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Seattle Seahawks

Late Falcons interception stifles Seahawks’ comeback in 27-23 loss

Richie Grant of the Atlanta Falcons is congratulated by teammates after making an interception against the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field on September 25, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.  (Getty Images)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

The Atlanta Falcons spent the week practicing in Seattle after losing against the Rams in Los Angeles last Sunday.

And this Sunday, the Falcons came into Lumen Field and looked right at home, running through, passing over and generally just abusing Seattle’s defense in a 27-23 win that has the Seahawks season already feeling like it’s teetering at 1-2.

“I mean, they did whatever they wanted to do today,” said Seattle safety Quandre Diggs after a game in which the Falcons had five drives of 52 yards or longer and seven plays of 21 yards or longer in gaining 7.1 yards per play overall. “I mean, they threw the ball, they ran the ball. It was just like, we ain’t stopped either. So, at the end of the day, I mean, they came out and they kicked our tail, and it’s just what it is.”

Seattle’s offense tried to keep up, and for most of the day, it did, turning in its best performance of the season. That is until the final 18 minutes, when confusion led to a decision to kick a field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-2 at the 7 late in the third quarter, and penalties did them in on two fourth-quarter drives.

Seattle scored just three points in the second half, the only three the Seahawks offense has scored in the second half all season. There was a last-gasp chance to steal a win ending in vain when Geno Smith, who otherwise had his best game as a Seahawk with 325 yards passing and two touchdowns, threw an interception on fourth-and-18 on a pass that sailed over Tyler Lockett’s head.

“Really disappointed that we weren’t able to finish that game,” said coach Pete Carroll. “… I think we saw some real bright spots. I thought you saw us get better today. But it wasn’t good enough for winning. That’s what really counts.”

The game seemed lost long before Smith’s interception when Atlanta, ahead 27-23, drove from its own 10 to the Seattle 34 without having to convert a third down. But on a second-down play at the 34, Atlanta quarterback Marcus Mariota lost the ball on botched exchange with running back Avery Williams with Uchenna Nwosu jumping on it at the 37 with 5:12 left.

“I was thinking that we were going to win the game,” Nwosu said of that moment. “Shoot, that was exactly what we needed, a turnover. I trust our offense to go down there and win the game. That’s what I was thinking.”

And briefly it looked like Seattle would as Rashaad Penny picked up 4 yards on a fourth-and-1 at midfield. Then Smith hit Lockett for 20, and Penny gained 6 more. From there, Smith threw a short pass that Penny took them to the 10 with 2:16 left.

But Damien Lewis was called for a hold – his second penalty of the quarter – that turned first-and-goal at the 10 into second-and-14 at the 34. A sack on third down set up the fateful fourth down in which Smith scrambled to his right and eventually threw to Lockett but instead found Atlanta safety Richie Grant.

“Scrambling, trying to make a play,” Smith said. “Trying to find a guy open. I happened to see Lock cutting across there. Tried to get it to him. May have been a touch too high, and that was it.”

Just as pivotal was a sequence at the end of the third quarter when Seattle drove to the Atlanta 7 with the scored tied at 20.

On third-and-2, Smith went for the TD on a fade route to Metcalf in the end zone that fell incomplete.

“I trusted my decision-making,” Smith said. “Any decision I make, I feel good about it. Any time you throw it to DK, it’s the right decision.”

That made it fourth-and-2, and the Seahawks appeared to be going for it, with the offense staying on the field, before calling time. Carroll then changed his mind.

“We were going for it, and that was the mentality, and then we got a little screwed up, and we needed time to talk about it,” Carroll said. “I was hoping we would not be in fourth and whatever that was, two and a half or whatever. I thought we were going to be in a better situation going for it. I was thinking about going for it possibly. Guys on the field weren’t ready, so we had to call timeout.”

Carroll said the timeout was necessary because “they were a little out of whack on the field because of what happened on the play before. I’ll leave it at that.”

Whatever was specifically out of whack no one would say.

“We just weren’t ready to run that play at that time,” Smith said.

Seattle had to settle for a Jason Myers field goal and a 23-20 lead and putting a leaky defense back on the field with far less secure of a lead.

The result was maybe too predictable as Atlanta quickly drove for the go-ahead score, the drive jumpstarted by a 40-yard run Cordarrelle Patterson on the first play.

Nwosu said he was anticipating a Mariota bootleg and Patterson instead ran right by him with the ball.

“I take full responsibility for that because if that doesn’t happen then they have to drive the length of the field and it’s tougher to score, and I just made it easier,” Nwosu said. “That is a play on me that I just have to take one and go in there and correct and it can’t happen again.”

But he was hardly the only one to blame.

Mariota had 183 yards passing in the first half on just eight completions, rarely being rushed and receivers wide open everywhere. Patterson had 107 yards rushing in the second half on just 10 carries as Seattle again proved far too easy to run against.

Seattle is now allowing an average of 157 rushing yards per game and 4.91 per attempt, more than a yard more than the 3.8 of last season when the Seahawks allowed the second lowest in the NFL.

And while Carroll could point to the improved offensive play as progress, the reality is a Seattle team already in a hole and searching for answers.

“I just know that we are at a crossroads right now,” said defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson. “We need to get it together, that’s the biggest thing. Everybody needs to be accountable and go through the film and fix it. I think that’s the biggest thing, being disciplined, do your job, and trust your brothers.”