The Seattle Seahawks’ 31-24 playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers after a remarkable second-half comeback, might hurt more than a blowout defeat.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The slimmer the deficit, the wider the wound.
The greater the comeback, the harder the comedown.
In their 31-24 loss to Carolina Sunday, the ever-gritty Seahawks played their hearts out.
Which is the very reason their hearts are so filled with pain.
The taste in Seattle’s mouth just got a fresh supply of bitter. Sunday might not have had the movie-script climax of last year’s Super Bowl, but it will haunt the Hawks nonetheless.
Based on that second half, you can’t help but think that everyone in that locker room feels they’re the better team. They weren’t run off the field — they just ran out of clock.
“If we had more time, we knew we would have had it,” said Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett. “It’s just one of those days where you can’t put yourself in a hole like that.”
Like his teammates, Lockett congratulated the Panthers after the game. And like his teammates, he exuded pride in the Seahawks’ 24-0 second-half run.
But as dazzling as those final two quarters were — as much as they had fans going “How are they doing this?!”— the result left them with a much more frustrating question to answer: What could have been?
It’s easy, after all, to bounce back mentally from a blowout. When you get beaten by, say, 31 — which was Carolina’s lead at halftime — you feel momentarily humiliated, but not emotionally scarred.
The lopsided losses don’t leave you nitpicking. They don’t replay mistakes on a loop in your head. “Nothing could have changed the outcome” is a lot more digestible than “any one thing could have changed the outcome.”
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, who are talented as any team in the NFL, Sunday’s mishaps will figure more prominently into their memories than the near-miracle.
There was the defensive breakdown on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage, when Jonathan Stewart ran for 59 yards to set up a touchdown three plays later. There was the pick-six Russell Wilson threw on the Seahawks’ first drive, which put Carolina up 14 and sent Seattle to its corner seeing double. And there was the questionable clock management at the end of the first half, which robbed the Hawks of an opportunity to at least kick a reasonable length field goal.
Could the Seahawks have won if any of those situations had gone another way? Hard to say. But the fact that they’ll have to wonder that is hard to stomach.
“When we sit back and look at this, there are no moral victories,” said Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin. “There’s a lot of things in the first half that we should have done differently, that we could have done differently, that would have maybe changed the outcome.”
Part of the reason the NFL reigns as America’s most popular sports league is because of these types of games. Most fans assume their team is involved in more frantic finishes than anyone else, when the truth is that it’s just the nature of pro football.
Tough losses are common. And according to the line in Vegas, the Panthers’ victory wasn’t even an upset. But after those last couple of quarters, it might be hard to find gamblers who would pick against the Hawks in a rematch.
That’s why this season has to be particularly disheartening for Seattle and its fans. The Seahawks had lofty expectations going into 2015. The roster was loaded. The talent was top-tier. The level of play was as good as any team in football during the second half of the season, and yet the season ended so unceremoniously.
After the game, Wilson said there was plenty from this season the Hawks can learn from. He added he’s already excited to get next season under way.
Can’t blame him. Knowing what his team was capable of, it would be too painful to do anything but look ahead.
Valiant as Seattle played Sunday, this season is still a disappointment. Performance never quite measured up to potential.
The Seahawks fought back against the Panthers the entire second half. They’ll likely spend a lot more time fighting back the tears.
|Seahawks under Pete Carroll|
|Carroll finished his sixth season with Seattle.|