KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Their avalanche of ache finally caught up to the Seahawks.
Will it cost them the chance to catch Arizona in the NFC West?
Russell Wilson completed 20 of 32 passes and had key scrambles for gains late. Marshawn Lynch plowed for 124 yards rushing. But almost all of those came before two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger sustained a high-ankle sprain and twisted knee 6 minutes into fourth quarter.
With fourth-stringer Patrick Lewis forced in at center, the Seahawks turned the ball over on downs three times in the final 7:11, including on a fourth-and-2 and a fourth-and-1 from inside Kansas City’s 36-yard line. That – and the Chiefs steamrolling a Seahawks run defense missing Brandon Mebane in the middle — is how Seattle lost 24-20 Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Heartbreaking loss,” Wilson said of a thudding end to the Seahawks’ three-game winning streak. “We think we could have – and should have – won it.”
Instead the Seahawks (6-4) head home to host Arizona (9-1) while stinging over how close they came to pulling out a huge win on a 21-degree day with a wind chill of 10.
By failing to stop All-Pro Jamaal Charles (159 yards rushing, two touchdowns) or the Chiefs rushing game (190 yards) that came right at them knowing Mebane and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner were out injured, the Super Bowl champions have exhausted all of their mulligans in their title defense.
To win their division they need to make up a three-game deficit to the Cardinals with six to play.
They were already clutching it in the locker room Sunday afternoon.
“We can go either way; we can run, or we can stay on track,” safety Earl Thomas said.
“I think we are going to stay on track.”
Thomas forced Chiefs fumbles in the second and the third quarters that led to half of the Seahawks’ points. But he also missed a tackle on Charles’ 47-yard run in the fourth quarter up the middle, past where Mebane used to be. That set up Knile Davis’ 4-yard touchdown run that gave the Chiefs their 24-20 lead with 13:41 left.
The Seahawks played their first game since they lost nose tackle and run-stuffer Mebane for the season to a torn hamstring. Kevin Williams, an 11-year veteran, started for him.
Seattle felt the loss immediately – and painfully.
Kansas City romped for 190 yards and three TDs on 30 carries, an average of 6.3 yards per rush. With Mebane over the first nine games, the Seahawks had allowed 79.8 yards rushing and 3.2 per carry.
And they missed Unger.
Wilson was 16 for 23 for 142 yards and two touchdowns over the first 51 minutes with his two-time Pro Bowl trigger man making the line calls and anchoring pass protection. After Unger got hurt and Lewis entered with 9 minutes to go, Wilson was 4 for 9 for 36 yards and got sacked once.
The offense had 5.8 yards per rush with Unger, 1.3 without him.
Two plays after Unger got hurt, Lynch got stopped at the 2 up the middle on third-and-goal. On fourth down with 7:11 left, Wilson’s lofted pass to the left corner of the end zone sailed past Doug Baldwin. The wide receiver yelled for a bumping foul on Sean Smith. It never came.
The Seahawks’ defense then got its first three-and-out of the day. Seattle took over at the Kansas City 44 down 24-20 with 6:15 left.
But on that first full drive after Unger’s injury, Wilson had to walk from left to right to each of the five offensive linemen before the snap to make the protection call. By the time he did that the play clock had expired. It was the day’s only delay-of-game penalty.
Instead of second-and-5 at the Kansas City 40, Seattle had second-and-10 with 5 minutes left down 24-20. Lynch ran up the middle for only 2 yards behind Lewis. Then Wilson’s 8-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse was 1 yard short, instead of being a first down had the delay foul not happened.
On fourth-and-1 from the Chiefs 36 and 3:38 remaining, Lynch tried to run behind Lewis and fill-in left guard Alvin Bailey. Three Chiefs swallowed Lynch. The Seahawks turned the ball over on downs for the second time in Chiefs territory in 4 minutes.
Seattle got one more chance with 2:47 left, no timeouts and 96 yards from the win. After a sack and two incomplete passes, Wilson’s fourth-and-18 pass to Paul Richardson was too high. The Chiefs (7-3) ran out the clock.
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