In just their first game back after ending an eight-game losing streak when playing on East Coast time, the Seahawks began a new streak.
Who would’ve thought the Seahawks offense would play worse against the Cleveland Browns than they did against the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this year. Although Seattle put three more points on the board than they did in Pittsburgh, one could argue that this game was much uglier.
Not only was it ugly on offense, but it was amplified by the fact the Seahawks should have won this game. What the 6-3 score doesn’t give recognition to is two blocked field goals by Red Bryant and a questionable flag that nullified an 81-yard touchdown return by Leon Washington.
“It could’ve been that day when the special teams wins the football game,” said coach Pete Carroll after the game. “Great punt return, two blocked field goals, and a really hard fought game. That would have been the difference for us had we found a way to get ahead.”
Based on a block in the back call on Washington’s turn alone, it would be easy to attribute the loss to bad officiating, but what this loss really came down to was not getting into the end zone with three chances from the 2-yard line.
The Seahawks picked up only nine first downs, and 38 of their 137 total yards came on one play. Charlie Whitehurst connected on a deep pass to Sidney Rice after a broken play and blown coverage left him wide open. If not for Rice losing his balance along the sidelines, he could have walked into the end zone, and it could have been the touchdown that allowed Seattle to win the game.
But the blame can’t be placed solely on Rice, Whitehurst admitted he probably could have made a better throw in that situation. And just two plays later the Seahawks were first-and-goal on the 2-yard line. Forsett was unable to gain any yardage on first down and Whitehurst threw two incomplete passes. Down 3-0, Hauschka came out to kick the game tying field goal.
“We had our shots, we had plenty of chances to win the football game and we didn’t get it done,” said Carroll.
Seattle was missing a few starters on offense, including Marshawn Lynch who was a late scratch from the game after suffering a back injury during pregame warmups. Lynch’s absence left a big hole in the Seahawks running game and instead of taking advantage of Cleveland’s low ranking rush defense, Seattle went to the air with little success.
Charlie Whitehurst shouldered a lot of the blame following the loss.
“Offensively we couldn’t get in a rhythm, we couldn’t convert, I couldn’t hit some guys that were open when they were, and it was a tough day on offense for us,” said Whitehurst. “We lost a football game that was there to take. If we could have gone the length of the field just one or two times, we probably could have won the football game.”
After a performance like this, it’s difficult to see Whitehurst holding on to the starting job once Tarvaris Jackson is available to return. Just two weeks ago Whitehurst had passed for 149 yards in the second half of the Giants game with the quarterback rating of 100.5. This week, he went 12-of-30 with one interception and a rating of 35.
Carroll said Jackson was throwing the ball well prior to the game, but he wasn’t fully healthy to the point where the team thought it would be best to give him another week.
The poor play by the offense actually overshadowed some solid play by the defense. A large percentage of the Browns 141 rushing yards came in the fourth quarter. Considering Cleveland dominated the time of possession holding the ball for nearly 43 minutes, it was understandable for the defense to be a bit tired by that point.
“Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get enough done to get a win,” said Carroll. “We left the margin too close. We thought we could do more than this, particularly on offense.”
With the loss, and losses by every other team in the NFC West that was playing this week, the Seahawks (2-4) remain in second place behind the 49ers (5-1). Arizona (1-5) came within a field goal of tying up their game against the Steelers, before Pittsburgh ran away with a 32-20 win in the second half. The Rams (0-6) remain winless after a 34-7 beating by the Dallas Cowboys. A. J. Feeley got the start over an injured Sam Bradford.
Next weekend the Seahawks return home to face the Cincinnati Bengals. Although the chances look exceedingly slimmer for Seattle to return to the playoffs this year, the Hawks will continue to build upon the efforts of this young team. Some may already be counting them out, but I just can’t find a way to accept it myself and will continue to cling to whatever hope is left until they are mathematically eliminated.