By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
MIAMI — My bad.
That’s the condensed version of Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll’s tepid response to a season-long, troubling trend.
The Seahawks failed to hold onto a lead on the road, losing to Miami 24-21 on a 43-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter as time expired Sunday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium.
Carroll again pointed the finger at himself for his team’s sluggish performance against an inferior opponent away from CenturyLink Field. Carroll said he gave his players too much time off during the bye week, and that perhaps he should have tightened the reins with one of the youngest teams in the NFL.
The Seahawks now sit at 1-5 on the road — 6-16 during Carroll’s time in Seattle — and a miserable 6-18 all-time in games after a bye week.
Seattle is 1-6 at Miami, and hasn’t won here since 1996.
“I screwed it up,” Carroll said. “And that’s just the way it is. I can tell these guys played hard and they wanted to play right. But we made too many mistakes, and that’s just not doing the job the right way.
“I gave them a bunch of time off, and maybe we’re too young to do that. … We played hard, but we played really sloppy.”
While Carroll offered a mea culpa, Seattle cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will be held accountable for their own transgressions. According to an ESPN report, both will receive four-game suspensions for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The Seahawks have not confirmed the report, which was reported after players spoke to reporters after the game.
But if true, the defensive backs would be the fourth and fifth Seattle players suspended for performance enhancing drugs in the past year. According to the report, both players intend to appeal the suspension.
The Seahawks can take solace in the fact that the setback did not put a damper in the team’s playoff aspirations. The loss puts Seattle at 6-5 overall, but doesn’t hurt them as much because it’s to an AFC team.
Further, Tampa Bay (6-5), New Orleans (5-6) and Minnesota (6-5) also lost. So if the playoffs started today, the Seahawks would be the No. 6 seed as a wild card team.
Still, the Seahawks have two more chances to prove they can win on the road, starting next week against another potential playoff team at Chicago.
“To me, it’s pathetic when you look at it,” Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said about his team’s struggles on the road. “The field is the same size — there’s nothing different home or away. You just have to eliminate the distractions that are outside the playing field. It’s so frustrating because we had so many opportunities and didn’t close it out.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Dolphins (5-6) got on the scoreboard first when Carroll’s former pupil Reggie Bush — who played for Carroll at USC — raced around the end on a sweep for a 21-yard score with 5:13 to play in the first half.
Bush finished with 87 rushing yards, helping the Dolphins roll up 189 yards on the ground against a Seattle defense known for being stout against the run.
The Dolphins also held Marshawn Lynch to 46 yards on 19 carries, as Miami owned the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
“It was just simple stuff,” Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said. “And I take the responsibility because I’m a run stuffer. And when teams run the ball, I point at me first. And they were able to do that today.”
The Seahawks answered on the following possession, tying the game at 7-all on a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by a Russell Wilson 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony McCoy.
Wilson had struggled on the road this season, but played well. The Seattle rookie quarterback finished 21-of-27 for 224 yards, with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Wilson also ran for 38 yards, and posted a 125.9 passer rating.
At one point, Wilson completed 16 straight passes, one short of the team record of 17 set by Warren Moon against Oakland on Nov. 1, 1998.
Wilson’s 16 consecutive completion also is the longest streak by a rookie in the history of the NFL.
“I don’t really focus on the stats, but obviously the goal is to get completions and keep the ball moving,” Wilson said. “That’s a good stat. I think that’s important to keep the ball moving and to complete the passes. I’ve got to look at the film and see where I can complete some more. That’s the focus, how can I do a better job to put us in a situation where there is no doubt.”
Seattle grabbed the lead again with four minutes left in the third quarter when Wilson connected with Michael Robinson on a 4-yard out route for Robinson’s first touchdown of the season.
Miami tied the score again at 14-all on a 3-yard run by Daniel Thomas. That play was set up by a debatable, roughing the passer call on Seattle safety Earl Thomas against Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
It didn’t take long for Seattle to score again, as Leon Washington took the ensuing kickoff back 98 yards for his career eighth kickoff return for a touchdown, tying a league record set by Cleveland’s Joshua Cribbs, and giving Seattle a 21-14 lead.
However, Miami responded, quickly driving 80 yards on six plays. Tight end Charles Clay hauled in a 29-yard touchdown on a wheel route from Tannehill, with linebacker Leroy Hill giving chase.
And after Seattle’s drive stalled at midfield, Tannehill led his team 65 yards from his own 10-yard line with 1:32 remaining to Seattle’s 25-yard line, and Carpenter drilled the field goal for the final score.
Tannehill finished 18-of-26 for 253 yards.
“We’re professionals,” Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch said. “And it came down to the wire, and we just didn’t pull it out.”