This is the unedited version of my game story that will appear in Monday's News Tribune:
By Frank Hughes
The News Tribune
CLEVELAND – With the way the Seattle Seahawks' and Cleveland Browns' offenses were moving the ball in the second half, it seemed apparent that whichever team won the coin toss in overtime was going to win the game.
Only, Seattle failed to consummate its portion of the assumption, getting stuffed on fourth-and-18 inches, giving up a huge play two snaps later and losing a 33-30 decision at Cleveland Browns Stadium on a 25-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.
Just like that, the optimism that was apparent following a restful bye week, and the hope that was prevalent heading into a less-than-intimidating second half of the season, dissipated among the roars of 72,927 fans on the bank of Lake Erie who saw their team win three consecutive games for the first time since 2001.
The only consolation for the Seahawks was the knowledge that, at 4-4, they still remain atop the NFC West because both Arizona (3-5) and San Francisco (2-6), next week's opponent, lost.
"We are not going to apologize for it," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.
Seattle lost because it may have been the victim of overzealous officiating, the replay crew negating an apparent first down by Hasselbeck and moving the ball back a half yard.
But it also lost because the one thing it has been unable to do all season – run the football – finally reached a tipping point.
It was something that coach Mike Holmgren has stressed a need to improve all season, to the point that he threatened last week the renunciation of starting jobs.
And yet, at a time that the Seahawks needed to gain a mere foot and a half to extend what appeared to be the game-winning drive, they were unable to accomplish the feat.
"We used to be pretty good at that," Holmgren said, "but we aren't good at it now."
The Seahawks were in overtime because after controlling a first half in which they held a 21-9 lead, they were unable to stop Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, who threw for 216 second-half yards, or tight end Kellen Winslow, who totaled 11 receptions and 125 yards.
Behind those two, the Browns scored 21 points in the final two quarters, all on 1- or 2-yard runs by Jamal Lewis.
"I think they beat us one-on-one," Holmgren said. "They have good receivers and got in positions and won some of those (matchups)."
The Browns took a 30-27 lead with 2:17 left in the game when a 14-yard pass to Winslow set up Lewis' short dive into the end zone. Because Dawson had missed an extra point earlier in the game, the Browns were forced to go for a two-point conversion. They were successful when Anderson found former Seahawks' receiver Joe Jurevicius.
But Hasselbeck promptly drove the Seahawks down the field in 12 plays, tantalizingly stopped from scoring a touchdown when Maurice Morris was tackled on the 4-yard line. Out of timeouts, Hasselbeck spiked the ball with two seconds left, allowing Josh Brown to tie the game with a 25-yard field goal as time expired.
Special teams captain Niko Koutouvides called tails on the coin flip, and his guess was true, giving Seattle the advantage.
Hasselbeck found Bobby Engram for two consecutive passes, pushing the ball near midfield. After an incomplete pass set up a third-and-8 from their own 49, Hasselbeck dropped back to pass and scrambled up the middle for what appeared to be eight yards.
The officials issued the Seahawks a first down at Cleveland's 43, but because the game was in overtime the officials reviewed the play. They determined that Hasselbeck's elbow was down a half a yard sooner, placing the ball at the 43 ½ yard line.
"It was called good on the field," Holmgren said. "They really have to see something pretty decisive to overturn it. That is the rule. We are looking at the same replay in our box as they are, I think. I just don't think you overturn it if it's close, unless they saw something that we didn't."
Despite Cleveland's second-half success, Holmgren decided to go for it on fourth down.
"It would have been a shame to walk off the field right there," Hasselbeck said. "He gave us the opportunity, and that is all you can ask for."
Shaun Alexander was not in the game at the time. He had sprained a left knee and ankle in the first half, and as the evening got colder Alexander's leg tightened, leaving Maurice Morris in the backfield.
Holmgren called for a run over the left side, behind tackle Walter Jones and guard Rob Sims. But there was very little initial push, Morris got hit at the line of scrimmage and then was buried beneath a pile of Browns defenders.
The officials determined he gained nothing, and a review of the play once again went against the Seahawks.
"We are not out there getting it done," Jones said. "We take the blame. That is the offensive line. No matter what the play is called, that is the offensive line. You want to be put in that situation. You are going to get to the point where the coach don't trust you. That is the game. You have to go for it. And all we are doing is killing the trust of our coach."
Two plays after the Browns (5-3) took possession, Anderson threw a screen pass to Lewis that went for 34 yards, to Seattle's 21. They eventually got to the Seahawks' 7 before Dawson won the game, sending the Seahawks back to Seattle wondering in which direction, exactly, they go from here.