In the biggest game of its season so far, Seattle was 100 percent heart and 0 percent head. The Hawks were strong-willed as can be but miles from strong-minded.

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Seahawks 39, Seahawks 32.

That was your final from CenturyLink Field on Sunday.

You can credit the Cardinals if you want — they’re a hell of a team with a hell of a quarterback. But that doesn’t change the simple, sobering fact that, yes, the Seahawks beat themselves.

In the biggest game of its season so far, Seattle was 100 percent heart and 0 percent head. The Hawks were strong-willed as can be but miles from strong-minded.


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Fourteen penalties for 131 yards crushed them. Costly turnovers did, too.

This wasn’t decided on the space between the end zones — it was decided in the space between the Seahawks’ ears.

“Really disappointed,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “There must have been five first-and-20s in this game. It makes it really difficult. We did it to ourselves to a certain extent.”

Not a quarter went by Sunday in which the yellow flags weren’t flying. The Seahawks’ first-half offensive stats were virtually nonexistent because of penalties.

Upon first glance, Marshawn Lynch’s 20 yards on four carries through the first two quarters looks like the under-utilization of a primary weapon. But when you consider how many runs were brought back because of his teammates’ lack of discipline, well, the narrative changes a bit.

There was a 15-yard face-mask penalty on the Seahawks’ opening drive that led to a punt. There was a holding call on offensive lineman Justin Britt on their second drive, followed by a delay of game on Russell Wilson, which led to another punt.

The only first-half drive in which Seattle didn’t commit a penalty resulted in a touchdown, making everyone wonder what this offense might have been capable of otherwise.

Certainly, there were moments in which Wilson and company appeared to have rediscovered their swagger. There was the aforementioned six-play, 80-yard drive late in the first half. There was the three-play, 69-yard drive in the third quarter that cut the Hawks’ deficit to eight as well.

But overshadowing the moments of greatness were the gaffes — and it went beyond the flags. Two turnovers by Wilson — the first coming on a fumble that led to a safety, the second coming when his errant pass to Doug Baldwin was intercepted — each contributed to what was no doubt the most painful defeat of the season.

“It’s a dagger, dude. Honestly, I kind of am at a loss for words. I really don’t know what to say,” said Seahawks tight end Luke Willson, whose team dropped to 4-5 and now sits three games back of Arizona in the NFC West. “We’re kind of in foreign territory. I thought we were out of it, but we went back in it today.”

What makes the defeat particularly devastating is that Seattle made its comeback. Two forced fumbles in the second half led to a pair of touchdowns that put the Seahawks up by four.

It was championship-caliber resolve — the kind of fortitude that this team has built its reputation on over the past two seasons.

But it couldn’t get past the penalties — and it wasn’t just on offense.

On third-and-eight in the second quarter, Seattle cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Cary Williams were each flagged — Sherman for pass interference and Williams for holding. Arizona got a first down and scored a touchdown on the drive.

On third-and-10 in the fourth quarter, Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner was flagged for illegal contact. Arizona got a first down and scored the go-ahead TD on the drive.

The players didn’t sugarcoat it after the game: The penalties hurt.

“They just kept us on the field,” Wagner said. “You can’t give a team like (the Cardinals) opportunities.”

Then again, not everybody thought the calls were completely just. Earl Thomas, said many of the flags were “ticky-tack” and that the referees weren’t letting them play.

Sherman was more diplomatic when asked about the officiating, saying, “We’ll let the league decide and judge it,” but adding that “it’s hard to play when you have that many flags, though.”

It’s even harder to win. And if the Seahawks want to pick up the necessary W’s going forward, they’re going to have to be smarter.

Passing by Seahawks
Carson Palmer’s passing statistics compared to Russell Wilson on Sunday:
Palmer Stat Wilson
29 Completions 14
48 Attempts 32
363 Yards 240
1 Int 1
3 TDs 1