There has yet to be a free-association exercise in which the first response to the prompt “Seattle Seahawks” has been “discipline.”
Oh, the Seahawks are not alien to the concept. It’s just not their default position. Never really has been.
On Sunday, it was largely the fault position.
And it drove home the point that no matter how the personnel changes in Seattle or what maestro gets imported to call the plays, the Seahawks will – apparently forever – be who they always are. Winning games in often unnecessarily cliffhanger fashion. Booting them away in similar fashion. Lurching from week to week without the equilibrium that tends to distinguish the elite teams in the National Football League from the very good.
Hard to call yourself elite when you’re blowing two-touchdown leads in the fourth quarter.
In fact, in the wake of Sunday’s 33-30 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans at Lumen Field, the Seahawks are officially the dregs of the NFC West.
OK, maybe a misleading distinction.
Still, the other lodge brothers – the Cardinals, Niners and Rams – are a collective 6-0 through Week 2, and that’s the sort of pace Seattle had better get used to for the rest of the 2021 season. Letting games get away in this manner isn’t an option for those with playoff ambitions.
“I’m going to hate that,” said coach Pete Carroll. “Up 24-9 at halftime? C’mon.”
It’s still just September, but the disappointment ran deep. It was Seattle’s first home opener loss in 13 seasons, and it happened in front of 68,585 throaty witnesses – fans allowed into Lumen Field for a game that counts in the standings for the first time in 21 months. Everyone was primed for a happy hangover come Monday.
So Carroll slipped into his Sunday-best hair shirt for the occasion.
“I totally take that on myself,” he said. “Sometimes I get these guys so frickin’ crazy….”
Rah-Rah Pete turned 70 on Wednesday and, yes, he still views himself as the emotional swizzle stick of the team, which is both endearing and a little maddening in that he’s also supposed to be in charge of quality control.
Quality was certainly the missing ingredient Sunday.
Oh, the Seahawks had their moments. Tyler Lockett had another ridiculous Willie Mays touchdown catch. Bobby Wagner linebackered like a demon. There was a two-minute drill before halftime that should be archived for teaching purposes in every football film room.
“We have to learn how to play when we’re on top,” said Lockett.
After all these years?
The damning evidence Sunday was the 100 yards in penalties the Seahawks amassed, the bulk of them for self-control sins. But in review, only Jordyn Brooks’ unsportsmanlike flag on the Titans’ first second-half touchdown drive actually led to points. The rest cost a few yards in field position and kept the defense out on the field longer – and kept Wilson on the sideline. Even when DK Metcalf – who’s done more talking and holding than anything else in the season’s first two games – was flagged twice on the same play, the Seahawks overcame it with a 68-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Freddie Swain.
Which is to say the Seahawks were lucky it got to overtime. The Swain TD was due to broken coverage. The Titans also dropped a scoring pass, had another overturned on review as being out of the end zone even though Julio Jones got both toes down inbounds and missed a field goal.
But discipline goes beyond penalties. Seattle defenders – notably Jamal Adams – were notably out of gap position on Derrick Henry’s 60-yard touchdown run that flipped momentum in the fourth quarter.
And when they needed to control the game – and make that halftime lead hold up – the Seahawks mustered no consistency or rhythm.
Indeed, the Titans had the ball for 20 more minutes than Seattle, which had the ball just once in the third quarter. You can’t fault a team for striking quickly, but every Seahawks possession that produced points lasted less than two minutes. Chris Carson and the running game was AWOL, while Henry ran 35 times for 182 yards – equal to the worst in the Carroll era. Seattle was mostly pushed around by both Titans lines.
“I don’t think any of us expected to lose a game like that,” said Lockett, “especially with the history of just being here and fourth-quarter wins and how we fight. But when you’re getting three-and-outs and getting flags it almost goes back to us shooting ourselves in the foot.”
That history includes many games that ended up closer than they should have. For all that, however, the team was 65-1 since 2002 when leading by at least two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
This one got away. Even this early in the season, the Seahawks can’t afford more like it.
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