Tyler Lockett crumpled to the turf across the goal line. He held onto the ball as his right leg snapped.
Quarterback Russell Wilson ran to his speedy receiver, believing he had just caught a touchdown pass from him that would have had the Seahawks back within seven points of Arizona. Given how awful Saturday’s first half was for Seattle, that was a huge accomplishment.
But when Wilson got to Lockett, it was horrifying.
“At first, when I got there, there was blood everywhere on his ankle,” Wilson said. “That was kind of an ugly situation.”
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That suggests a compound fracture.
What Doug Baldwin did next suggests it was indeed that serious.
Baldwin was on both knees tapping the turf and hugging his fellow wide receiver around his neck. That was while Lockett was on his back in the end zone and trainers pumped an air cast around his right leg below the knee.
“We were praying,” Baldwin said.
Coach Pete Carroll confirmed following the Seahawks’ 34-31 loss to the Cardinals that Lockett’s second NFL season is over, and the 2015 Pro Bowl kick returner is going to have surgery.
“Our thoughts are with him,” Carroll said.
“It’s a tough game,” Wilson said of football in general, not this bad loss Saturday — in more ways than one. “Tyler is such a special player, such a special person.
“Obviously, it’s tough to lose a great player, and a great friend, in Tyler Lockett.”
Lockett was coming off a breakout game the previous week: seven catches for 130 yards and his first touchdown of the season in the rout of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been zooming again, finally back from battling a sprained knee from 2 1/2 months earlier this season. He was poised to add a dimension — deep speed — that the Seahawks have struggled without most of this season.
Now, Jermaine Kearse likely moves back to the No. 2 wide receiver job he had until Lockett moved past him this month. Paul Richardson gets his chance as the No. 3, a chance he seized with two key catches and runs late, including the tying touchdown with one minute left.
Kearse was booed for his league-leading sixth offensive pass interference penalty this season on Seattle’s first play of its awful first half.
But Kearse got the Seahawks back in the game in the third quarter with a catch for his many critics.
On third and goal, Kearse leaped and caught Wilson’s loft on a fade route in tight coverage. Kearse stayed inbounds with an alert knee slide inside the boundary.
The Seahawks’ first touchdown in seven-plus quarters this season against the Cardinals got Seattle within 14-10.
Again — as was the case in previous tough spots — Wilson threw to Kearse when he absolutely needed a completion.
“He trusts to throw me the ball, and he trusts that I am going to make a play — no matter the situation,” Kearse said.
HOW BAD WAS THAT FIRST HALF?
The Seahawks were booed off the field at the end of their fourth drive, which included Arizona’s fourth sack — left guard Mark Glowinski and left tackle George Fant were standing helplessly over their guys who dumped Wilson that time — and right tackle Garry Gilliam being penalized for holding.
Seattle’s first 17 offensive plays netted a total of minus-4 yards, including a blocked field goal and a lost fumble on a botched handoff to Marcel Reece on third and long.
The Seahawks had first and goal a half-yard from the Arizona goal line late in the second quarter, after Lockett’s initially-ruled touchdown on the catch when he got hurt. They tried Thomas Rawls from I formation. They tried Wilson on a quarterback sneak following the 2-minute warning. They tried a roll-out pass on which Wilson moved left then spun right before getting hit. On fourth down, they tried play-action and a pass to tight end Jimmy Graham.
On fourth down, Arizona’s defensive tackle Rodney Gunter raced in free over the center and guard and slammed the quarterback to the turf for the Cardinals’ fifth sack of the opening half. So Seattle stayed behind 14-0.
Two Arizona plays later, Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright gave the Seahawks’ offense another chance. Avril forced Cardinals running back David Johnson to fumble on a run around right end. Wright recovered the ball at the Arizona 9.
Wilson then threw incompletions to Baldwin, Kearse and Baldwin again. Seattle settled for Steven Hauschka’s 27-yard field goal but still trailed by two scores, 14-3, at halftime.
SOWELL TO STREET CLOTHES
Saturday was Bradley Sowell’s turn to go from starting at right tackle one week to inactive the next.
The Seahawks left their starter the previous three games inactive while Garry Gilliam started for the first time in a month. Gilliam had started the first 11 games at right tackle, then played only three snaps in last month’s loss at Tampa Bay then was inactive for the next two games.
Gilliam replaced Sowell last week in the second half of Seattle’s 24-3 rout of Los Angeles.
Lead back Thomas Rawls has a bruised shoulder, Carroll said. He didn’t play in the second half. Formerly mothballed rookie Alex Collins had his best Seahawks performance, running decisively for 28 yards on seven carries and adding four catches for 19 yards. … Bobby Wagner owns the Seahawks’ single-season record for tackles. The middle linebacker who just got named to his third Pro Bowl had 10 stops Saturday for 156 this season. Seattle’s previous record was 153 by Terry Beeson in 1978. Wagner said the mark shows hard work in the offseason pays off. … Seattle native Nate Burleson, who played at O’Dea High School just up the hill from CenturyLink Field, raised the “12th Man” flag high above the south end zone just before kickoff. He was wearing his old, blue, No. 81 home jersey he wore while a Seahawk from 2006-09.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle