The Seahawks came up short, quite literally in Monday's 34-31 loss to the Falcons. A last-minute comeback drive ended with a missed 52-yard field goal from Blair Walsh. Here are three impressions from the game.
Down 34-31 with 1:46 remaining, the Seahawks had the Falcons right where they wanted them.
Maybe? Not quite. As Blair Walsh’s 52-yard field goal attempt fell short with two seconds remaining, the Seahawks lost the game, and in doing so fell to 6-4 on the season and a game behind the Rams in the NFC West, while NFC rival Atlanta moved to 6-4.
Here are three thoughts from the game.
1. Welcome to life in the post-Legion of Boom era
With cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor out with injuries, the Seahawks started Jeremy Lane and Bradley McDougald in their place.
This was compounded when rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin left the game in the first series with a head injury and did not return.
Enter Byron Maxwell, who finished out the game at right cornerback, with Lane on the left.
The result? Meh.
For most of the night, the Seahawks struggled to get off the field on third downs, allowing Atlanta to convert 9 of 14 third down attempts for a season-high 64.0 conversion percentage.
They did, however, manage to stop the Falcons when it mattered most. Coming out of the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, trailing the Falcons 34-31, the Seahawks had to stop Atlanta on third-and-3 from the Falcons’ 22.
And stop the Falcons they did, with Sheldon Richardson mauling Matt Ryan for a well-timed sack that forced Atlanta to punt and gave the Seahawks one more shot with 1:46 left in the game.
Unfortunately for Seattle, this time, the offense could not deliver, and Atlanta held on for the win.
The Seahawks’ offense didn’t do its defense any favors even early on, coughing up turnovers twice in the first half. Atlanta’s Desmond Trufant – a UW alum and Tacoma native – picked off Wilson in the first quarter, and the Falcons scored on the ensuing drive, with Matt Ryan finding Mohamed Sanu from two yards out.
In the second quarter, Courtney Upshaw forced Wilson to fumble, with Takk McKinley sacking the Seahawks’ quarterback and Adrian Clayborn recovering the loose ball to score on a 10-yard return.
So to recap, 14 of the visitors’ 24 points in the first half were gifted to them by Seattle’s offense.
However, that said, the defense also had its problems.
Maxwell had an unfortunate defensive pass interference in the second quarter that cost Seattle 30 yards. Lane also had a defensive pass interference penalty of his own in the first quarter, and was the man in coverage on Sanu’s one-handed 2-yard touchdown grab.
Ryan went 19 for 27 with 195 passing yards and two passing scores. The numbers themselves aren’t all that noteworthy. Houston, for instance, had 367 passing yards against Seattle, Green Bay had 286 and even Arizona had 256 last Thursday.
Would the Seahawks have fared any better with Sherman and Chancellor in the lineup? It’s impossible to say definitely, but if we were to speculate based on Seattle’s track record with Sherman, Chancellor and Earl Thomas on the field, the indication is “yes.”
2. Special teams had an eventful night
On a night in which the defense was missing both its starting cornerbacks, and the offense turned the ball over twice in the first half, special teams was clutch for the Seahawks … until the final two seconds, when Blair Walsh missed a potential game-tying 52-yard field goal.
Walsh was 3 for 4 on the night, making kicks from 30, 37 and 46 yards out before he was called upon to try for the 52-yarder that fell short.
Watch | Blair Walsh discusses missed final field goal
In retrospect, the Seahawks will rue a fake field goal they attempted to end the first half.
In the second quarter, the Seahawks had 58 seconds to go 59 yards, and only managed 42. So on fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta 17, Walsh trotted out to attempt a 35-yard field goal that would have closed Atlanta’s lead to 24-20, with Seattle receiving the kickoff to start the second half.
Curiously, the Seahawks instead opted to pull a field goal fake. Jon Ryan caught the snap from Tyler Ott, and instead of pulling it down to hold for a Walsh kick, stood up and fired a pass to Luke Willson. Willson was tackled way short of the first down as time expired.
What was that about?
The three points left on the board came back to haunt Seattle.
Aside from the kicking game, the Seahawks’ return game proved lucrative.
Tyler Lockett had some big breakaway runs every time he touched the ball on kickoff returns, going 57-yards on his first attempt, then reeling off returns of 37 and 39 yards to give Seattle great field position.
Lockett finished with five returns for 197 yards, with a 39.4 average per return.
But rookie Tedric Thompson made the key special teams play of the first half when he recovered Andre Roberts’ muffed kickoff return to give the Seahawks an extra possession late in second quarter.
Seattle got to start its next drive on the Atlanta 11, and it capitalized, scoring on a Russell Wilson run on fourth-and-goal from the 1, that closed Atlanta’s lead to 21-17 with 5:17 left in the half.
After Atlanta drove to a 44-yard Matt Bryant field goal, Lockett once again came up with another brilliant return, fielding the ball at the 2-yard line and going 39 yards before he was brought down by Kemal Ishmael.
3. Curse of the Seahawks running backs?
Mike Davis was called up from the practice squad last week to replace C.J. Prosise, who suffered an ankle injury in the injury-filled game against Arizona.
Davis earned the start against Atlanta, with Thomas Rawls a healthy scratch. And to Davis’ credit, he sparked the Seahawks’ several times in the first half, looking quite dangerous at times.
The 5-foot-9, 217-pound running back had a 13-yard run in the first quarter, caught a 20-yard screen pass from Russell Wilson in the second quarter, and had a big 21-yard run up the left sideline in the third quarter.
But Davis also left the game on that drive with a groin injury and did not return. He finished with 59 offensive yards, with 18 of those coming on the ground off six carries.
He’s also the third running back the Seahawks have lost to injury this year. Chris Carson won the starting job to begin the season and led Seattle with 49 carries for 208 yards through four games but was lost for the season after he broke a bone in his leg and suffered a high ankle sprain against the Colts at the beginning of October.
C.J. Prosise was inactive for four games with an ankle injury, but returned last week against Arizona – only to injure his other ankle. He went on injured reserve last week.
Davis’ injury on Monday night left the Seahawks with just J.D. McKissic and Eddie Lacy to lean on.
Lacy was a non-factor again, notching two carries for two yards.
McKissic finished as Seattle’s second-leading rusher behind Wilson, carrying seven times, for 30 yards.
But once again Wilson is the only player who has given Seattle some semblance of a balanced attack. Wilson finished with seven carries for 86 yards.
The quarterback pulled out his inner Houdini at several critical junctures against Atlanta. For instance, on second-and-6 from the 40 at the end of the second quarter, he took off, juked Vic Beasley and cut right to pick up a 14-yard gain.
Without Wilson, and with their suspect offensive line, the Seahawks would be in deep(er) trouble.