With Seattle trailing the Chargers 25-17, the Seahawks lined up for one last play — an untimed down with magnified stakes. A touchdown and a two-point conversion would tie the game. Anything else would result in defeat and complicate Seattle's playoff race hopes.
A mostly disappointing first 54 minutes led to a frantic final six in which the Seahawks tried to snatch victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
It all came down to one last play, an untimed down from the 6, after a pass interference penalty on the Chargers put the ball at the 1, and then a false start on Seattle’s J.R. Sweezy moved it back 5 yards.
Seattle might well have run it from the 1 — coach Pete Carroll wouldn’t say for certain afterward what the Seahawks would have done.
But from the 6, there was no real choice but to pass, and Seattle lined up in a pretty basic passing formation, what is commonly called “11 personnel’’ — three receivers, one tight end and one running back.
With the ball on the left hash, Tyler Lockett was lined up far right and Doug Baldwin in the slot right. Tight end Nick Vannett lined up just off the line to the right.
Running back Mike Davis initially lined up far left with David Moore in the slot left. But prior to the snap, Davis motioned back to line up to the left of Russell Wilson, with Moore moving out to the far left. It’s a motion designed in part to tell what coverage the Chargers were in. The Chargers did not respond to Seattle’s motion, evidence to the Seahawks that Los Angeles was in a zone.
After taking the snap, Wilson dropped back to the 15 with the Chargers rushing only three. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, a former Seahawk, peeled off at the snap and dropped into coverage, giving the Chargers eight defenders back.
Moore, meanwhile, ran down and in across the back of the end zone, covered first by Michael Davis who then passed him off in coverage to safety Derwin James. On the other side, Baldwin and Lockett sort of crisscrossed, with Baldwin ending up in the back of the end zone and Lockett running a crossing route to right middle of the end zone.
Wilson ran up to about the 10, where he spotted Moore and fired a pass over the outstretched arms of Mebane. But before the ball could get to Moore it was tipped by safety Jahleel Addae, who was in the area because he was covering Lockett.
Addae said later he didn’t see Moore but just saw the ball and tried to reach out to bat it down.
“I got my last fingernail on it,’’ he said. “I barely snipped it.’’
That was just enough to cause the ball to bounce off Moore’s chest and fall incomplete.
“It throws off the trajectory of the pass,’’ Seattle receiver Jaron Brown said later when asked about the impact of even a slight tip. “Anytime it’s that close, your hands kind of really don’t have time to react. I think a lot of times people might see it was a receiver dropped a wide-open pass. But any time a DB kind of gets his hand on it and changes the trajectory of the ball, it changes up our mechanics, too.’’
Said Wilson: “I knew it was a tight window and we tried to get it in there. I think it maybe got tipped a hair, a little bit. It was tough. David has done a great job all year making those plays. Like I said, he’s going to make the next one no doubt.”
The result was a devastating defeat for the Seahawks, who fell to 4-4, and for the moment, out of the playoff picture in the NFC.