Here’s how the Seattle Seahawks grade out in their 26-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at CenturyLink Field:
It was a tale of two halves for Seattle’s offense. The Seahawks were dreadful in the first half, managing just 24 yards of offense and one first down as Arizona defenders repeatedly blew unabated into the Seattle backfield. But things changed for the better at the beginning of the second half, with quarterback Russell Wilson throwing two touchdown passes to Doug Baldwin and running back Mike Davis providing a spark after missing much of the first half with an injury. Then the offense moved Seattle into position to win the game at the end. But 1-for-12 on third down is never going to cut it.
Like the offense, the defense got off to a slow start, allowing the Cardinals to march down the field for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession as Seattle struggled to stop the run. The defense improved as the game progressed, particularly during the second half when it no longer found itself faced with bad field position. But a roughing-the-passer penalty on Bobby Wagner on a third-down incompletion, combined with the inability to get a stop on third-and-2, helped sustain an Arizona fourth-quarter drive that resulted in what proved to be the game-winning field goal.
It was all set to be a banner day for Seattle’s special teams following Tyler Lockett’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown the first time the Seahawks received the ball. But special teams were largely a disaster the rest of the way. The Seahawks allowed a long kickoff return immediately after Lockett’s TD return, and that and a pair of shanked Jon Ryan punts set the Cardinals up on short fields that resulted in 13 points. Then with a chance to win it at the end, kicker Blair Walsh missed wide right on a 48-yard field goal.
There were moments in the game when the coaching decisions could be second guessed: the decision to kick a 49-yard field goal rather than go for it on fourth-and-1 when trailing by nine in the early in the fourth quarter, the decision to play it conservative at the end of the game and settle for a 48-yard field-goal attempt rather than try to get closer or even play for a touchdown. But ultimately the biggest coaching issue was not having the team ready to play at the start of the game, despite playing for its postseason life.
In the end the result was irrelevant for Seattle, as Atlanta’s victory over Carolina meant the Seahawks weren’t going to make the playoffs even with a victory. But when a team is at home with a playoff berth at stake — and facing an opponent with nothing to play for and using a back-up quarterback — it has to win that game. The Seahawks will be watching the playoffs from home for the first time since 2011, and the way the season ended is going to leave a bitter taste in their mouths.