As they did in starting the season 2-4, the Seahawks fell victim Sunday to a combination of self-inflicted wounds and good play by their opponent to fall into a big, early hole.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In 60 minutes Sunday, the Seahawks retold the story of their 2015 season.
As they did in starting 2-4, the Seahawks fell victim Sunday to a combination of self-inflicted wounds and good play by their opponent to fall into a big, early hole.
And though they eventually found their footing — literally for many players, given the condition of the turf at Bank of America Stadium — they couldn’t quite climb all the way back up the mountain, falling 31-24 to the Carolina Panthers in a divisional playoff game.
The Seahawks have had to overcome nine-point deficits or more in every playoff road game under Pete Carroll:
2016 at Carolina
2016 at Minnesota
2013 at Atlanta
2013 at Washington
2011 at Chicago
The Seahawks trailed 14-0 less than four minutes into the game, and 31-0 with just more than six minutes left in the first half, all of which meant scoring 24 consecutive points in the second half led mostly to a bitter feeling of what might have been.
“This game, it’s kind of like a microcosm of our season,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Fought through so much early in the year to get going and took us a long time, and then we finally did catch fire and get rolling. Everybody in here just feels like we just ran out of time. Just wasn’t quite enough time to get this thing done.’’
In a way, it was a game maybe lost in September and October, when the Seahawks started 0-2 (due in part to the holdout of Kam Chancellor) and then 2-4 (blowing two consecutive fourth-quarter leads to Cincinnati and Carolina).
From about mid-November on the Seahawks knew they likely would need to win three playoff road games to return to a third consecutive Super Bowl.
The Seahawks found out how difficult of a task that would be when a rested Carolina team playing in front of 74,287 mostly flag-waving fans jumped on them for a 14-0 lead before they knew what had hit them.
Carroll and his players had no real answers for the slow start, though some noted the Seahawks had a few issues with a turf that had been recently re-sodded. Some of the Seahawks changed their cleats after the first series or two.
Carroll, though, wouldn’t use that as an excuse.
“It was just not well done in any phase of it,’’ he said of the first half. “We didn’t do anything the way we wanted to do it, and why, I don’t know. If I knew that, we wouldn’t have done it.’’
The trouble started on the first play — a 59-yard run by Jonathan Stewart, a former Timberline High star, that led to his 4-yard touchdown run two minutes and 30 seconds into the game.
On the second play of the Seahawks’ first series, Russell Wilson, under pressure in the end zone, tried to hit running back Marshawn Lynch and instead threw the ball to Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, who returned it 14 yards for a 14-0 lead.
“I was trying to get it to the checkdown, and it’s my fault,’’ Wilson said. “That’s just on me.’’
The Panthers then went on an 86-yard drive to take a 21-0 lead, converted a Wilson interception into a field goal to go ahead 24-0 and went on a 54-yard drive to go ahead 31-0.
At that point, the Panthers had a 213-17 edge in yards.
Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett said the Panthers were the better team early on, simple as that.
“There’s no such thing as coming out flat,’’ he said. “They just played better than us. I know you guys are looking for a reason why we lost the game. We just lost the game.’’
But not before putting a scare into the Panthers. Seahawks players gave impassioned speeches about staying the course at halftime, and the Seahawks used their hurry-up offense to score on four of five drives in the second half, gaining 267 yards (Wilson threw for 366 yards on a career-high 48 attempts).
“We recommitted ourselves to each other, and we started to execute at a higher level,’’ said receiver Doug Baldwin, one of those who spoke most emotionally at halftime.
A Steven Hauschka field goal made it 31-24 with 1:12 left, leading to an onside kick attempt to keep the unlikely comeback alive. But unlike the NFC title game victory over Green Bay last January, it didn’t work for Seattle as Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis held on to the football, and that was that.
The Seahawks took some solace in the comeback, but not in the season.
They knew they had a chance to become one of just three teams in NFL history to reach three consecutive Super Bowls. It would have been a chance to define themselves as one of the great dynasties if they could win a second title in three years.
But the road to the Super Bowl ended two games short, resulting in one long plane ride home.
Asked if the season was a success, cornerback Richard Sherman shook his head.
“We didn’t win the Super Bowl,’’ he said. “I’m sure some teams would define this season as a success. We had a chance to be special again. We didn’t get it done.’’
|Rough playoff road|
|The Seahawks have had to overcome nine-point deficits or more in every playoff road game under Pete Carroll:|
|Jan. 17, 2016||Carolina||31-0||Loss, 31-24|
|Jan. 10, 2016||Minnesota||9-0||Win, 10-9|
|Jan. 13, 2013||Atlanta||20-0||Loss, 30-28|
|Jan. 6, 2013||Washington||14-0||Win, 24-14|
|Jan. 16, 2011||Chicago||28-0||Loss, 35-24|