The ugly game on an ugly day began with the ugly sight of a yellow flag on the field.
Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett had jumped offside, establishing a pattern that would be sustained for the next three and a half hours. Sixteen penalties for 138 yards weren’t the only reason the Seahawks lost a 17-14 clunker Sunday to the Washington Redskins.
Blair Walsh missed three field goals in the first half, none over 49 yards and none posing an especially severe degree of difficulty. Russell Wilson threw two interceptions, and though the quarterback finished with 297 passing yards and rolled up 77 more on the ground, he was, as coach Pete Carroll put it, “a little bit out of synch.” And just when the Hawks appeared to execute their second last-minute comeback in two weeks, one of the NFL’s great defenses surrendered 70-yard touchdown drive that took four plays.
“All of the things that happen when you lose a game showed up,” said Carroll. “Turnovers. Penalties. Getting beat deep. The easy scores for them. The difficult challenges just moving the ball down the field because we were in our own way.
“We really played against ourselves all day long.”
What made the breakdown curious was its timing. The Seahawks were seven days removed from a thrill-ride victory that reinforced their status as the team to beat in the NFC West. They had obtained veteran left tackle Duane Brown to fortify an offensive line desperate for experience.
Washington, meanwhile, loomed as an ideal opponent, with a 3-4 record and 13 players listed on the team’s weekly injury report. Its offensive line fulfilled the very definition of “makeshift.”
The season’s midway-point game was supposed to be a a kind of stress reliever before the short week culminates with a Thursday night road contest at Arizona. But from the moment Bennett jumped early until Wilson’s last-gasp pass was broken up by a thicket of defenders in the end zone, the mood at CenturyLink Field seemed less festive than ominous.
Even after Wilson hooked up with Doug Baldwin for the 30-yard touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 14-10 lead with 1:34 remaining, a sense that something still could go wrong lingered in the cold, wet air.
“It’s on us, all of us,” said Wilson. “It starts with me, and going down the line, let’s find a way to keep studying and keep learning. It’s a long journey and a long season. If we tapped out now, we’d be crazy.”
Nobody is expecting the Seahawks, at 5-3, to tap out. But the second half of the season suddenly looks a lot more daunting than it did Sunday morning: Home games against the defending NFC champion Falcons, followed by the 8-1 Eagles and the 6-2 Rams, who regained first place atop the NFC West.
The only obvious breather over the final eight games is a road game against the 49ers, but there’s a danger in labeling any NFL game as a breather. It was San Francisco, you might recall, that gave the Hawks all they could handle in September before losing, 12-9.
“The thing is, whoever said that you’re going to win every game in the National Football League,” mused defensive end Dwight Freeney, whose productive afternoon included two sacks. “For me, sometimes you learn from losses. Sometimes in wins, you gloss over things because you won.
“All I’m telling these guys is that you need to get back to the grind. You need to get back (to) the basics. Losses come. Those guys get paid, too, over there.”
If there’s a benefit to taking the field on short notice at Arizona, it’s that the Seahawks won’t have to time to wallow in the mess they created Sunday.
Their bodies will sore, but their heads will be clear.
“I kind of think so,” said Carroll. “Yeah, let’s go, let’s go back out there again. It is a very abbreviated week, and we have a whole format on how we go about this. It will come really quick for us, and we’re on the road.
“I said it to them: Let’s go back and play some more.”
Playing more crisply would be in order, and that can be accomplished with a simple ambition:
Avoiding a penalty on the first snap of the night.