By Frank Hughes
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The vast scoreboard towering high over the tangerine-colored seats of Dolphin Stadium indicated that the Miami Dolphins had beaten the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 21-19.
But the Seahawks know better.
They understand all too well that they engaged in an unbecoming act of self-flagellation from which they could not recover.
Which possibly makes the outcome that much worse.
On a day when they could have started the second half of their season with a hard-fought victory, the Seahawks instead were left to wallow in the noxious aftermath of five dropped passes, five false start penalties and countless other costly gaffes.
These were not just your ordinary, everyday drops and penalties, either.
No, Koren Robinson dropped a touchdown pass that would have given the Seahawks the lead after falling behind by 14-0.
Mike Wahle false started on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game at 21.
John Carlson dropped a fourth-down pass that ended the Seahawks' chances of kicking a game-winning field goal.
The list, unfortunately, goes on.
"We're not a good enough team right now to overcome the mistakes," veteran wide receiver Bobby Engram said.
As his final season slips away in a myriad of frustrations, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren is in no mood for moral victories. He said he is done giving his players pep talks; they are professionals. He is through with the excuses. One of the hallmarks of his winning teams is mistake-free football, and he demands that his players get back to that quest for perfection.
"Emotion's a wonderful thing. You have to have emotion to give yourself a chance to win in this business," Holmgren said. "But if that's all you have, you lose. You have to execute, you have to be smart, you have to avoid penalties. Couple that together with emotion, you got something."
The Seahawks fell behind 14-0 when Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington found Ted Ginn Jr. on a 39-yard flea flicker, followed by a 51-yard touchdown run by Ricky Williams.
But the Seahawks' defense settled in under the hot Florida sun and actually provided the offense a lift when Jordan Babineaux intercepted a Pennington pass in the second quarter and returned it for a touchdown.
Former Dolphin Olindo Mare kicked two fields in the third quarter to get the Seahawks to 14-13 – but they should have been ahead 17-13.
Trailing 14-10, Seattle was on Miami's 14. Seneca Wallace dropped back to pass and threw a perfect strike to Robinson, who broke open on a slant route. But the ball hit Robinson in the hands and careened away, much to his dismay.
"It's tough," Robinson said. "But I can't beat myself up, it's just part of the game. I just have to focus in a little harder."
After Mare's field goal, Engram ran onto the field during a timeout to exhort his teammates on defense to get a stop so the offense could get back the ball.
"The momentum had switched in the game, for sure," Engram said.
The defense obliged, Leroy Hill sacking Pennington. But on Seattle's next possession, Keary Colbert – for whom Tim Ruskell gave up a fourth-round draft pick this season – dropped two passes, including one on third and 12 that would have given Seattle a first down.
That enabled Miami to piece together a 16-play, 79-yard that ended with Ronnie Brown scoring on a 16-yard touchdown run out of the Dolphins' Wildcat offense – where the ball is snapped directly to the running back.
"We weren't surprised by it – but sure looked like it out there," Holmgren said.
Seattle responded with a six-play drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown pass to Robinson. The Seahawks needed a two-point conversion to tie the game.
But just before the ball was snapped, offensive guard Mike Wahle moved early – negating Wallace's pass to Engram.
"I thought I was right on it," Wahle said. "Obviously I wasn't. I didn't flinch. I put my hand up whenever we were going. I thought I went right when the ball was snapped. Obviously I was early. You have to correct it because plays like that kill us."
The ball was moved back to the 8, and Wallace's subsequent pass to John Carlson was knocked away by Yeremiah Bell.
The Seahawks got the ball back with two minutes left and the chance to drive for the game-winning field goal.
They drove to midfield. On third down, Wallace underthrew Engram, who had gotten behind Will Allen. And on fourth down, Wallace hit Carlson in the hands but Carlson let the pass go, the final indignity on a day full of them.
"They're trying real hard," Holmgren said. "But it's just kind of piling on – and pretty soon it's pretty hard to breathe underneath the pile."