The Morning After: Seahawks Snatch Defeat from the Bosom of Victory, Lose 37-34 in OT
It is fittingly dark in Seattle this morning. We have entered the portion of the year where daylight is precious. It almost feels unfair how short the days become. The feeling of frustration when the Sun sets at 4:30PM is predictable. The one thought that buoys me through those dark days is the certainty that we are at a nadir. Brighter days are coming. The question facing Seahawks fans this morning is whether the horrifying collapse against the Cardinals was that low point, or perhaps a 5:30PM sunset portending even darker days ahead.
There are fair cases to be made on both sides. Nobody could be happy to see the Seattle defense surrender a bunch of points (37) and a bunch of yards (519) yet again. There are snails out there scoffing at the notion that the defensive line rushes the passer. They ended with no sacks and no QB hits despite 48 pass attempts from Kyler Murray. The tackling was atrocious. Russell Wilson managed to play his best and worst in the same game. His interceptions made winning impossible. Chris Carson was lost to an injury that might be serious. And the schedule does not get any easier for the next four weeks.
As painful as the loss was, as angry and frustrated as a I still am the next morning, I cannot objectively look at this team and think they are suddenly out of contention for the Super Bowl or in big trouble.
What I saw last night was a team that exploded for 27 points and 377 yards in the first half against the 2nd-ranked scoring defense in football and 9th-best overall in DVOA, had a 94% win probability late in the 4th, literally had the lead the entire game until Arizona tied it with zero seconds left, and did it all without their best defensive player.
That is a game that Pete Carroll and Wilson win every single time, until they didn’t. They literally had been 59-0 when leading by more than four points at halftime. They had been 27-0 when scoring 33 points or more. They had been undefeated in regular season games played at this stadium since 2013.
What happened last night was not quite a fluke because the Seahawks made truly terrible plays that were not unlucky, but it was also not some new recurring doomsday scenario.
Even this talk of this stadium being cursed for Seattle is ludicrous. I challenge you to find a stadium where the Seahawks have played better football than this one. I could argue they have played better there than in Seattle over the past 7-8 years.
Seattle worked hard to lose this game. Benson Mayowa chose a shockingly bad time to try and time the snap when the team was leading by 10 points with just 3 minutes to go. Had he just done what he is good at, and simply stood there while being blocked into oblivion, Seattle almost certainly wins this game. His penalty on the field goal was the single biggest reason this team lost.
The Seahawks would have received the kickoff with just under 3 minutes to go. Had they just done their same drive that came after the field goal-turned-touchdown that drained 1:36 off the clock, the Cardinals would have had to go 75 yards for the touchdown in just 52 seconds without any timeouts. They made it to the 26-yard line with just a few seconds left. Be as negative as you want about this defense, the odds would have been massively in Seattle’s favor.
Brian Schottenheimer called an excellent game, but his decision to run the ball on 3rd and 2 on the Seahawks final possession of the fourth quarter was bad. You simply have to give your best player the ball in that moment. Instead, they handed it to Carlos Hyde for no gain.
Of course, neither of those mistakes would have mattered had Wilson not thrown two interceptions in the endzone earlier. His first was one of the worst throws of his career. Lollipopping the ball to Carson on 1st and Goal from the 2 yard-line made for an easy Budda Baker interception. D.K. Metcalf heroically chased down Baker, and the defense miraculously held Arizona scoreless, but that was a pivotal play that should have never happened.
Wilson’s second interception was on 3rd down for the Cardinals 30 yard-line and cost Seattle a likely three points they clearly could have used.
The shame of it is everyone will be talking about how bad this defense is when the storyline was so close to being very different. Consider these moments from last night:
Poona Ford forces a DeAndre Hopkins fumble with the Seahawks leading by 6, and gives the ball to the offense at the Arizona 31 yard-line
After the offense throws that awful pick, the defense holds the Cardinals 2nd-ranked red zone offense without any points on four downs
Leading 27-17, the defense forces a 3 and out where Arizona would have had to punt from their own 12 yard-line, but a bogus roughing penalty on Bobby Wagner keeps the drive alive and results in a touchdown to keep the game close
Immediately after Wilson throws his second terrible interception, Quandre Diggs makes a diving interception to set up the offense for what should have been the deciding touchdown
Leading 34-24 with 6:44 left in the game, the defense made Arizona dink and dunk their way down the field, draining almost 4 minutes off the clock and forcing what should have been a 52-yard field goal.
No matter what is said, the narrative that this defense is hopeless and unable to make big plays to contribute to victory is hyperbolic hand-wringing. They are nowhere near good, but I still see a defense that can be enough to win a Super Bowl if the offense plays well.
They did a fair share of this with Shaquill Griffin out due to a concussion. Jamal Adams returning could very well have been the difference in this one. He is custom built for these types of games and a scrambling quarterback like Murray.
Jordyn Brooks had a promising first half, and was a cleary improvement over Cody Barton. Shaquem Griffin rotated with him and played okay. This was not a great game for Wagner. I remain hopeful that Damon Harrison joining the defensive line will make Wagner a better player.
This game was brutal. It is a stinging loss, and the opposition gets tougher this week with the 49ers coming to town. This five game stretch is going to decide whether the Seahawks are the favorites to earn a bye in the playoffs, and dropping the first one makes it that much harder to get the four wins they need. All that said, nothing in this game made me less confident in the Seahawks ability to beat the Cardinals when they next meet. They are a victory against the 49ers away from being right back on track. This 5-1 team can be better. Reinforcements are arriving. Daylight has now returned, even after one of our darker nights.