SEATTLE — After a defeat as disheartening and surprising as any they have experienced together, the Seattle Seahawks said they will now try to do what their offense never really could on Sunday — move forward.
“It won’t be difficult,” said safety Earl Thomas in the quiet of the locker room after Sunday’s 17-10 loss to Arizona. “Because everything you want is still right in front of your face.”
Indeed, all that Seattle was playing for Sunday — a chance to clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs — the Seahawks can still attain.
But now, they need either the San Francisco 49ers to lose one more game (the 49ers host Atlanta Monday night and play at Arizona next Sunday) or to beat the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field next Sunday.
“I was going to tell them they had to win that game no matter what anyway,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “So here we go.”
To do so, though, they’ll have to figure out how to jump-start an offense that never found its gear against the Cardinals.
Seattle was held to 192 yards, the second-lowest total of the season (it’ll be mentioned often this week that the lowest, 135, came at St. Louis on Oct. 28), finishing with a season-low 89 net yards passing.
The Seahawks also couldn’t get much consistent running against an Arizona team that entered the game ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense. Seattle had 103 yards, but only 52 on 13 carries in the final three quarters.
“We did not get the movement that we wanted,” Carroll said. “All in all, they did a better job than we did.”
Still, Seattle appeared in position to get the win anyway when Wilson hit Zach Miller with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 7:26 remaining to take a 10-9 lead.
For the second time in three games, though, the defense couldn’t hold a late, slim lead — the 49ers drove for a last-minute field goal to win 19-17 in San Francisco two weeks ago, to also deny Seattle a chance to win the NFC West and take home-field advantage.
Sunday, Arizona responded from the Miller touchdown with an 80-yard, 10-play drive capped by a 31-yard pass from Carson Palmer to Malcolm Floyd with 2:13 left.
The drive was keyed by a holding penalty on Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith on a third-down play, one of nine penalties for 102 yards against the Seahawks (seven called on the defense).
On Seattle’s first play of its next drive, a Wilson pass intended for Doug Baldwin was ruled to bounce off Baldwin’s arm around midfield and into the air, where it was caught by Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby. The play was upheld after the review, even though Baldwin insisted the ball hit the ground.
“Yeah, it hit the turf,” Baldwin said, adding he knew because “I don’t think anybody in the stadium had a better view of it than me.”
The loss snapped Seattle’s 14-game home winning streak, a franchise record, while dropping the Seahawks to 12-3. Arizona, meanwhile, improved to 10-5, having won seven of its last eight while also getting a measure of revenge for a 58-0 loss to Seattle at CenturyLink Field last December.
Arizona also won despite four interceptions by Palmer, two of which came in the end zone. Palmer threw three in the first half, the main reason the score was 3-3 at halftime despite Arizona dominating statistically. His final pick of the half was returned to the 3-yard-line by Smith.
But indicative of the offense’s struggles, Seattle gained only 2 yards on two runs, and then Wilson threw incomplete on third down. And then the normally sure-footed kicker Steven Hauschka — who entered the game having made 30 of 31 field goals for the season — clanked a 24-yard field goal off the upright.
“It just didn’t happen for us today,” Thomas said.
Some of what happened, though, perpetuated recent disturbing trends, such as penalties (Seattle came in having been flagged 112 times, most in the NFL) and an offense held to 50 points over the last three games.
Wilson said he wasn’t too concerned about the passing game, saying, “I thought it was one of those games where we were just an inch off here or there, for whatever reason.”
Baldwin credited a good scheme by Arizona that he said made it hard to discern what the Cardinals were doing.
“I’ve never had that difficult of a time trying to figure out what their coverages were in the back end,” he said. “They did a hell of a job of disguising things. We would think they would be in man-to-man and they would flip it to zone … it just didn’t go the way we had planned for it to go.”
Seattle also has now lost two of three, in games when it could have clinched the NFC West and home field.
“It’s definitely not a time to panic,” Thomas said. “We’ve just got to refocus ourselves and control what we can control. … There are going to be games like this. Hopefully this is our last one.”