STEVE: Not one, but two “Mistakes By The Lake” Sunday in Cleveland, where the Seahawks and Browns played a game only Lou “The Toe” Groza could love. I didn’t figure on the Seahawks winding up with as many points (3) as Albert Pujols hit home runs Saturday, especially against a last-place team. Then again, I didn’t figure on RB Marshawn Lynch not playing, either. His absence (back spasms during pre-game warmups) put too much pressure on Charlie Whitehurst, who in essence quarterbacked an offensive bye week.
ART: No Lynch, no C Max Unger, no TE Zach Miller, no QB Tarvaris Jackson. Still . . . no excuses. All it took was a single good play by any one of the healthy offensive players, and the Seahawks win. Yes, they had officiating calls go against them. So did the Browns — it was a weak crew. But all that was needed was a single good play in any number of circumstances. This is one of the most excruciating, aggravating losses in recent Seahawks history, not to mention the lowest combined score in club chronicles. Please, insert hot coals in my eye sockets.
STEVE: The Seahawks appeared to have the play in the third quarter when Leon Washington ran 81 yards for a touchdown on a punt return. But the officials flagged Kennard Cox for a phantom block-in-the-back penalty to nullify the TD. That appeared to be a really cheesy call. Still, you’re right, one measly touchdown by the offense would have done it. Without the field goal, Seattle would have been shut out for the second time this season (24-0 at Pittsburgh in Week 2). If that had happened, this team would be the first since 1992 to suffer two blankings in one season.
ART: As inexplicable as the recalled TD was — BTW, it was good to hear broadcaster and ex-Seahawks coach Jim Mora splutter and fume like old times — the killer was a self-imposed error when they managed only a field goal on the last possession of the third quarter — their only drive of consequence. Not only were they stoned after a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, six plays earlier Whitehurst completed a pass to WR Sidney Rice, who was so open that he should have scored, but the ball was so wide and underthrown that Rice had no choice but to catch and then stumble out of bounds. Said Whitehurst after the game: “If I make a better throw, he probably stays in there.” It was one of many sub-par throws by Whitehurst, who ended any QB controversy with a whimper.
STEVE: I didn’t know there was a quarterback controversy. Whitehurst has had some decent moments, but he’s never shown me that he is a starting NFL quarterback. He’s really a career clipboard carrier, if that.
ART: A year ago, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Whitehurst could challenge Matt Hasselbeck. That didn’t happen. Then this year, the job was given to a total stranger practically by default because the coaches didn’t trust Whitehurst. Jackson’s slow start left an opening for fans to believe Whitehurst gave Seattle a better chance. No way is that possible, especially after today. Naturally, Carroll wouldn’t throw him under the bus publicly: “I have to see the film,” Carroll said. “I’m not ready to call anybody out but myself. We just couldn’t find any rhythm. We got in our own way.”
STEVE: I’ll say they got in their own way. Had the Seahawks defense not done a good job, this game had no redeeming value for the franchise. Unfortunately, it ended poorly for the defense when DT Red Bryant was kicked out of the game in the last two minutes for shoving TE Alex Smith. Said Bryant later: “He was playing dirty all game, and I let him get to me.” Before that incident, Bryant blocked two field goal attempts — a Seahawks single-game first.
ART: Bryant and linebacker David Hawthorne were studs, and helped hold Cleveland to 298 yards. But the defense had letdowns too, allowing the Browns to convert 12 of 24 third downs and forcing shaky QB Colt McCoy into just one turnover. Still, the defense played well enough to allow a win 98 percent of the time, especially with the FG blocks, but Sunday was the two-percenter.
STEVE: Now the issue is how quickly the Seahawks can get back Lynch, Miller, Unger and Jackson. The Seahawks are fragile enough offensively with them, but dead in the water without them.
ART: As much as the coaches claimed Whitehurst was ready for the no-huddle aspect of the offense, he wasn’t. It’s not his game. He was 12 of 30 for 97 yards with a QB rating of 35. He did OK against the Giants two weeks ago as a sub. But even with two weeks of prep thanks to the bye, he had no feel for a fast pace and threw the ball all over the yard. Lynch’s absence — his back spasmed and was a surprise scratch — changed the game plan some, but didn’t force Whitehurst to throw into double coverage. And speaking of injuries, Carroll said after the game that the player who replaced Marcus Trufant at cornerback, Walter Thurmond, cracked his fibula and is out for the season. That is a blow, because the coaches privately believed Thurmond was a better bet than Trufant.
STEVE: So more roster roulette coming. My last thought on this game is that I’m glad I don’t have to watch this sort of football for at least another week.
ART: Ah, but remember how good the Seahawks looked in beating the Giants in New York, 36-25? They have the Cincinnati Bengals at home next Sunday; things change fast in the NFL. And you can always look at the Browns outcome this way — former Seahawks coach, fan favorite, and now Browns president Mike Holmgren, is so happy his chubby cheeks are glowing pink.