Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins was only the second time this season the Seattle defense has given up more than 20 points. It raises the question: How can a team that can always find a way to win at home, find a way to lose nearly every game on the road?
During his postgame press conference, head coach Pete Carroll’s explanation in regard to this loss was his decision to give the team a whole week off after the win over the Jets.
“We didn’t play like we’ve normally played. We had all kinds of issues on both sides of the ball,” Carroll said.
“I didn’t do this thing right with the week off, I didn’t handle it well and I screwed it up. And that’s just the way it is.”
Carroll suggested the break impacted the team’s focus and that they weren’t prepared enough for this game. The coach’s perspective wasn’t one quarterback Russell Wilson was willing to accept.
“I usually agree with coach 100 percent, but not on that one,” Wilson said during his postgame press conference.
“We have to give credit to Miami. Their defense did a tremendous job early.”
The Dolphins’ defense played extremely well in the first half, shutting down the Seahawks for all but three drives. Carroll elected to punt on two of the drives that could have been 53- and 56-yard field goals, and Golden Tate made an incredible 32-yard catch to set up a 3-yard touchdown to Anthony McCoy.
Carroll’s decision not to bring out Steven Hauschka in the first half may not be the wrong call considering the Seahawks’ kicker is only 1-of-4 from more than 50 yards out. But those were points the Seahawks needed to have, and not having a reliable kicker from that distance has been a part of this team’s inability to win on the road.
Another factor in the loss were the number of penalties on the Seahawks. Ten penalties for 59 yards, most of them on offense, stalled a couple of Seattle’s drives.
After the game, Carroll questioned one of the penalties called on the defense when Earl Thomas jumped in the air to try and block a pass by Ryan Tannehill. Thomas’s arm came down on Tannehill’s helmet, which drew a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer. The penalty negated Bobby Wagner’s second interception of the game.
The Dolphins scored on the next play for the first touchdown of a 17-point fourth quarter comeback.
Leon Washington followed up the score by the Dolphins with a 98-yard touchdown return to put the Seahawks back on top, 21-14. It was the eighth career kickoff return for a score by the Florida native, tying him with Josh Cribbs for the top spot.
The Seahawks’ defense couldn’t stop Miami’s offense on either of the last two drives. The Dolphins drove 80 yards for a score in less than three minutes. After their defense held Seattle out of field goal range, they only needed 90 seconds to put Dan Carpenter in position to kick the game winning 43-yard field goal.
The long layoff, penalties, play calling, offensive struggles in the first half, defensive struggles in the second half and officiating were all targets for explaining this week’s loss.
Perhaps the 2,720-mile flight was just too much to overcome. Or maybe it was the sprinkler malfunction in the third quarter.
“I’m not sure if somebody hit it on purpose or what,” Wilson said.
“The funny thing was most of the guys were staying out there, I think at least our guys, you know I think we’re so used to the rain.”
Whatever the problem, or compilation of problems, Wilson’s quarterback play was very low on the list. Wilson lost the battle between the two rookie quarterbacks, but played extremely well.
Though the offense struggled in the first half, they turned things around in the second with Wilson throwing 16 consecutive completions. It was one short of a team record set by Warren Moon.
“I thought Russell played a fantastic football game,” Carroll said.
“He did everything he could to keep us in this thing.”
Wilson finished the day completing 21-of-27 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He added 38 yards of rushing, which wasn’t far behind Marshawn Lynch—who had 46 yards.
Hopefully over their next two road games, his effort will carry over to some of his teammates. But it’s possible two star players may not be making those trips.
Following the game, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are facing four-game suspensions for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Sherman responded to the allegations through Twitter, saying they “will be resolved soon and the truth will come out. Not worried.”
If they lose their appeals and are suspended, the Seahawks would need to rely on Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond to help keep their playoff hopes alive.
Also keeping their hopes alive is that Tampa Bay, Minnesota, New Orleans and Dallas all lost this week. Unfortunately, that means the Seahawks missed a great opportunity to increase their lead over each of those teams in the race for a Wild Card spot.
A more positive spin would be to say they didn’t lose any ground.
Next week, the Seahawks are back on the road against the Chicago Bears (8-3), who dominated the Minnesota Vikings 28-10 at Soldier Field on Sunday. The Bears’ only defeat at home this year was a 13-6 loss to the Houston Texans.
With the Buccaneers playing on the road in Denver and the Vikings on the road in Green Bay, a win could give the Seahawks the opportunity to pull away from the pack that they missed out on this week.