Sunday’s 23-13 loss to Arizona was a game that left Seahawks coach Pete Carroll so out of answers that after eight minutes of talking during his regularly scheduled postgame news conference, he turned, said “I’m done” and walked away from the podium at Lumen Field.
It was the first time anyone could remember Carroll cutting a news conference short during his 12 years with the Seahawks.
And maybe feeling both bad that he’d shirked a responsibility — his stated reason — and that his action might have sent a message he didn’t intend about the direction of the season, Carroll returned about 30 minutes later.
“I know that you probably have some more questions,” Carroll said as he walked back into the media room, in the interim having showered and changed out of his game clothes. “I don’t know if I have any more answers for you, but I’ll try.”
And then he took questions for another 10 minutes, attempting in vain to make sense of what, all things considered, might have been the bleakest Sunday of his Seahawks career.
“Yes, absolutely, not even close,” Carroll said when asked if this is the most frustrated he’s been during his Seattle tenure.
With the defeat, Seattle fell to 3-7, the worst record after 10 games since 2009, the year before Carroll arrived, and only better in the NFC than the 0-9-1 Detroit Lions.
Seattle’s playoff odds now are about as long as its chances of converting a third down. Seattle has the 15th spot in the 16 seeds in the NFC, ahead of only Detroit (with the 3-6 Giants set to play Tampa Bay on Monday night).
Maybe even more telling, Seattle now is two games behind the rest of the NFC West, the 49ers winning to improve to 5-5. Arizona is at 9-2, the Rams at 7-3. Seattle has finished either first or second in the NFC West every year since Russell Wilson arrived in 2012.
Making it all worse is that Seattle gave up 328 passing yards to Arizona backup quarterback Colt McCoy, who got his third consecutive start in place of the injured Kyler Murray, with Arizona also playing without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The pregame news that Murray wouldn’t play due to a lingering ankle injury seemed like the big break Seattle needed to turn its season around.
Instead, losing to McCoy — who is 10-23 in his career but has now won twice in Seattle in two seasons after leading the Giants to a victory here last December — only added to the ignominy of the defeat Sunday.
“I’m just not any good at this,” Carroll said of dealing with defeat, with Seattle having lost five of its past six games — the Seahawks have already lost as many games this year as all of the 2013 and 2014 seasons combined. “I’m not prepared for this. I’m struggling to do a good job of coaching when you’re getting your butt kicked week in and week out. It’s new territory. I’m competing in every way I can think of it but it’s unfamiliar.”
But if Seattle’s record is new territory, what’s already gotten old are the reasons the Seahawks have fallen to this point.
Seattle’s offense again was a slog throughout, converting just two of 10 third downs, twice held to field goals when reaching the Arizona 9 and generally unable to do a whole lot other than when Russell Wilson hooked up with Tyler Lockett, whose four catches for 115 yards were basically the only highlight of the day.
Seattle thought it would be able to run against an Arizona defense that came in allowing 4.8 yards per rush, 31st in the NFL. But while Seattle ran it OK at times, the Seahawks had only 86 yards on 19 carries, and just 68 on 18 after Rashaad Penny began the game with an 18-yard run, then headed to the sideline for the rest of the half with a hamstring injury.
Seattle’s only touchdown came with 7:05 left on a 2-yard run by DeeJay Dallas, a score set up by a 48-yard pass from Wilson to Lockett. That snapped a streak of eight consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown.
But other than the throws to Lockett, Wilson again struggled to find any rhythm in what was his second game back after injuring his right middle finger, finishing 14 for 26 passing for 207 yards, and for only the third time in his career going a second consecutive game without throwing a touchdown pass. (Though he again insisted the finger is just fine, and unlike the shutout last Sunday against Green Bay, he took snaps under center, including the first three of the game.)
Carroll couldn’t put his, well, finger on Seattle’s offensive issues, left to say with resignation: “I don’t know why it became a mystery to us to score points.”
Still, when Dallas scored Seattle cut Arizona’s lead to 16-13, and a hoping-against-hope Lumen Field crowd was momentarily rocking.
But in keeping with the theme of the season, the good feeling didn’t last long, with a defense that performed well at times collapsing when it really mattered.
McCoy then led Arizona on a 67-yard drive sparked by two third-down conversions — a 20-yarder to Zach Ertz to convert a third-and-seven when he stepped up to avoid pressure, and then a defensive pass interference on Jamal Adams, again against Ertz, on a third-and-goal at the 4. James Conner’s 1-yard TD run on the next play with 2:20 left sealed the game, if not the season for Seattle.
Adams took the blame for the DPI later saying, “I kind of put my hand on him a little bit, hooked him a little. … Bang-bang situation. Everybody has their opinion about it, but obviously I can’t have that penalty toward the end of the game, hurt the team. I’ve gotta get better.”
The Seahawks also lamented a few breaks that didn’t go their way, notably when a Sidney Jones interception that would have given Seattle the ball at the Arizona 11 with the score 16-6 midway through the third quarter was instead called incomplete after review.
“That’s a 60-plus-yard swing,” Carroll said.
In fact, it was 67, with Seattle instead taking over at its own 22 following the punt.
But blaming anything on that sequence felt like grasping at straws with the way Arizona dominated for most of 60 minutes, outgaining Seattle 413-266, the fourth consecutive game Seattle has been held to 266 or fewer, but the fifth time this year Seattle has allowed 400 or more.
Everyone who spoke said all the expected things about still believing there’s time to turn things around, though as Wilson quickly added, “not much time.”
Indeed, Seattle has to go 6-1 the rest of the way just to avoid the first losing season since 2011, let alone think of the playoffs.
At one point during his second session with the media, Carroll said, “I’m disappointed I don’t have any new answers for you” of what is ailing the team.
But as he seemed to be signaling with his return to the podium, he knows that ultimately, he’s the one who has to somehow find them.
“It starts with me,” Carroll said. “I’ve got to get this done and I’ve got to help my guys get this done.”