SEATTLE — Of all the debate that this Seattle Seahawks season will elicit, Pete Carroll’s statement after Sunday’s game is one thing no one can argue.
“That was about as disappointing a loss as we’ve had,” Carroll said after the downtrodden Chicago Bears rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Seahawks 25-24 at a snow-covered Lumen Field.
Seattle, in fact, led by 10 points twice in the game and never trailed until the Bears got a touchdown and then a two-pointer to take the lead with 1:01 left.
“We felt like we should have won that game for sure,” quarterback Russell Wilson said.
Despite Seattle’s subpar season, the Seahawks were 7-point favorites against a Chicago team that came in 4-10 and began the day hearing a report from the NFL Network that fourth-year coach Matt Nagy could be fired this week (or told that he will be after the season).
The game also began with a somewhat festive air, the Seahawks playing just their third snow game in the history of Lumen Field and first since 2008 against the New York Jets in the final game of the Mike Holmgren era.
“Guys were fired up for the game,” insisted Wilson, even though Seattle was also just five days removed from a loss against the Rams that effectively ended any realistic playoff hopes.
And for a while, it looked like the Seahawks might snow in the Bears with DK Metcalf catching a 41-yard pass in the first quarter for his first TD since Oct. 31 and the revived Rashaad Penny running all over the Bears for 135 yards.
When Jason Myers lined up for a 39-yard field goal with 7:23 left that could put the Seahawks back up by 10, a win that would at least provide a little bit of fun seemed in the offing.
Instead, Myers pushed the kick left.
The miss came a play after Wilson took a 13-yard sack on a third-and-four play at the Chicago 8.
Carroll said later: “We’ve got to get rid of the football. We can’t take a sack there.”
Still, Carroll allowed, “We’ve got to hit the field goal, too.”
The minute Myers didn’t, a feeling of dread began to peak through the clouds.
“That was a clear situation where we gave them an opportunity to get some momentum from us,” Carroll said.
Still, Seattle then stopped the Bears and took over at the Chicago 46 with 5:01 left, seeming in position to again put the game away especially after the Seahawks then got to the 28. But a Colby Parkinson holding penalty pushed the Seahawks back, and Michael Dickson uncharacteristically punted it into the end zone.
The Bears then got 30 yards on a completion and another 15 on a personal foul by Darrell Taylor for roughing QB Nick Foles, and the unimaginable seemed inevitable.
Five plays later, Foles hit former Seahawk Jimmy Graham in the corner of the end zone, with Graham holding on to the ball between two Seattle defenders.
Then the Bears, with nothing to lose, went for two. Foles bought time and hit Damiere Byrd between two more Seattle defenders in the back of the end zone, Byrd getting his knee down as he hung onto the ball with one hand.
So what happened at the end to allow Foles, who hadn’t played a game all season and was named as Chicago’s starter only Friday, and the Bears to suddenly seem like a world-beater at the end?
“They made a play, and we didn’t and that gave them the lead,” Seahawks defensive end Carlos Dunlap said.
It was as good an explanation as any in a season that has generally defied reason as the Seahawks have now lost five games by three points or fewer, something that used to be their specialty (all five of Seattle’s wins have come by a touchdown or more).
“I think that’s the biggest and the toughest part about this season,’’ said Wilson, who has led 35 fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drives in his career but none this season.
Seattle had one more shot, taking over at its own 27 with 53 seconds and two timeouts. But the drive was so ineffectual — Seattle got called for two holds and a false start — that the Seahawks didn’t hold the ball long enough to use both time outs.
In other words, the collapse was a total team effort, the offense, defense and special teams all contributing, a fitting epithet for a season as disappointing as any in recent team history. Fans displayed their own feelings about it by showering the field with snowballs as time ran out.
Asked later why he considered it as disappointing a loss as any in his tenure, Carroll said: “Just because it was just our game to be had. It was our game to be had. We had the opportunity to win this football game and didn’t do it.”
But the big-picture ramifications of it also can’t be ignored.
The loss eliminated the Seahawks from playoff contention and also assured they will finish in last in the NFC West a year after winning it. In fact, Seattle had never finished worse than second since Wilson arrived in 2012.
And all of that will only heighten expectation about where things go from here. Will Wilson again possibly angle for a trade? Will the Seahawks decide it’s time to rebuild?
Asked if he thought it was time to rebuild, Carroll punted on the question.
“I don’t know. I can’t — we’re just going through this week,” he said. “That’s all we’re doing. We’re talking about this week.”
Dreary as that might now be with all that’s left being a visit from 2-12-1 Detroit and then a trip to Arizona.
“We’re still focused, committed,” Dunlap said. “We’re too invested to quit now; we’re going to finish this season strong. As you see, these games are coming down to the wire and here we are, probably no chance at the playoffs after that, and we’re still in dog fights every time. You have got to respect that, and it speaks to the character of the locker room right there.”
Carroll, too, said he expects the Seahawks to play out the season as they always have, while saying he’s pointing the finger first at himself.
“I don’t mind holding myself to that kind of accountability,” Carroll said. “And I’ve just got to find a way, and I’m expecting our other coaches and the players to do the same thing where everybody gives it everything they have to give us every shot to be as good as we can possibly be, and it starts with me.”