MIAMI — Mike Wahle didn’t shy away from the question. He just couldn’t provide an answer.
Why, Wahle was asked after Sunday’s 21-19 loss to the Miami Dolphins, does he keep getting called for penalties at the worst possible times.
“It’s tough, man,” the Seattle Seahawks’ veteran guard said Sunday afternoon. “I’ve never had that problem before. They’ve been crucial situations, certainly.”
Two holding penalties wiped out a pair of long runs in back-to-back losses to Green Bay and Tampa Bay. And on Sunday, a false-start penalty took away what could have been the score-tying, two-point conversion with 2:57 remaining.
“You have to correct it, obviously,” he said. “Plays like that kill you.”
Wahle found himself in the spotlight again, only this time he wasn’t alone. The Seahawks were flagged for five false-start penalties, and that was far from the only mental mistake the team made. Dropped passes were also a major problem, with five catchable passes ending up on the ground.
“It’s tough,” quarterback Seneca Wallace said. “But I know that (coach Mike Holmgren) said it before: with our margin of error, we can’t have mistakes.”
The most noticeable mistakes, in almost any game, come on penalties and obvious drops. Those two problems plagued the Seahawks throughout Sunday afternoon.
Wide receiver Keary Colbert dropped two passes, including a key third-down throw that saw him wide open in the middle of the field. Fellow wideouts Koren Robinson and Bobby Engram also let catchable balls go off their hands.
But perhaps the most costly came on Seattle’s final offensive play. Rookie tight end John Carlson, who has proven to be dependable for most of his short NFL career, had a fourth-down pass go off his hands to end the Seahawks’ hopes of a comeback.
“Anytime I can touch the ball, I should be able to catch it,” said Carlson, who almost certainly would have had a first down with more than 20 seconds left on the clock. “Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
The most-unfortunately timed mistake came on Wahle’s penalty.
With the Seahawks trailing by two points and needing the conversion to tie the score, the veteran came out of his stance a split second too early. Several players did not hear the whistle, so the play went on and resulted in a Wallace pass to Engram for what appeared to be the tying points.
Engram was among the players who never heard the whistle — or saw the flag.
“I just kind of saw the ref, and the one ref was giving me the it-wasn’t-good sign,” Engram said afterward. “I was like, ‘I caught it.’ And he said, ‘No, there was a flag.’
“I never really physically saw the flag on the ground. It was pretty loud down there.”
Wallace said that he was aware of the play being blown dead but that he threw the pass just in case.
“I think I heard something, and it felt like everybody stopped, but I didn’t really know,” he said. “On a two-point conversion, you’ve just got to take a shot regardless and try to make a play.”
Wahle knew right away that he had made a mistake. He said that he was trying to time his move in rhythm because it was difficult to hear amid all the crowd noise.
“I put my hand up to lead where I was going,” he said. “I thought I went when the ball was snapped, but you can’t just go on rhythm. Sometimes you can’t hear, so that’s what I try to go off of.”
The penalty meant the Seahawks had to re-do the conversion attempt from five yards back, at the Miami 7. Wallace’s pass to Carlson got knocked down at the goal line to keep the Dolphins ahead by two.
“That’s a life-or-death situation,” Engram said of the two-point conversion, “and (the penalty) just puts you a little more behind the 8-ball when you do that.”
Coach Mike Holmgren said that he was unaware of Wahle’s untimely calls — the holding penalties wiped out two runs that went for first downs, including a 51-yarder by Julius Jones in the Green Bay game — but added that Seattle can’t make as many mistakes as it did Sunday.
“It’s been a little bit of the story this season,” he said. “I mean, it is what it is. Unfortunately, it’s happening too much.
“Emotion’s a wonderful thing; you have to have emotion to give yourself a chance in this business. But if that’s all you have, you lose. So you have to execute, you have to be smart, (and) you have to avoid penalties.”
On Sunday, the Seahawks often failed on all three counts.
“We’re not getting those breaks when we need to,” Wahle said. “We have to make our own luck, because we’re certainly not getting any.”