SEATTLE — With the game on the line, the Seattle Seahawks needed to go about half a football field in less than two minutes for a chance to beat the Atlanta Falcons.
And as it turned out, there were too many yards and too few seconds for the Seahawks to pull off a remarkable comeback vi
ctory at CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon.
Later, there were questions aplenty for Seattle head coach Pete Carroll about his decision to attempt a 61-yard field goal on fourth down, rather than try for a first down and a shorter kick. And the Seahawks collectively were ruing a costly illegal procedure penalty on the final drive, and two third-quarter timeouts that kept them preserving much-needed seconds at the end of the game.
The end result of their own mistakes and Carroll’s gamble was a gallant, but errant try by Seattle place-kicker Steven Hauschka with 16 seconds remaining. The kick was left of the uprights and landed in the middle of the end zone, sealing Atlanta’s 30-28 victory.
“We were going to take a shot at making a historic kick,” Carroll said. “And if we do it, we win a great
football game. … Steven’s got a big leg. This was going to be a career kick, but he’s got enough leg to hit a big kick.”
After an Atlanta punt, the Seahawks started the final drive from their own 15 with 1:49 on the clock. Five plays later and with 22 seconds showing, Seattle was on the Falcons 45.
On first down, Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson spiked the ball.
On second down, wide receiver Sidney Rice was called for a false start — “I leaned over,” he said. “It wasn’t a sudden jump or anything like that, but it was a call and it hurt us.” — moving Seattle back to midfield. A 7-yard completion to tight end Zach Miller on second-and-15 reached the 43, and a third-down pass fell incomplete.
Rather than try for a first down on fourth-and-8, Carroll sent Hauschka out to attempt a field goal that would have been a Seahawks team record by 3 yards.
“If we don’t make the yards (for a first down) … then the game’s over,” Carroll explained.
“I wanted to give us a chance to win it. … It just boils down to, if you don’t complete the pass you don’t have a chance to win the game. I wanted to see if we could win it and do something great.”
It was, he added, “my call. (Seattle’s assistant coaches) all spoke up about what the situation was and what we could do. … But I didn’t want to not have a chance to win the game.”
Hauschka’s kick was made more difficult by Rice’s penalty, an infraction that Carroll called “a crusher . … It changed the complexion of the situation and that decision. Fourth-and-3 (instead of fourth-and-8) would’ve been a different deal right there.”
Also, Seattle’s final drive was hampered by the loss of two timeouts, taken during the third quarter to avoid penalties for having too many men on the field while on defense.
“Yeah, sure, it makes a big deal of difference at the end,” Carroll said of the penalties. “Of course, it would have (changed the final drive to have the timeouts).”
As it turned out, the Seahawks still had one timeout at the end of the game. They saved it in case they needed to stop the clock for a final field goal try, though it was unnecessary because of the third-down incompletion.
Still, with the way Seattle’s offense got untracked in the second half, most of the team’s offensive players were expecting a dramatic last-second win.
“I think everyone thought we were going to take it right down and kick a field goal to win the game,” Miller said. “We just ran out of time.
“Obviously we felt like we could kick that field goal. It’s a long one, but our kicker has the leg. He’s hit them in practice, and there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to kick that field goal and walk off winners,” Miller said.
“We had great confidence,” Rice said. “We had no doubt about it. We just ran out of time.”
In the end, said Jackson, “we gave ourselves a chance to win and that’s all you can ask for. … I wish we would’ve done a better job of getting (Hauschka) a little closer because obviously that would’ve made it a little easier for him, but he’s a tough kicker and he has the leg to get it there.”
Hauschka was not available for comment after the game. But as Miller said, “We felt like he could make that kick. He’s done it before (in practice), so there was no reason not to kick it. And obviously if he would’ve hit it we’d all be celebrating now.”