Seahawks Disintegrate Late, Drop Overtime Thriller to Cardinals

CorbinSmithNFL

Throughout the course of a roaring 5-0 start, the Seahawks kept finding ways to pull out games late in regulation, winning three of their first five with less than a minute to play. After a missed field goal by Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez in overtime on Sunday night, they looked poised to do it again.

But even after leading for nearly the entire game, Seattle finally ran out of four leaf clovers on this evening in the desert.

Though Russell Wilson and company had opportunity after opportunity in the fourth quarter and extra period to seal the deal, they simply couldn’t capitalize. First, a blatant hold by receiver David Moore wiped out a game-winning touchdown for DK Metcalf. Then just a few plays later,  Wilson threw his third ill-advised interception to rookie Isaiah Simmons to set up Arizona for a stunning 37-34 comeback win to knock its division rival from the ranks of the unbeaten.

"We take such pride in finishing well and doing things right down the stretch and executing and making the other team have to out-execute us. It didn't feel like that tonight," coach Pete Carroll said following the game. "It's hard to win 'em all. We're gonna keep trying."

Carroll isn’t wrong. There’s a reason only two teams in NFL history have finished with an undefeated record in the regular season. There’s too much talent and parity in the league to expect to go unblemished and a loss what bound to happen at some point, especially given Seattle's propensity for playing in nail biters.

Still, Sunday’s collapse has been a long time coming for the Seahawks, who have been escaping by the skin of their teeth and living dangerously on the edge each and every week. A strong argument can be made Pete Carroll’s team could have had 2-3 losses already coming into this game if not for incredibly good fortune coupled with timely plays in the clutch, particularly from Wilson.

Back in Week 2, Seattle needed Lano Hill to blow up a fullback’s block and L.J. Collier to upend quarterback Cam Newton to hold on for a five-point win over the Patriots. The next week, backup safety Ryan Neal had to pick off Dak Prescott in the end zone to stop the Cowboys late rally. Two weeks later, after choking away a lead in the fourth quarter, they needed another pivotal fourth down stop to even give Wilson a chance to win the game.

Against the Cardinals, the Seahawks shouldn’t have had to worry about such a situation. They racked up nearly 600 yards of offense, including a 200-yard, three touchdown performance by receiver Tyler Lockett. Wilson threw for 388 yards and three scores while also rushing for 84 yards.

While mistakes were made, including a red zone interception by Wilson, they had withstood those miscues and controlled the game. DK Metcalf made a phenomenal play chasing down safety Budda Baker from behind and stopped him eight yards short of a pick-six, leading to a 14-point swing starting with a fourth down stop at the goal line and followed by a 97-yard touchdown drive capped off by a Carlos Hyde touchdown run.

"It was an inspiring play, nobody could miss it," Carroll said about Metcalf's remarkable effort chasing down Metcalf. "Everybody that was watching that play - whether you like football or not - you could see that was something extraordinary and I've just never seen one quite like that."

Leading from the 12-minute mark in the first quarter all the way until the closing seconds of regulation and Carroll's squad had a 34-24 advantage with under three minutes to play. But if fans and experts alike have learned anything watching this Seahawks team over the first couple of months, their games are never decided until the final horn. This time around, they paid for their inability to seal the deal.

The first major mishap came at the 3:02 mark following an incomplete pass from Kyler Murray to Christian Kirk on 3rd and 12. Trailing by two scores, coach Kliff Kingsbury opted to kick a field goal to make it a one-possession game and Gonzalez nailed the 52-yard kick.

But instead of making a fourth down stop and managing to stay in front by seven, Benson Mayowa made a critical error by trying to hurdle over an offensive lineman on the field goal attempt. Officials flagged him for a 15-yard personal foul leverage penalty, moving the chains and giving Arizona new life. Just two plays later, Murray found Kirk for an eight-yard touchdown, trimming the lead to 34-31.

After a pair of Hyde runs set up 3rd and short with under two minutes to play and Arizona out of timeouts, all Seattle needed was two yards to ice the game. But linebacker Tanner Vallejo had other plans, stuffing Hyde in the hole at the line of scrimmage and forcing a Michael Dickson punt.

When asked whether or not he considered going for it on 4th and 2 from the Seahawks 34- yard line, Carroll immediately shot the idea down, saying, "Not right there, no."

Orchestrating a remarkable eight-play, 54-yard drive in under a minute that included three spikes to stop the clock, Murray calmly led the Cardinals down the field and Gonzalez hammered home a 44-yard field goal as time expired, sending the game to overtime.

The Seahawks won the toss, putting the football back in Wilson's hands for another chance to win the game. But a false start by Brandon Shell moved the team back to 3rd and 11 and on a well-executed blitz package, cornerback Byron Murphy came untouched off the edge and sacked the star quarterback, forcing yet another Dickson punt.

Even then, being the cardiac kids that the Seahawk are, they weren't out of chances to steal a road win just yet. Kingsbury wound up icing his own kicker, calling timeout before Gonzalez made a game-winning 41-yard field goal. On his second attempt, the kick sailed wide left, giving Seattle life once again.

Typically, that means game over with Wilson on the other sideline. But unlike 34 times previously, including against the Vikings two weeks ago, he didn't have a winning drive to pull out of his magic hat.

"We weren't able to get the finish that we needed," Carroll stated. "We've been finding that way on one side or the other to make the play, make the sequence happen. We had our shots."

An 18-yard strike to Moore put Seattle past midfield with two minutes left to play in overtime, and after a pair of incompletions, Metcalf looked to have caught his third game-winning catch of the season. Sprung free on a bubble screen, he rocketed down the sideline for 48 yards, only for the play to be nullified by an obvious holding penalty against Moore.

On the ensuing play, with the blitz bearing down on him immediately after the snap, Wilson tried to sneak in a throw to Lockett. Unfortunately, he didn't see Simmons, and the first-round pick out of Clemson dropped back into coverage to pick off the pass and give the Cardinals one more shot in Seahawks' territory against a worn-down defense.

Five plays and 19 yards later, with a chance at redemption and 20 ticks left on the clock, Gonzalez was true from 48 yards, giving Murray and company their first lead of the night and finishing off the improbable comeback.

Despite tying Peyton Manning for the NFL record for passing touchdowns in the first six games of a season, Wilson took much of the blame for the loss after throwing three interceptions in the game. It was only the fourth time in his career he had thrown three or more picks and hadn't done it since December 2017 in Jacksonville.

"We just didn't do our job as a team and it starts with me," Wilson reflected. "I look at me first and got to be better and I'm looking forward to being better."

Set for another tough NFC West matchup against the 49ers next weekend, Wilson and the Seahawks won't have much time to lick their wounds and will need to regroup quickly. The schedule will only get tougher from here, with three divisional games in the next four weeks and a tough game against the Bills on the road sandwiched in between.

While the loss stings and several red flags that had been waving in the first five weeks finally came back to haunt the Seahawks, Lockett believes Sunday's late meltdown could wind up being a blessing for the team and with a 5-1 record, the sky isn't falling. Rather than suffer a devastating loss like this in the playoffs, receiving such a valuable lesson now could pay dividends later in the season.

"These are learning experiences. It might turn out to be one of the best things to happen to us, if you really think about it. Sometimes you gotta have a wake up call, sometimes you gotta get hit in the mouth when you thought you won the fight and it progresses you to be more successful down the road." 

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