At 2-3, it felt troublesome — particularly with Russell Wilson being sidelined with an injury. At 2-4, it felt perilous — the playoffs were still possible but not probable. But now that the Seahawks are 2-5, it feels pretty close to over.
Can they really come back from this?
The Seahawks didn’t just lose a game on Monday, they likely lost a season. Their 13-10 defeat at the hands of the Saints was a haymaker to their souls.
This isn’t the star-studded 2015 team that lost four of its first six before winning six of its next eight to get into the playoffs. This is a flawed squad that has shown little consistency and plays in the NFL’s toughest division.
True, you never know in this league. Seattle has the 1-5 Jaguars next week and could have Wilson before meeting Green Bay after its bye week. But the mountain they’re facing right now looks almost impossible to scale.
“It sucks,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “It’s not a great feeling. It’s not a position we thought we would be in.”
There’s little doubt Seattle would be in a better position if Wilson had stayed healthy this season. The eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback missed the fourth quarter of the Seahawks’ loss to the Rams, and was out entirely in their losses to Pittsburgh and New Orleans.
Before his Week 5 finger injury, Wilson was the highest-rated quarterback in the NFL. His replacement, Geno Smith, simply can’t compare.
Monday night was a reminder of that. After hitting DK Metcalf for an 84-yard touchdown on Seattle’s first-quarter drive — a catch made possible due to cornerback Marshon Lattimore falling to the ground — Smith was largely ineffective. He finished 12 of 22 for 167 yards. His four-and-out on the final drive of the game, which included two sacks, is something the Seahawks almost never see out of Wilson. Geno simply doesn’t wield the same wand.
“I’ve been here a long time. If we didn’t have Russell, I probably wouldn’t have been here a long time,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Think of all the magic that he’s created in the years.”
But Monday’s loss also underscored two aspects that have plagued the Seahawks all year — dumb penalties and the inability to finish.
With the score tied at 10-10 midway through the fourth quarter, it appeared Seattle was going to get the ball back with good field position. Saints quarterback Jameis Winston was in the midst of being sacked at the New Orleans’ 40 — but then safety Marquise Blair got hit with a roughing-the-passer flag for his helmet-to-helmet hit.
Later that drive, with 3:08 left in the game, the Saints (4-2) were about to attempt a 41-yard field goal. Then, defensive tackle Al Woods encroached, giving New Orleans a first down. The penalty took more than a minute off the game clock before Saints kicker Brian Johnson put it through from 33 yards to put his team up three.
The aforementioned four-and-out followed, and that was the game.
“That’s kind of been the problem the last couple weeks, just not finishing,” said Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks, whose team has lost three games by three points this year, including two in overtime. “It’s nothing major that’s happening. It’s just about finishing. That’s what we have to do as a collective group. That’s what will make the difference.”
Two missed field goals by Jason Myers — one from 53 yards and the other from 44 — also would have made a difference. So would stopping running back Alvin Kamara, who not only finished with 128 receiving yards and 51 rushing yards, but had a 12-yard run on a third-and-10 to extend the Saints’ final drive.
An opportunity to win was there. It slipped away. Again.
Having a 17-game schedule gives the Seahawks a few extra inches of rope than if it were 16. But many of those games remaining on that schedule are daunting.
They still have two matchups with unbeaten Arizona. They have road games against the once-beaten Rams and once-beaten Packers. Sure, the struggling Jaguars, Lions, Bears and Washington Football Team also await, but with these Seahawks, are any of those gimme?
For what it’s worth, the Seahawks are still presenting a strong front.
“Everybody has their head up,” Seahawks running back Alex Collins said. “We know we’re so close. … People will look at our record and, you know, maybe have a different mindset about us, but we know we’re just one step closer.”
Maybe. But after Monday night, it looks like they’re one step closer to being done.