Seahawks' offense sputters in 17-10 loss to Cardinals at home

Staff writerDecember 22, 2013 

— Off came his helmet, on went the blue-and-green winter hat with the pompom on top.

Russell Wilson plunked down next to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on the white heated bench midway through the third quarter to look at what just happened after another dysfunctional drive.

They didn’t find any answers.

The Seahawks offense moved with the efficiency of a one-eyed man who had his legs tied together Sunday. It led to a streak-snapping and division-title-delaying 17-10 loss to the ambitious Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field.

Wilson had his worst day of the season during his first professional home loss, breaking a streak of 14 wins. His quarterback rating was 49.6, a sliver poorer than the 49.7 he posted in Seattle’s unlikely 23-20 overtime win in Houston on Week 4. He completed a season-low 40.7 percent of his passes.

Which puts any partying on hold. The Seahawks are in the playoffs. But the division title and home-field advantage remain to be acquired. If the San Francisco 49ers lose or tie at home Monday night to the hapless Atlanta Falcons (4-10), the Seahawks will take the division.

More likely, Seattle will have to beat the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field next week, just like 2010, to lockdown the division and a more advantageous playoff schedule.

“We should have won this game,” Wilson said.

Three times Sunday the Seahawks started drives in Arizona territory and did not score. In those three drives, Seattle gained four yards.

Following a Malcolm Smith interception that placed the ball at the 4-yard line with 42 seconds remaining in the first half, the Seahawks put up zero points.

Marshawn Lynch ran up the middle on first-and-goal for two yards. He ran right for no gain, stuffed by menacing Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby. A third-and-1 pass attempt from Wilson had no chance.

The Seahawks committed a penalty before what would surely be a simplistic field goal for Steven Hauschka, who came into the game 30-for-31 on the season. His lone miss was blocked. He had made 22 consecutive.

On Sunday, his 24-yard attempt just before the half hit the left upright. Even the field-goal post was denying the Seahawks.

“It was hard today,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I don’t know why we had so much coverage on us today. For whatever reason, we just couldn’t find guys open.”

Yet, Seattle’s season-low 10 points were enough for a late lead. Tight end Zach Miller sauntered into the back left corner of the end zone to catch a lofted throw from Wilson. The 11-yard touchdown put the Seahawks up, 10-9, with 7:26 remaining.

Two weeks ago in San Francisco, the Seahawks went up a point, 17-16, with 6:20 remaining. The 49ers put together an 11-play, 76-yard drive to align a field-goal attempt. They hit, Seattle lost.

Arizona had 1:06 more than San Francisco to do its work, but the odds seem limited. Carson Palmer had been intercepted four times, twice by Richard Sherman.

Palmer, who missed some practice during the week because of a sore ankle, rolled right on third down. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald pursued. Palmer strung the play out enough to throw just out of the reach of linebacker Bobby Wagner and back to tight end Jake Ballard to convert third-and-3 from their 27-yard line.

“All week they had been saying he has a bad ankle,” safety Earl Thomas said. “He looked pretty good out there.”

The Cardinals pushed to Seattle’s 31-yard line. Palmer, faced with another third down, went to Michael Floyd up the left sideline. Cornerback Byron Maxwell tipped the ball when it initially arrived, yet Floyd still was still able to clamp his hands around it for a stadium-silencing 31-yard touchdown.

Arizona converted the two-point conversion to go up 17-10.

The Seahawks’ final drive started with 2:13 remaining. It ended seven seconds later.

Wilson’s low pass bounced into the air after hitting Doug Baldwin’s outstretched arm and the ground, according to Baldwin. Dansby secured it. After discussion and review, the referees upheld the interception call, citing the lack of “indisputable evidence” on the replay that the pass was incomplete.

For the second time in three weeks, the Seahawks’ defense was not able to hold a late lead. Average offensive production — the Seahawks came in averaging 27.1 points per game — would have been sufficient Sunday. Instead, the afternoon’s slog likely delays playoff answers another week.

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.com

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