SEATTLE – After a loss, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s favorite all-purpose descriptor for his take on the outcome is: “Disappointing.”
It’s a safe word not only because it’s true, but it doesn’t reflect anger or despair, two emotions in a long season that Carroll deploys almost never. When he does, it counts.
“After all this time working, I was really disappointed we didn’t play as clean as we wanted to,” Carroll said Monday following a 17-9 Sunday loss in Green Bay that was poorly played except for the part where they almost won. Until Green Bay made its last first down with a little more than two minutes left, all the Seahawks needed to tie was the ball and two plays.
For those skeptical of such magical thinking, please consult with any Packer left from the “Fail Mary” loss to the Seahawks in 2012. As Miracle Max said in the film “Princess Bride,” “There’s a difference between mostly dead and dead.”
To suggest that the Seahawks were in proximity to winning doesn’t feel right to fans who are raging against the offensive line again. But Carroll claimed that two “crucial errors” – the strip-sack fumble by QB Russell Wilson that gave the ball to the Packers at the Seattle 5-yard line, and the 12-men-on-the-field penalty that gave the Packers a free play that turned into their second touchdown – were largely responsible for the dubious result.
Both of those plays were under the Seahawks’ control, unlike officiating judgments that are random and equal for all teams. The fact that both plays went the wrong way didn’t change Carroll’s view that the sky was not falling.
“We had a real chance to win,” he said.
Add reversals of opportunities with passes in the end zone to WR Tanner McEvoy and TE Jimmy Graham that fell incomplete, and Carroll can justify his absence of woe-is-me.
What was more interesting was what Carroll said about Graham, whose poor production was overlooked in the hand-wringing over the O-line’s role in having three points and three first downs at halftime, and 225 yards of total offense for the game.
Graham had three catches in seven targets for 8 yards. He was part of the wretched blocking that helped produce a meager 90 yards on the ground, 40 of which were two Wilson scrambles.
“I thought Jimmy had a hard game,” Carroll said. “A couple throws got broken up on critical plays. They did a nice job of covering him up.
“I think he could have done better.”
Graham was victimized on the end zone play when three defenders had hands on him but no pass-interference flag followed. Carroll said he was told by officials that Wilson’s throw was uncatchable. Carroll scoffed.
“That should have been first-and-goal on the 1-yard line,” he said, referring to the punishment for end-zone pass interference. “He didn’t get a chance to make that play.”
But Graham in the fourth quarter also dropped a pass along the sideline that would have resulted in a first down.
“He was disappointed the ball got away from him on the sideline,” Carroll said.
Asked about Graham’s blocking, he said pass protection was good but run-blocking “was not his best game. He’ll do better.”
Carroll’s forthrightness with criticism of individual play was a little unusual, but it was accurate and informative. Of Graham, much has been expected, especially at a salary of $10 million. He’s in his contract year, and given the health and experience behind Doug Baldwin among the receivers, this season figured to be the biggest opportunity of his Seahawks career.
With the defense functioning well to keep the game close, it would have taken only a decisive play or two from one among the receivers or running backs to have turned field goals into touchdowns. But Graham was a nonfactor, including his blocking obligations that would have helped take pressure off Wilson and the line.
As always, Carroll was resistant to drawing big conclusions.
“I don’t think this was a statement of anything,” he said. “We just didn’t play well this game.”
The last time the Seahawks played in Lambeau in December, they lost 38-10. That outcome was beyond two plays and beyond disappointing.
This time, as Carroll said, was a real chance to win. Chance squandered.
Follow Art Thiel on Twitter at @Art_Thiel