The season. The streak of five consecutive Januarys in the playoffs.
And, it seems, an era of Seahawks’ championships—including Michael Bennett’s newsmaking, Pro Bowl career in Seattle.
“I probably won’t be back next year,” the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end told me immediately after Seattle’s 26-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals Sunday in a regular-season finale that was just like Seattle’s 2017 season: absolutely malfunctioning and unfulfilling.
“Just seems like it’s a young man’s game,” the 32-year-old Bennett said. “I can see them going younger, with younger players. That’s part of the game.”
Coach Pete Carroll, 66, answered questions about whether he intended to retire, after playing for a field goal that Blair Walsh missed wide right with 32 seconds left. He let his pregame tweet speak for itself: “I ain’t old enough to think about retiring.”
Doug Baldwin caught two touchdown passes to briefly revive hope. Then, with reddened eyes, he called this sudden, unusually early end to the season “painful.”
“We have to take some responsibility,” the longest-tenured member of Seattle’s offense said of a unit that gained just 24 yards and again produced zero points until the second half Sunday.
“We’re always fighting against ourselves,” Baldwin said. “We are always digging out of holes. Down 20-7, we can’t continue to play games like that.
“We have so much talent. There’s more out there. There’s definitely more out there for us.
“I’m really just disappointed and pissed off about this game, to be honest with you…. We have so much talent. We should be in the playoffs.”
In reality, the Seahawks’ season ended with 2 minutes left in it.
At the 2-minute warning with Seattle (9-7) driving at the Arizona 31-yard line, Atlanta (10-6) completed a 22-10 victory over Carolina. That eliminated the Seahawks, because the Falcons moved to 10-6 and owned the head-to-head tiebreaker by beating the Seahawks in Seattle last month. So it will be Atlanta, not Seattle, at the Los Angeles Rams next weekend in the NFC’s wild-card round.
Just then, a full, yellow moon emerged above the east upper deck of CenturyLink Field. It should have been blue.
This is the first time since 2011 the Seahawks are not in the playoffs.
Carroll had offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell call two runs by Mike Davis that totaled 1 yard, to get the clock from 1:23 down to 37 seconds. Walsh then attempted a 48-yard field goal
Walsh missed, for the seventh time in 16 tries after starting his first Seahawks season 12 for 13.
That fits Seattle’s 2017 season. It fit the Seahawks’ third loss at home in the last two months, including to Washington. Walsh missed three field goals in that 17-14 loss that is part of many, many reasons this aging, flawed team will be home watching the playoffs instead of being in them.
Seattle ensured its first January in six years without a postseason with three, completely unnecessary 15-yard fouls at key points in the final two quarters. Thomas Rawls’ for taunting after a catch and run to the Cardinals 25 took the Seahawks out of field-goal range. All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner’s needless shove of quarterback Drew Stanton extended Arizona’s game-winning drive.
“I didn’t realize (the ball was gone),” Wagner said. “I was trying to turn the corner. I was trying to get out of the way. I was trying not to hit him.
“Doesn’t matter. I still shouldn’t have hit him.”
Wagner’s foul for roughing fill-in passer Drew Stanton with a shove to the chest well after Arizona’s quarterback threw incomplete on third down--a pass to Larry Fitzgerald rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin deftly broke up--led to the 42-yard field goal by Phil Dawson with 2:21 left. That was the winning points for the Cardinals (8-8), who won for the third consecutive time in Seattle and fourth time in five trips.
Baldwin’s tremendous, toe-tapping touchdown catch of 29 yards from Russell Wilson (18 for 29 passing, 221 yards, two touchdowns, with another 36 yards rushing while chased by Cardinals all day) gave the Seahawks their first lead. It was 24-23 with 10 minutes remaining.
Baldwin was exquisite on the game-turning play. The move past Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson, his over-the-shoulder catch and his double-toe tap inside the sideline of the end zone were all exquisite--as exquisite as Wilson’s throw. That brought Seattle all the way back from an absolutely atrocious first half into the lead.
“Just extraordinary,” Carroll said of Baldwin, who finished 9 yards short of becoming the first Seahawk since Steve Largent with three consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards receiving.
To Baldwin’s point: The Seahawks gained just 24 net yards of offense in another absolutely atrocious first half. It was as bad as they could have produced, given the stakes. While Carolina and Atlanta were tied at 7 in Georgia, the Seahawks got booed off their field at halftime for the second consecutive home game.
Then Seattle’s offense did something. Finally.
Aided by a defensive-holding foul on a Wilson throwaway while chased to his goal line on the first play, the Seahawks went on an 80-yard drive to finally get into Cardinals territory. On fourth and 6 from the Arizona 35, Carroll discarded a 53-yard field-goal attempt by Walsh and went for the first down. Wilson only looked at tight end Jimmy Graham, who settled in a soft zone between linebackers. Graham’s catch and run for 20 yards up the middle set up Wilson’s 18-yard touchdown pass lofted in the back left corner of the end zone to Baldwin.
Seattle was down 20-14.
On Arizona’s ensuing drive, Griffin intercepted a deep pass Stanton. The 10-year backup playing because Carson Palmer is recovering from a broken arm completed 15 of 34 passes for 145 yards and a 54.2 passer rating, yet won for the first time in four career games against Seattle. He reportedly played the last two weeks with a torn knee ligament.
Griffin kept the ball from his first career interception, but Seattle didn’t keep the momentum. The Seahawks ran three plays, had an illegal-block penalty on a run by Wilson that turned third and short into second and 20, and Seattle punted for the sixth time still down 20-14.
Arizona got a 15-yard pass from Dawson to Jermaine Gresham on second and 14 to set up Phil Dawson’s third field goal. Seattle was back down 23-14.
Then, J.D. McKissic caught a lucky deflection that plopped into his arms as he was falling down to convert a third down. On the next third down, and 1, Wilson rolled right and threw back to Luke Willson. The tight end was all alone at the Cardinals 5-yard line. But Wilson’s pass was underthrown, and the No.-2 tight end dropped the ball off his hands while on his knees. Instead of first and goal, Seattle settled for a 49-yard field goal to cut Arizona’s lead to 23-17 with 13 minutes to go.
At the same time, the Panthers cut the Falcons’ lead to 16-10 in Atlanta.
Then Wilson to Baldwin happened, and Seattle finally had the lead. Even if Carolina did not.
When Arizona led 17-7 in the second quarter the total yards were Arizona 145 and Seattle 0.
Without Tyler Lockett, it would have been 17-0.
He took the Cardinals’ kickoff following Arizona’s touchdown on the game’s opening possession, from the 1-yard line. Lockett ran left--and untouched 99 yards to tie the game. Briefly tie the game.
It was the second kickoff return for a touchdown in Lockett’s three-year career. Went for 105 yards for a score in rookie year of 2015, when he made the Pro Bowl as a returner.
Now comes an offseason of expected change for the Seahawks. The “Legion of Boom” secondary is 30 or pushing it, with Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor having missed the last two months with season-ending injuries. Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril may have to retire because of neck surgery. The offense needs to find something resembling an NFL running game. The offensive line needs remade, yet again.
The stuff teams that don’t make the playoffs go through. Seattle, for the first time in a half-dozen seasons, is one of NFL’s mediocre.
“I thought we had all the pieces. I thought this was going to be our best team, honestly,” Wilson said. “Then we had some significant injuries. …
“But there is still no excuse. There is still no excuse, in my opinion, for losing.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle