KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The celebration continued in the sea-of-red stands, the opposing team started floating toward midfield for the post-game handshakes, and one man sat alone on the Seattle Seahawks bench.
Seneca Wallace stared straight ahead, his body language exposing the disappointment he felt.
His Seahawks had just lost 35-28 to the Kansas City Chiefs in his debut as a starting quarterback, and Wallace was swimming in a pool of what-ifs.
What if he hadn’t thrown two interceptions?
What if his fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Darrell Jackson had stood up as the game-winner?
What if his final throw had gone downfield, instead of into the flat?
As any competitor would be, Wallace was hoping for better results.
“I don’t like losing,” he told the media a few minutes later. “I don’t like to feel like I let my team down.”
Wallace’s team – both players and coaches – said just the opposite. They felt like Wallace hadn’t let them down, that just the opposite was true.
“I felt like Seneca played a great game today,” tight end Jerramy Stevens said after Wallace completed 15 of 30 passes for 198 yards with three touchdowns and the two interceptions. “We just didn’t do enough to help him.”
Added Jackson: “He made his plays when he had to. Quarterbacks rarely go 20 for 20, so I thought he did pretty good out there.”
Wallace was not perfect in his starting debut, but he was good enough. Had the Seahawks’ defense not given up a season-high 499 yards, including a game-winning drive in the final few minutes, Wallace may well have been the toast of the town.
“The outcome of this game, in a negative fashion, wasn’t because of Seneca Wallace,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “He kept us in it, and under the circumstances, he did a fine job.”
Wallace threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half just to keep the Seahawks in contention. He hit D.J. Hackett in the back of one end zone on an 8-yard TD pass during the first quarter, then added another score by hitting Stevens in the back of the other end zone on a 2-yard TD pass a few minutes later. Wallace accentuated both scores with the kind of fist-pumping celebration that builds up over three-plus seasons as a backup.
“I was just excited,” said Wallace, who will probably make at least two more starts while Matt Hasselbeck recovers from a sprained right knee. “For me to step in, play at Arrowhead in my first regular season (start), I was excited. I was excited, so I had to do something.”
Wallace saved his most important throw for the fourth quarter – even if it wasn’t his best.
He duped Ty Law with a pump fake, causing the Kansas City cornerback to fall down at the Chiefs’ 30-yard line, then threw a high, wobbly pass that Jackson caught and ran into the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown.
“It hung in the air for a little bit, but there was time to grab it and go with it,” said Jackson, whose touchdown gave Seattle a 28-27 lead with 61/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter. “It was a good throw.”
The touchdown didn’t hold up as the game-winner – Kansas City marched 80 yards in eight plays to regain the lead, 35-28 – but Wallace got a couple more chances to be the hero.
He threw an interception on the second play of Seattle’s next drive, but the Seahawks got the ball back when receiver Deion Branch stripped the ball from Kansas City’s Jared Allen during the ensuing return. Wallace then scrambled for three yards and completed back-to-back passes to put the Seahawks into Chiefs territory.
After that, his luck ran out. Fullback Mack Strong dropped a short pass into the flat. Allen batted down a ball at the line of scrimmage. Strong’s blocking breakdown led to a sack.
Suddenly Wallace found himself with a fourth-and-15 at the Kansas City 46-yard line, with just 1:03 remaining.
Rather than throw the ball deep, which was the intention of the final play call, Wallace opted to check down to a short throw toward Strong. The fullback caught it at the 43 and ran five more yards before getting tackled well short of the marker.
“In that situation, we’ve got to take the shot down the field to try to get something,” Holmgren said. “It’s unlikely that we’re going to get the first down throwing the ball to Mack.
“There, his instincts just told him to go to the open guy. But in that instance, even though we didn’t have an open guy down the field, he’s got to take the shot.”
Wallace did not make excuses for the decision.
“That was my fault,” he said. “I probably should have thrown the ball downfield and tried to make a play.
“It’s hard to force a pass. Maybe I should have forced a pass, and maybe we could have gotten a first down, but …”
But … Wallace had to settle for a loss in his starting debut.