The Seahawks pulled within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. They had flipped momentum on the Bills, and they had a chance to give the ball back to Russell Wilson and the offense.

Ryan Neal’s third-down sack of Buffalo’s Josh Allen at the Seattle 45-yard line appeared to be the play the Seahawks had to have to turn around a dreadful day for their defense. Instead, more bad news: Neal’s sack was negated by an illegal-contact penalty on the Seahawks’ Jamal Adams downfield, giving back momentum to the Bills en route to their 44-34 victory over the Seahawks on Sunday in Orchard Park, New York.

Bills 44, Seahawks 34

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Adams, out for the past month with a groin injury, flashed some of his All-Pro form in his return to action Sunday. But, fair or not, the third-down penalty he committed when he tripped Buffalo slot receiver Cole Beasley proved to be his most notable — and most costly — contribution during the Seahawks’ worst defensive game of the Pete Carroll era.

“You know,” Adams said afterward via Zoom, “that’s a play I wish I could have back.”

Trailing 27-10 early in the third quarter, the Seahawks entered the fourth quarter down just 27-20. And no matter how poorly the defense was playing Sunday — and, look, there’s no sugarcoating it: it was awful — there had to be a sense from everyone watching in Seattle that another Russell Wilson Special was about to be delivered in the fourth quarter. He’s had so many fourth-quarter comebacks that you just reflexively expect them to happen now.

It didn’t. Allen, the Bills’ breakout third-year QB, had the best game of his NFL career and finished off the Seahawks defense with Mortal Kombat-style force.

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Allen accounted for four touchdowns — three passing, one rushing — and matched his career high with 415 yards passing, and Buffalo’s 44 points were the most the Seahawks have allowed in Carroll’s 11 seasons. Allen, not Wilson, looked like the MVP front-runner most of the day.

Adams repeated several times after the game that the Seahawks defense has to be better. “And we will be better,” he said.

Adams, the strong safety acquired in offseason from the New York Jets, at a hefty price, was caught flat-footed early in the fourth quarter. Beasley was running left-to-right on a crossing route near the 25-yard line, and Adams stuck out his left leg to trip up the slot receiver. That gave the Bills an automatic first down, and three plays later the Bills executed a perfectly-timed receiver screen to John Brown for a 33-yard gain on third-and-16, which helped them extend their lead back to 14 points.

There was a suggestion to Adams in his postgame news conference that Beasley had perhaps embellished the trip to catch officials’ attention. Perhaps so. But that call will go against the defensive player almost every time — if not every time — and Adams acknowledged offenses are going to get the benefit of the doubt much of the time in the NFL.

“That’s out of my control,” Adams said. “You win some, you lose some, man. At the end of the day, whether I get beat on a play or whether I give up a play, I’m still working on my jabs.

“I’m never going to flinch; this defense is never going to flinch. So at the end of the day, that’s just what happened. But you learn from it and you get better and you improve.”

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Adams was one of two important additions for the Seahawks defense, whose blitz-happy approach in the second half netted a season-high seven sacks. Carlos Dunlap, acquired in a trade with Cincinnati two weeks ago, had one sack and three tackles for loss in his Seattle debut. Carroll pointed to those as “bright spots” in an otherwise gloomy day for the defense.

Seahawks defensive end Carlos Dunlap sacks Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen in the second half Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. (John Munson / The Associated Press)
Seahawks defensive end Carlos Dunlap sacks Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen in the second half Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. (John Munson / The Associated Press)

“Obviously, it’s new guys, including myself … and we’re feeling each other out as far as knowing what we can do,” Adams said. “There’s always pros and cons with everything, so we just got to continue to get better, continue to learn our teammates and continue to gel.

“This defense will be fine. Obviously, it’s frustrating, not coming out with a win and obviously having a lot of mistakes on the field, including myself. But we just got to be better, and we will be better.”