MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – You know the season is shot when you’re tempted to see improvement in diminishing degrees of defeat. But at least this one felt different.
The Seattle Seahawks lost for the seventh time this season Sunday, falling to the Miami Dolphins, 21-19. The end result was the same but the journey was far more interesting, and even suspenseful into the game’s final minute.
This featured so many of the problems that have chronically doomed the Hawks: playing on the East Coast in a game starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time, giving up big plays, doing a poor job of stopping the run. Toss in dropping passes and getting flagged for untimely penalties and it’s amazing they stayed in it at all.
What gave this one a degree of positive spin was a simple but important distinction. The Seahawks competed. Really competed. Fans don’t need to credit players for doing the job for which they’re handsomely paid. But this was very respectable.
Coach Mike Holmgren talked to the team last week about being professional even though they’re realistically out of contention. But frankly, this could have gone either way when the Hawks fell behind early, 14-0.
At that point, there was ample opportunity to throttle back that almost-imperceptible half-step that defines a team that’s started phoning it in. Instead, they made adjustments, set their jaws, and rallied back to make a game of it.
Don’t misunderstand, the Hawks earned this defeat with their own mistakes.
Guard Mike Wahle false-starting on the potential game-tying two-point conversion? Come on, are you kidding us? You didn’t bring in a veteran free-agent lineman, a former Pro Bowl player, to false-start in such a crucial moment … especially after a pair of holding calls nullified big gainers earlier this season.
Even when they had two guys hanging all over receiver Ted Ginn Jr., in the end zone, he still somehow pulled in an improbable touchdown.
And at one point, Dolphins back Ricky Williams ran through a hole so enormous in the Seahawks’ run defense that he raced 51 yards for a touchdown with no one even close to him.
An interception return by Jordan Babineaux, some lengthy kick returns by Josh Wilson and Justin Forsett, and a revived rushing attack brought the Hawks back into the game, though.
“I think the team showed good fortitude,” Holmgren said. “We hung in there and got a couple really great efforts and kept it close at the end. I really liked the way my team battled back and gave us a chance to win.”
“We got down today but fought back hard and made up ground and took it all the way to the end,” Wilson said. “There’s nobody giving up on this team. It’s still a long season and there’s a lot of football to be played. We’re not giving up.”
While lauding that attitude, Holmgren was the first to point out that giving up is one thing, smartening up is another. Emotion, he told the team, isn’t enough. They have no margin for error, yet the game was filled with Seattle mistakes.
He told them: “Look, we’re all men in here, I can’t come in here and give pep talks every time we get beat, that just doesn’t ring true.”
He challenged them to examine themselves, to honestly assess if they did everything they could or if they had “shortchanged anybody.”
In this loss, it seemed obvious that the outcome was the result of faulty execution rather than giving up.
But it’s clearly wearing on Holmgren, who likened this season to “Groundhog Day.” He was referring to the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray in which some quirk in time causes him to endlessly relive the problems of one day over and over.
We may wonder, though, if seeing their shadow on a sunny Miami afternoon might indicate six more weeks of losing football.
Could be. At the very least, the Hawks on Sunday were more interesting, respectable and entertaining on their way to defeat.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440