Sunday’s 23-13 loss to Arizona was a game that left Seahawks coach Pete Carroll so out of answers that after eight minutes of talking during his regularly scheduled postgame news conference, he turned, said “I’m done” and walked away from the podium at Lumen Field.
It was the first time anyone could remember Carroll cutting a news conference short during his 12 years with the Seahawks.
And maybe both feeling bad that he’d shirked a responsibility and realizing his action might have sent a message he didn’t intend about the haplessness of this season, Carroll returned about 30 minutes later.
“I know that you probably have some more questions,” Carroll said as he walked back into the media room, in the interim having showered and changed out of his game clothes. “I don’t know if I have any more answers for you, but I’ll try.”
And then he took questions for another 10 minutes, attempting in vain to make sense of what, all things considered, might have been the bleakest Sunday of his Seahawks career.
“Yes, absolutely, not even close,” Carroll said when asked if this is the most frustrated he’s been during his Seattle tenure.
With the loss, Seattle fell to 3-7, the worst record after 10 games since before Carroll arrived, and better in the NFC only than the 0-9-1 Detroit Lions.
Seattle’s playoff odds now are also about as long as their chances of converting a third down. Seattle has the 15th spot in the 16 seeds in the NFC, also ahead of only Detroit (with the 3-6 Giants set to play Tampa Bay on Monday night).
Maybe even more telling, Seattle is now two games behind the rest of the NFC West, the 49ers winning to improve to 5-5 and Arizona at 9-2, the Rams at 7-3. Seattle has finished either first or second in the NFC West every year since Russell Wilson arrived in 2012.
Making it all worse is that Seattle gave up 328 yards to Arizona backup quarterback Colt McCoy, who got his third straight start in place of the injured Kyler Murray, with Arizona also playing without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The pregame news that Murray wouldn’t play due to a lingering ankle injury seemed like the big break Seattle needed to turn its season around.
Instead, losing to McCoy – who is 10-23 in his career but has now won twice in Seattle in two seasons, also leading the Giants to a victory here last December – only added to the ignominy of Sunday’s defeat.
“I’m just not any good at this,” Carroll said of dealing with defeat, with Seattle having lost five of its last six games. “I’m not prepared for this. I’m struggling to do a good job of coaching when you’re getting your butt kicked week in and week out. It’s new territory. I’m competing in every way I can think of it, but it’s unfamiliar.”
But if Seattle’s record is new territory, what’s already gotten old are the reasons the Seahawks have fallen to this point.
Seattle’s offense again was a slog throughout, converting just 2 of 10 third downs, twice held to field goals when reaching the Arizona 9 and generally unable to do a whole lot other than when Russell Wilson hooked up with Tyler Lockett, whose four catches for 115 yards were basically the only highlights of the day.
Seattle thought it would be able to run against an Arizona defense that came in allowing 4.8 yards per rush, 31st in the NFL.
But while Seattle ran it OK at times, the Seahawks had only 86 yards on 19 carries, and just 68 on 18 after Rashaad Penny began the game with an 18-yard run, then headed to the sidelines for the rest of the half with a hamstring injury.
Seattle’s only TD came with 7:05 left on a 2-yard run by DeeJay Dallas, a score set up on a 48-yard pass from Wilson to Lockett. That snapped a streak of eight straight quarters without an offensive touchdown.
But other than the throws to Lockett, Wilson again struggled to find any rhythm in what was his second game back after injuring his right middle finger, finishing 14 for 26 for 207 yards, and for only the third time in his career going a second straight game without throwing a TD pass. (Though he again insisted the finger is just fine, and unlike last Sunday’s shutout against Green Bay, he took snaps under center, including the first three of the game.)
Carroll couldn’t put his, well, finger on Seattle’s offensive issues, left to say with resignation: “I don’t know why it became a mystery to us to score points.”
Still, when Dallas scored Seattle cut Arizona’s lead to 16-13, a hoping-against-hope Lumen Field crowd was momentarily rocking.
But in keeping with the theme of the season, the good feeling didn’t last long, with a defense that performed well at times collapsing when it really mattered.
“That’s a 60-plus-yard swing,” Carroll said.
In fact, it was 67, with Seattle instead taking over at its own 22 following the punt.
But blaming anything on that sequence felt like grasping at straws with the way Arizona dominated for most of 60 minutes, outgaining Seattle 416-266, the fourth straight game Seattle has been held to 266 or fewer, but the fifth time this year Seattle has allowed 400 or more.
Everyone who spoke said all the expected things about still believing there’s time to turn things around, though as Wilson quickly added “not much time.”
Indeed, Seattle has to go 6-1 the rest of the way just to avoid the first losing season since 2011, let alone think of the playoffs.
At one point during his second session with the media, Carroll said “I’m disappointed I don’t have any new answers for you” of what is ailing the team.
But as he seemed to be signaling with his return to the podium, he knows that ultimately, he’s the one who has to somehow find them.
“It starts with me,” Carroll said. “I’ve got to get this done, and I’ve got to help my guys get this done.”
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