By John Boyle Herald Writer
Facing fourth-and-eight with 13 seconds left in the game, the Seahawks sent out kicker Steven Hauschka to attempt a game-winning field goal from 61 yards away. Needing a perfect kick, Hauschka instead missed short and to the left, allowing the Atlanta Falcons to hang on for a 30-28 victory.
But while the idea of trying a 61-yarder into a light breeze might have seemed a bit, shall we say, ambitious, it was equally preposterous that the Seahawks were even in a position to attempt a game-winner, no matter h ow difficult.
After all, the Seahawks had been down 20 points in the third quarter, and considering their offensive struggles through three games, the thought of a comeback seemed as likely as, well, a 61-yard field goal. But after spotting the Falcons a 17-point halftime lead that grew to 20 early in the third quarter, the Seahawks suddenly came alive and looked nothing like the team that, through three games, had scored only 30 points and ranked 31st in the league in total offense.
Following the Falcons field goal that made the score 27-7, the Seahawks scored touchdowns on three of their next four possessions, and the one time they didn’t score it was because of an interception in the end zone that, if not for a great hit from safety James Sanders, would have been a touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller. To put that in context, the Seahawks scored as many touchdowns in the span of a quarter and a half as they had in their first three games.
“I thought our offense played great,” said Seattle safety Earl Thomas. “They carried us, especially when we needed them.”
Who would have ever thought you’d hear a member of Seattle’s defense utter that sentence? And in fact, it was the defense, which was so good in last week’s win, that struggled the most, particularly in the first half when Atlanta gained 256 yards while punting only once.
And as remarkable as Seattle’s second-half turnaround was, it wasn’t enough to prevent the team’s third loss in four games. Even so, some good came out of the loss according to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
“I had to tell these guys in the locker room that we found something that was powerful,” Carroll said. “The willingness to hang in there when it was 27-7, to come out after we didn’t look good in the first half, and to hang so tough and execute so well against such a good football team.”
In fact, Carroll said the team got more out of Sunday’s game than it did from last week’s victory over Arizona.
“Last week was terrific to get the win, but we gained more today and I think we proved more today,” Carroll said. “We understand what we can do better. … So we’ll see what happens. We’ll see where we go from here.”
Where Seattle goes from here is to New York to face the 3-1 Giants. And despite the loss, the Seahawks will go there feeling good about an offense that put up 372 yards, including a career-high 319 yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
“Once we focus in and execute, it’s hard to stop us,” said Jackson, who threw touchdown passes to wide receivers Sidney Rice, Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu. “I felt like any time we got the ball we just knew they couldn’t stop us, so that’s very encouraging.”
It’s also not entirely accurate. The Falcons, with the help of an expiring clock, did stop the Seahawks sooner than Seattle would have liked on its final drive. The Seahawks got the ball back at their 15-yard line down two points with 1:49 left. Thanks to some substitution issues on defense earlier in the half, Seattle had only one time out left, and by the time they got across midfield, time was running out. The Seahawks reached the Atlanta 45, then after spiking the ball to stop the clock, had to back up five yards because of a false start penalty on Rice. After a seven-yard completion to Miller and an incomplete pass, Carroll had to decide between going for it on fourth-and-eight, then trying a field goal if the offense got the first down, or sending Hauschka out for a 61-yarder.
“If we don’t make the eight yards on fourth down, then the game’s over,” Carroll said. “We had a shot, it’s 60, and Steven has got a big leg. … I wanted to give us a shot to win it.”
That shot fell short, just like Seattle’s comeback. Even so, the Seahawks feel like they gained something Sunday that can help them over the course of the season.
“At the end of the day, you always want to get the W,” said Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant. “But man, this just shows the kind of team we have. There’s no quit in this team. We’re just going to keep fighting to the end.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog