Dave Boling: Seahawks get the ball but can’t do a thing with it

Staff writerDecember 22, 2013 

At the bedrock of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s coaching philosophy is the phrase, “it’s always about the ball.”

Every day, every practice, every meeting, Carroll reminds his team of the value of maintaining custody of the football and that forcing turnovers results in victories.

But, as it turns out, it’s not just about the possession of the ball, but what you do with it when you’ve got it.

On Sunday, that was surprisingly little.

Against the stubborn Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks intercepted four passes but converted them into a mere touchdown and field goal in a 17-10 loss.

In the past two weeks, including the 23-0 win over the New York Giants, the Seahawks have stung opposing quarterbacks with nine interceptions, but the Hawks scored only three touchdowns as a result.

Three ventures inside the Cardinals’ 10-yard-line on Sunday led to only one TD. They converted 2 of 13 third-down attempts.

It’s important to point out that the last three opponents have been top-10 defenses.

Still, they’re going to have to score more than 10 points a game when the division title is on the line. And it will take much more than that to get anywhere near the Super Bowl that has been the goal and expectation of this club.

The NFC West Division crown can still be claimed with a win over visiting St. Louis next week (or an unlikely upset of San Francisco by Atlanta on Monday Night Football).

But Sunday’s offensive impotence has to serve as a jolt to a Seahawks team that has enjoyed a season of dominance. It certainly seemed a shock to the suddenly solemn 12th Man crowd that hadn’t seen the Seahawks lose at CenturyLink Field in two seasons.

And after 14 straight homes games of praising the precocious talents and creativity of quarterback Russell Wilson, it’s now fair, after his first loss on this turf, to point out that it was his worst performance of the season.

Uncharacteristically missing receivers much of the day, Wilson was 11-for-27 passing with a career-low 108 passing yards and a season-low passer rating of 46.9. It caused the offense to repeatedly stall, particularly in scoring situations.

“There were so many opportunities,” Wilson said. “The defense did a great job. They can’t play better. They made plays, play after play after play. Offensively, we were just off by a hair, for whatever reason.”

Wilson has taken over games and lifted his team to wins for most of his two seasons. He’s been better in clutch situations than anyone could have expected. And that created the day-long suspicion that, especially in front of the home crowd convinced of his invincibility, he would once again dodge rushers, spin out of a defender’s grasp, and fire a strike for the game-winning touchdown.

Instead, on the final drive, he under-threw Doug Baldwin on a pass that was tipped up and intercepted. The question to defenders in the Seahawks locker room was fairly obvious: Does the defense grow weary of creating turnovers that don’t result in scores?

“You know, we have full trust in our offense and Russ,” safety Earl Thomas said. “It just didn’t happen for us today and all we can keep doing is keep getting the ball in his hands so he can get comfortable back there and keep that offense rolling, because we know what he can do when he’s on.”

As has been the case with the 12 victories they’ve stacked up this season, this defeat was a collaborative effort. The team was penalized nine times for 102 yards. The normally spectacular special teams were inconsistent, as Robert Turbin lost a fumble on a kickoff and placekicker Steven Hauschka, who has been money in the bank this season, missed a field goal from 24 yards.

“You’re going to have ups and downs in your life; everything doesn’t go perfectly easy,” Wilson said. “If you’re trying to get to something great, a lot of times you go through some hardships … you go through some bumps in the road.”

Yes, on Sunday, the Seahawks offense encountered bumps in the road toward a division title.

“There’s gonna be some games like this,” Thomas said, before adding. “Hopefully, this is the last one.”

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440; dave.boling@thenewstribune.com; @DaveBoling

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