SEATTLE — When the going gets apocalyptic, the apocalyptic get weird.
Knuckleball kickoffs. No-hope challenge flags. Fake field goal shovel passes with an open-mic night comic’s delusional sense of timing.
The only thing Pete Carroll forgot on Monday night?
Pranking the Atlanta Falcons with whoopee cushions on their bench and dribble glasses for their Gatorade.
Hey, you know what they say about the measures called for in desperate times.
And still the Seattle Seahawks came up just a few feet short of … OK, of tying the Falcons and forcing an overtime, where surely a 40-yard pass interference penalty or Atlanta converting on a third-and-30 would have gored the Seahawks anyway.
So losing 34-31 looks pretty good given the buzzards circling CenturyLink Field on the lookout for fresh flesh – and, yes, the body count mounted even after the catastrophic losses of secondary icons Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor last time out that cast a pall over the week.
And the season. And the future.
For the Seahawks, 2017 has become about sheer survival. The NFC West title or the wild card is still in play mathematically – still six weeks left to play, after all. But even if they somehow keep it together enough to snag a playoff spot, they’ll be placeholders, period. Too many playmakers have been lost; too many players who Seattle needed to elevate their games have turtled.
And too many acts of foolishness to try to make up for these shortcomings are getting an airing.
Reference, specifically, Carroll’s inexplicable decision seven seconds before halftime to line up Blair Walsh for a 35-yard field goal attempt – and then order a shovel pass from holder Jon Ryan to tight end Luke Willson, who was promptly buried by Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett.
“That was being aggressive, going for it, trying to get a touchdown,” Carroll said.
Also known as hubris, or too much testosterone. Willson would have had to A) traverse 21 yards to the end zone, unlikely with the Falcons’ alignment and his wheels, or B) get out of bounds just to preserve another field-goal attempt. Willson suggested the Falcons had shown a different look – something exploitable – then got into something else that left Jarrett unblocked.
“It would have been a really good call if we would have made it,” said Carroll.
No, it would have been luck, like the lotto. Only in Peteworld does the supposition of success make the illogical logical.
That the Seahawks would have cause to rue those lost three points – and the timeout Carroll booted when Doug Baldwin talked him into challenging a pass ruled incomplete – speaks to the siccum they did show in the face of despair.
With their patchwork secondary – another starter, Shaq Griffin, went out with a concussion on the game’s second play – they still halted Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s NFL record streak of 200-yard passing games at 64. Problem was, 84 of Ryan’s 195 yards came on third down, and Seattle’s defense couldn’t get off the field.
And Russell Wilson, after two killing turnovers, was electric in giving the Seahawks a chance after they trailed by 11.
“The fight in these guys is just amazing,” Carroll said, “and you can count on it and you know it’s going to happen.”
But the disintegration of the Legion of the Doomed and the long list of injuries are but a part of the disquieting tenor of Seattle’s season.
Remember Thomas Rawls, once the future Marshawn? He was a healthy scratch Monday night, losing his running back spot to a waiver claim wonder named Mike Davis – who, of course, would eventually limp off with a groin injury – because of shortcomings in picking up his reads, it was said. And the Blair Walsh Project, the NFL’s most pitiable kicker? There’s no shame in missing a 52-yarder – unless you leave it short. Hook it or push it, but on the game’s last play you don’t lay up.
By game’s end, seven presumptive Seattle starters were on the sidelines – not counting a couple more lost long ago. Next week’s likely starting cornerbacks: Jeremy Lane, who the Seahawks tried to trade away a couple weeks ago, and Byron Maxwell, who two other clubs waived.
“We’ve got enough,” insisted Earl Thomas, who returned from two weeks of hamstring rehab to hold things together in the secondary. “Of course we’re going to miss Kam and Sherm, but we still have enough. We proved that tonight.”
Enough to put up a fight, yes.
Enough to win? Not without resorting to the weirdly desperate, apparently.
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