There will be understandable focus on the confusion during the final touchdown, but that was hardly the sole reason for the defeat. Carolina had already used three 80-yard touchdown drives to keep the game close, while the Seahawks again failed to put the game away.
Shockingly picked apart on the field by the Carolina Panthers in the final minutes of Sunday’s 27-23 loss, the members of the Legion of Boom huddled together in the locker room long afterward.
As reporters, teammates and others came and went, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, DeShawn Shead and Cary Williams talked in hushed tones near their locker stalls, still there at least a half hour after the game, alternately trying to get on the same page about what happened on the game’s final touchdown, and get their season back on track.
“There’s a disconnect somewhere,’’ Sherman said. “And we will correct it.’’
The specific disconnect Sunday came as the Panthers faced second-and-10 at the Seattle 26-yard line with 36 seconds remaining.
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As the snap neared, Sherman said two different calls were relayed in from the sideline.
Sherman heard the correct call, which Thomas referred to as LA, which in Seattle’s defensive vocabulary means Cover 2 (a defense in which the two safeties are supposed to each cover half of the back end).
Thomas said he and the rest of the secondary heard a call for Cover 3 (in which responsibility for the deep part of the field is split into thirds).
Thomas surmised that Sherman got the right call because he was closest to the sideline.
Sherman said there wasn’t time to try to make sure everyone was on the same page.
“Game’s at a fast pace, so you’ve got to make a decision,’’ he said.
Carolina tight end Greg Olsen broke through the confused secondary and into the end zone, catching a pass from Cam Newton to score what proved to be the winning touchdown and cap another fourth-quarter collapse by the Seahawks, who had taken a 23-14 lead after a 43-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka with 11:46 left. The outcome marked the fourth time this season Seattle has lost a game in which it held a fourth-quarter lead.
“That was kind of a fluky play because we were playing two different plays at the same time,’’ Sherman said. “Any time you’re doing that, it’s tough in this league. It’s not going to work out well.’’ Fluky, maybe, but also disturbingly similar to a miscommunication that cost Seattle a touchdown in last week’s overtime loss at Cincinnati by almost the same score (27-24).
Coach Pete Carroll confirmed the confusion but didn’t say why it happened. He huddled with some of the players after the game to try to get to the bottom of it.
“We made a mistake on the calls,” Carroll said. “Guys got confused on the signal.’’
Carroll said he couldn’t tell anything was amiss until the play began to develop.
“I saw the alignment and then I saw Greg run down the field,” Carroll said. “I saw the play happening. By the alignment, you couldn’t tell that they didn’t have it.’’
There will be understandable focus on the confusion during the final touchdown, but that was hardly the sole reason for the defeat.
Carolina had already used three 80-yard touchdown drives to keep the game close, while the Seahawks again failed to put the game away when they had the chance.
Seattle, for instance, got only field goals out of two Newton interceptions that each gave the Seahawks the ball at the Panthers’ 33-yard line.
Tight end Jimmy Graham had his best day as a Seahawk, with eight receptions for 140 yards. But otherwise the Seattle offense was erratic — six of its first nine drives went 10 yards or less.
Marshawn Lynch returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury but was largely bottled up, with 54 yards on 17 attempts and 17 yards coming on one play.
And other than a 40-yard touchdown to Ricardo Lockette on a double pass, the Seahawks did not have a pass play longer than 14 yards to a receiver. And Wilson was again under pressure much of the day, sacked four times, bringing the season total to NFL-leading 26.
After Carolina scored with 3:55 left — Seattle got a break when Graham Gano missed the longer extra point — the Seahawks got the ball back at their own 20, needing maybe two first downs to put the game away.
The Seahawks immediately got one on a 20-yard pass to Graham. But on the next play, a holding penalty on Lynch (attempting to prevent a probable sack) created a first-and-20 that the Seahawks couldn’t convert.
The defense, meanwhile, allowed Newton to complete 12 of 15 passes in the fourth quarter for 164 yards.
It all seemed to speak to a team that may simply have more flaws than the last two squads that made it to the Super Bowl.
Linebacker Bruce Irvin noted afterward that the Seahawks have had communication errors in prior seasons as well.
“There might be situations where we were playing two different coverages the last couple of years and we’ve been getting away with it,’’ Irvin said. “This year it’s hurting us.”
At 2-4, Seattle is up against the odds for even making the playoffs, let alone getting to the Super Bowl. According to STATS-NFL, only 14 of 168 teams to start out 2-4 since 1990 (the year the NFL expanded the playoffs from 10 to 12) have made postseason.
Carroll, though, said he remains no less confident in what the Seahawks can accomplish than he was when the season began.
“I totally am,’’ he said. “We’ve been through too much together. With all the history that we’ve had, there isn’t anything over.’’
And while the Legion of Boom did a lot of conversing afterward, Chancellor said the time for talk may be about done.
“We rebound from every game,” he said. “We just have to do it. Enough talking about it, we just have to do it.”
|Seahawks’ point differential by quarter this season:|
|Seahawks have lost leads in the fourth quarter in their last five losses dating back to the Super Bowl:|
|Oct. 18||Panthers, 27-23||20-14|
|Oct. 11||Bengals, 27-24 OT||24-7|
|Sept. 20||Packers, 27-17||17-16|
|Sept. 13||Rams, 34-31 OT||31-24|
|Feb. 2*||Patriots, 28-24||24-14|
|* Super Bowl|