NEW ORLEANS – A foot too far and a few flags too many ultimately left the Seahawks with a day that was almost too much to take.
“This is the kind of game that proves how difficult it is to win in the NFL,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll after one of the most frustrating losses of this or any year, 25-20 to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
For a split second, the Seahawks seemed poised to prove once again how adept they have become in the Russell Wilson era at turning likely defeats into most unlikely wins.
As time expired, receiver Jermaine Kearse leapt in the back of the end zone for a pass from Wilson, reaching for the ball as he was hit by cornerback B.W. Webb.
But while Kearse controlled the pass, he couldn’t control all of his body, his left foot grazing the turf while his right hit the pylon in the right corner, out of bounds.
“I thought it was real close,” Kearse said. “I thought … I had at least maybe one in and I was really trying to let my leg go limp and just possibly just nick in. I thought I was pretty close.”
No one, though, was arguing that Kearse was in bounds.
But a lot of other calls – or noncalls – left the Seahawks scratching their heads, at the least. And in the case of cornerback Richard Sherman, he seemed to indicate the NFL has it in for Seattle.
“The league makes sure they keep an impact and they keep a control of the game the way they need to,” Sherman said.
Seattle was called for 11 penalties for 76 yards while the Saints – who came in to the game ranked just ahead of the Seahawks in penalties per game at 10th with 7.5 per game – had just two for 10 yards. Seattle entered the game tied for 12th in most penalties at 7.3.
“We went into the game knowing that they are a team that gets a lot of penalties, and we were really kind of in the same boat,” Carroll said. “And we thought that might match up with us and might not be a deciding factor in the game. But the (11-2) thing, that’s pretty far out of whack. There wasn’t a significant penalty all day on the other side. So they did a marvelous job.”
Carroll took some of the blame himself, saying “I just need to do a better job” at helping the Seahawks decrease their penalties.
But Carroll also let his exasperation show when asked about a sequence with just over two minutes left when the officials declared Saints running back Tim Hightower to still be in bounds, requiring Seattle to use its final timeout.
As he saw that the clock had not been stopped, Carroll angrily ripped off his headset to protest, later saying, “I didn’t see it that way, but that’s what they called.”
The Seahawks, meanwhile, wondered why the Saints weren’t called for offensive pass interference on a couple of key third-down completions in the fourth quarter, among a bevy of what they felt were inconsistencies.
“We’ve got to find a way to fight through those horrible calls,” said safety Earl Thomas.
The Seahawks, though, were hardly blameless.
The offense was inconsistent all day, with Seattle running just 19 plays in the first half, which it led 14-13 thanks to Thomas’ 34-yard return of a fumble and then a four-play drive keyed by a 43-yard double pass from Tanner McEvoy to C.J.Prosise.
Seattle could manage only two field goals on four drives in the second half against a team that came into the game last in the NFL in points allowed.
While the defensive players insisted they weren’t tired after playing 90 snaps last week, Seattle – playing without standout lineman Michael Bennett and safety Kam Chancellor – looked a little worn down in the second half as the Saints went on drives of 74, 71 and 52 while allowing backup running back Tim Hightower – who had just 82 yards all season before Sunday – to rush for 102 yards.
Still, the Seahawks were a play away from making all of that just nits to pick.
Carroll and Wilson said the team got the matchup it wanted when the Saints went in man coverage on Kearse on the right side, with Wilson quickly changing to a protection that allowed for the time to make the throw.
The ball, though, floated just a little too far.
“You saw where the ball was thrown,” Kearse said. “I don’t judge where the ball is thrown. I just go up and try to make a play on it.”
Said Wilson: “It was close. I tried to give him a shot. The corner did a good job of driving him out of bounds.”
And sending the Seahawks home with an understanding how fine the line can be in the NFL between victory and defeat.
“Jermaine did another extraordinary job of making the catch,” Carroll said. “He just could not keep his feet in bounds. It was this far from being a spectacular finish.”
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