pretty poor stats today, but I guess the silver lining is we really could have won that game. Most teams have a game like that, they’re getting blown out. I think we feel like we should have won the game.”
Shoulda, coulda – but didn’t. This was a defeat that hurt, badly. It’s one that makes you re-think how close they came to losing to the Rams when Cooper Kupp dropped a potential game-winning pass in the end zone, and to the Texans, who took the lead with under two minutes to play. Not to mention a win by three points over the still-winless 49ers.
They found a way to win those games, though, like good teams do. It was Washington that found the way Sunday, aided and abetted by Seattle’s sloppiness and mistakes.
The Seahawks seemed generally glad that they have to wait just four days to play again Thursday night at Arizona, despite the physical challenges of such a quick turnaround. But this needs to be a game that prompts an immediate reduction in self-inflicted mistakes, especially penalties.
If not, the sky may not be falling, but the hope surrounding the Seahawks will be.