SEATTLE — It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
But that was of little consolation as the Seattle Seahawks dropped their season finale 26-24 to the visiting Arizona Cardinals on Sunday before 69,078 fans at CenturyLink Field.
Blair Walsh missed a 48-yard field goal attempt to the right with 37 seconds remaining, a kick that likely would have won the game for Seattle (9-7).
The result was rendered moot several minutes earlier when the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Carolina Panthers 22-10 to officially eliminate the Seahawks from playoff contention.
“How did it feel?” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin repeated rhetorically while searching for his next words. “Painful.
“Honestly before the game and this week I was kind of preparing myself because there were a lot of things we couldn’t control, obviously, with the Atlanta game,” he continued. “So going into it I wanted my emotions to be ready and focused on the things that were important, so I could go into this game and play to the best of my ability and (prepare) myself for the worst-case scenario. But when it actually came to fruition, I didn’t realize how painful it was going to be emotionally.”
Seattle has been a staple in the postseason during head coach Pete Carroll’s tenure. It’s the first time the Seahawks have missed the postseason in six years, and just the second time in eight seasons under Carroll.
Numerous stars on both sides of the ball have known nothing but postseason trips, among them linebacker Bobby Wagner, whose rookie season in 2012 coincided with a wild-card berth in Carroll’s third season.
“We always start January off in the playoffs, so it’s definitely a new feeling. I’m definitely motivated by it,” Wagner said. “The offseason begins tomorrow so I know come next year, I’ll be able to play.”
Phil Dawson’s 42-yard field goal with 2:21 remaining put Arizona on top for good 26-24. It was his fourth field goal, the shortest of which was 42 yards.
Russell Wilson’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin had previously given Seattle its first lead of the day at 24-23 with 10:24 remaining in the game. Baldwin hauled in the catch near the front pylon and managed to get both feet in.
“Doug just put an exclamation point on another great season,” Carroll said. “Getting open on the corner route, that’s one thing, and that was great execution by both guys, but the throw and the catch and the finish and staying in bounds was extraordinary. It was exquisite football, against one of the best cover guys (Patrick Peterson) in the world.”
It was also Baldwin’s second touchdown reception of the day. The first came from 18 yards out on Seattle’s opening possession of the third quarter and cut the Seahawks’ 20-7 halftime deficit to 20-14.
The teams then traded field goals as Walsh’s 49-yarder at 13:04 in the fourth quarter made it a one-possession game at 23-17.
In-between, however, the Seahawks had a promising drive thwarted when running back Thomas Rawls was assessed a 15-yard taunting penalty after a 12-yard reception. That drive ended with Seattle punting from the Arizona 41 rather than a field-goal attempt.
Seattle finished with eight penalties that cost the Seahawks 100 yards. Perhaps the costliest came on Arizona’s final drive when Wagner was flagged for roughing the passer, negating an incomplete pass on third-and-7 and keeping the Seattle defense on the field. That drive ended with Dawson’s eventual game-winner. A pass interference penalty also led to a Dawson field goal in the second quarter.
“So disappointed in the three penalties,” Carroll said. “We’ve been last in penalties before when we’ve won world championships, we understand how that sometimes affects you. This season, with the margin of error we had, we weren’t able to overcome that stuff. It’s just an area of football that has to change. I know that, I’ve got to get that changed.”
The Seahawks still weren’t out of it. Wilson found Baldwin for 23 yards and hooked up with Jimmy Graham for 21 more before Walsh’s final miss.
“We have a certain standard going into every season and the guys in our locker room work so hard — I think that’s the biggest thing,” Baldwin said. “We work so hard throughout the course of the year and for it to end this way is really just disappointing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for all the years we have played in the playoffs, or for getting nine wins, I’m grateful for that.
“But there’s more out there. There’s definitely more out there for us.”
A Tyler Lockett 99-yard kickoff return touchdown was Seattle’s lone highlight in a moribund first half as Arizona scored on three of its first four possessions and took a 20-7 lead.
Lockett’s jaunt came 12 seconds after Drew Stanton narrowly escaped backfield pressure from defensive end Michael Bennett and found Jaron Brown in the right side of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown pass at 8:55 of the opening quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Dawson kicked a pair of field goals, and Elijhaa Penny added a 4-yard touchdown run as the Cardinals responded to Lockett’s touchdown with 13 unanswered points.
Even if their second-half rally had held, the Seahawks would have found themselves in unfamiliar territory when the playoffs begin next week.
“It doesn’t feel nice not to be in the playoffs because we’re so used to having the feeling of having the opportunity to get to the championship,” Bennett said. “Not to have that moment is always hard to deal with.”
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