So much for an undefeated home season. Instead, the Seahawks got a shot to the heart and a punch to the gut in a stunning 34-31 loss to Arizona Saturday, decided on a 43-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro as time ran out.
They stuck to the script that it was a defeat that wouldn’t linger.
“There’s no worries,’’ said quarterback Russell Wilson after Arizona’s 34-31 last-play victory Saturday over the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. “There’s no fear.’’
How the Seahawks can still get a first-round bye
The following three things need to happen:
• The Seahawks win their last game of the season against the 49ers on the road.
• The Lions lose one of their last two games, either on Monday against the Cowboys on the road or next Sunday against the Packers at home.
• The Falcons lose their last game at home against the Saints.
But there were some significant ramifications from a defeat as devastating as any in Seahawk memory, one in which a failed extra-point attempt with one minute left helped waste one of the more improbable comebacks in a recent team history littered with them. Seattle trailed 31-18 with 4:10 left before appearing on the verge of taking the lead before Stephen Hauschka’s miss allowed Arizona to exhale and ultimately might have made it easier for the Cardinals to drive for the winning score, a 43-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro as time ran out.
There was the loss of receiver Tyler Lockett for the rest of the season with a broken leg, the sight of which caused some Seahawks to momentarily lose their composure.
There was the loss of running back Thomas Rawls for an undetermined amount of time with a bruised shoulder that kept him out of the second half.
There was the loss of a chance to become just the fourth team in franchise history to go undefeated at home.
It also was the third defeat in the past five games overall, a loss-win-loss-win-loss stanza hardly evidence of a team primed for a long playoff run.
And most tangibly, there was the loss of the team’s control of its own destiny to get the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and a bye during the wild-card weekend.
Instead, Seattle fell to 9-5-1 and behind Atlanta, which won at Carolina to improve to 10-5, and could also fall behind Detroit, which is 9-5 and plays at Dallas on Monday night.
Seattle now will need to win at San Francisco next Sunday, and get help elsewhere to be the No. 2 seed. Atlanta will have to lose to the Saints at home, and Detroit will have to lose either at Dallas on Monday or home against Green Bay next Sunday. If those things don’t happen, then Seattle would have to play a home game in the wild-card round and take it from there.
“We have a lot of work to do this season,’’ coach Pete Carroll told his players after the game. “We have a lot of stuff coming and we have to stay together and be there to get it right and get better and keep improving.’’
Certainly, for a half Sunday, the Seahawks showed there was far more room to improve than anyone could have imagined.
Arizona’s aggressive defense harried Wilson all over the field in the first half, sacking him five times in taking a 14-3 halftime lead.
Seattle had just 1 yard of offense in the first quarter and just 94 in the first half, losing 8 yards in a span of seven consecutive plays it ran inside Arizona’s 10-yard line late in the second quarter.
That included a failed attempt to score on four consecutive plays from the 1-yard line after the play on which Lockett was hurt — after he initially appeared to have scored a 29-yard touchdown he was ruled down just shy of the end zone.
“We had all kinds of problems protecting and running the football,’’ Carroll said. “We got nothing done in the first half.’’
Then the tables suddenly flipped as the Seattle offense came to life while its defense, which entered the day with legitimate hopes to leading the NFL in fewest points allowed for a fifth consecutive season, looked as vulnerable as ever (other than an 80-yard touchdown pass in which Arizona took advantage of the absence of Earl Thomas at free safety, Seattle held the Cardinals to 71 yards on 25 plays in the first half).
Wilson, held to 8-for-16 passing for 108 yards in the first half, completed 21 of 29 passes in the second half for 242 yards and four touchdowns to finish with a season-high 350 yards and four touchdowns.
With Lockett out, Wilson was forced more than ever to go to Doug Baldwin, who finished with career highs of 13 receptions for 171 yards.
“Everything was just better in the second half,’’ Carroll said. “It starts with the line of scrimmage. We just had issues in the first half in every phase of it. I don’t know why it looked like that so early.’’
Linemen professed to be similarly stumped on how it could look so different from one half to the next.
“We just came together,’’ said center Justin Britt. “We’re grown men. We make our choices and we came out in the second half and played better.’’
But while the offense was finding itself, the defense too often uncharacteristically lost its bearings, allowing 219 yards in the second half and three scoring drives of 50 yards or longer.
The final one came after the missed PAT — Hauschka’s fifth of the year.
“It doesn’t matter the situation,’’ free safety Steven Terrell said. “We have to stop them from scoring.’’
But they couldn’t. A 29-yard pass set up the winning kick, and while it was hardly the most important thing that happened, in the process the Seattle defense fell 33 points behind New England for the NFL lead in points allowed with one game left.
Baldwin said the defeat, which he called “very draining and exhausting,’’ made it impossible to enjoy his career day. But he also said he hopes that maybe it will spur a final call to action that can halt the team’s recent slide before the playoffs.
“We just have to look in the mirror and realize who we are,’’ he said. “There’s no panic. We still have an opportunity to win it all, still. What it comes down to is us getting our football right.’’
Both time and the margin for error, though, are running out.
|The Seahawks are in the No. 4 spot in the NFC. Six teams make the playoffs in each conference, with the four division winners seeded by record, followed by two wild-card teams. The top two division winners earn first-round byes:|
|1. Dallas||12-2||NFC East winner|
|2. Atlanta||10-5||NFC South winner|
|3. Detroit||9-5||NFC North leader|
|4. Seattle||9-5-1||NFC West winner|
|5. N.Y. Giants||10-5||Wild card|
|6. Green Bay||9-6||Wild card|
|7. Washington||8-6-1||Not in|
|8. Tampa Bay||8-7||Not in|