This wasn’t one of those defeats that portend impending doom for the Seahawks.
There were plenty of reasons for the 25-20 loss to the Saints that don’t seem lethal or long-term: injuries, travel, tough week, etc.
And nobody is exactly barking at their heels in their division.
But the officiating on Sunday was a popular topic after the game and deserves at least some mention.
After all, what does it say about a world that is running short on love when Seahawks safety Earl Thomas gets penalized for giving somebody a hug?
Because his embrace and quick celebratory two-step after he had returned a fumble for a touchdown happened to be with an official, he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Inappropriate touching, perhaps. An uninvited display of public affection, sure.
But it cost him 15 yards as surely as if he’d knocked somebody’s block off after the whistle.
We should have known from that point that the Seahawks were going to have trouble keeping the officiating crew happy.
And while it’s considered a cheap alibi for coaches and players to whine about the refs, it certainly seemed that this officiating crew was one that really could use a good hug. And then they didn’t like it when Thomas delivered.
And because the penalties added up to an 11-2 disparity, this didn’t seem like the typical loser’s lament out of the Seahawks.
The Hawks lost because of a spotty offense without consistent rushing, and the defense’s inability to get off the field on third downs. And for the second time in two weeks, the defense gave up more than 100 yards to an opposing rusher.
Particularly without safety Kam Chancellor (groin) and Michael Bennett (knee) this weekend, the defense was going to be tested by the Drew Brees-led Saints offense.
They still bowed up and stood tough deep in the Red Zone.
But the Saints benefited from some liberal interpretation of the rules regarding “pick” routes by receivers. The Seahawks secondary has been extremely physical over the years, so maybe there is some cosmic karma being repaid.
Coach Pete Carroll was careful to avoid fine-able comments, and blamed himself for the 11 penalties. But there was an obvious eye-roll in his tone.
Cornerback Richard Sherman got called for holding on a key third-down play during the Saints drive that led to the field goal that amounted to the final margin. Sherman objected to that call, in particular.
“It’s tough to play in this league with the way that game was officiated; you’ve got to fight through it and find a way to win,” Sherman said. “We were faced with some adversity — sometimes it was fabricated — but we kept working and gave ourselves a chance to pull it out at the end.”
Carroll was asked if he had a view of the two questionable “pick” routes. His response: “Yeah, I had a really good look at them.”
Thomas explained his post-touchdown display: “I live three hours away, so I knew everybody back home in my small town was watching me. I knew they saw it, and I was just grateful for that moment.”
And the closest person for him to embrace just happened to be side judge Alex Kemp.
“He didn’t say anything when I hugged him,” Thomas said. “He just penalized me.”
Sherman didn’t care for that dour response, either.
“Earl is such a great player, and when you get to the end zone, you’re happy, it’s a joy,” Sherman said. “Obviously, this is a league where you can’t show joy.”
The Seahawks slipped to 4-2-1, still two games ahead of the Cardinals and Rams in the loss column.
They were playing with a starting left tackle who had only 27 NFL snaps coming into the game (however, he did once average 8.4 rebounds a game for his college basketball team). They were coming off a draining Sunday night overtime tie, and were missing some key defenders.
It wasn’t a great game for them, no question. It was a winnable game that they lost. But it’s not a killer.
“Mostly, it was kind of up and down,” Thomas said. “We got penalized on some key third downs, and we could tackle better. Sometimes you get these tough lessons, but we can learn from it.”
Yes, tough lessons, like never trying to snuggle with a side judge no matter how happy you are.