Thirty-four seconds away from moving on to the NFC Championship Game Sunday, the Seahawks couldn’t exert any pressure on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and allowed two huge completions that put the Falcons into position for the game-winning field goal with eight seconds remaining.
In th first half, with Seattle in the red zone, the Seahawks faced third-and-one and fourth-and one. On the third-down play, head coach Pete Carroll opted to hand the ball to rookie Robert Turbin, who was stuffed for no gain. Passing on a field goal attempt by new kicker Ryan Longwell, Carroll called on Michael Robinson to pick up the first down, a fullback dive play that had worked in the regular season seven times in seven tries. Robinson was dropped for a yard loss and the ball was lost on downs.
Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season, stood on the sidelines on both plays. Bad strategy by Carroll?
The NFL’s No. 1-ranked scoring defense, allowing 15.3 points during the regular-season, allowed 30 for the first time (previous high 28 vs. Detroit Oct. 28). The league’s 10th-ranked rushing defense got steamrolled by the 29th-rated Atlanta running game. Also, Seattle’s No. 4-ranked rushing offense got taken apart by the league’s No.-21 ranked rush defense.
Regardless of any particular play, it’s not surprising, historically anyway, the Seahawks lost. Only one No. 5 seed since 1990 has defeated a No. 1 seed (2007 New York Giants). No West Coast team since the 1989 Los Angeles Rams has won consecutive playoff games on the East Coast.
Russell Wilson actually matched the NFL record, first set by the 1957 Detroit Lions against the San Francisco 49ers in that year’s NFL Championship game, by engineering the largest comeback – 20 points – in NFL playoff history, but couldn’t do anything about Ryan’s two subsequent completions that enabled the Falcons to kick the game-winning field goal.
How come defensive coordinator Gus Bradley switched to a soft, deep zone for that drive instead of playing the coverage that had held the Falcons to seven points and just 107 yards in the second half? Will it cost him the Philadelphia job?
Lots to chew on from Sunday’s game. Was Seattle’s 30-28 season-ending loss a case of an heroic comeback falling just short, or was it illustrative of the fact that the Seahawks are deficient at, among other things, rushing the passer, particularly without Chris Clemons available? There is no argument here: The Seahawks this season defeated two of the NFL’s Final Four: San Francisco and New England.
So where does Sunday’s loss rank among the most painful postseason memories involving Seattle teams? Here are 10 other stupefying defeats, compiled by Art Thiel and Steve Rudman of Sportspress Northwest and Mike Gastineau, then of KJR radio, for their 2009 “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists.” Unlike the book version, we list them in chronological order, and will ask you to rank them on the double-ouch scale.
Nuggets 98, Sonics 94 (OT), May 7, 1994: The Sonics finished 63-19 and, with Chicago’s Michael Jordan off playing baseball, were favored to win the NBA title. In the first round, the Sonics took a predictable 2-0 lead over the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets, but lost Games 3 and 4 in Denver, sending the series back to Seattle for the finale. The Sonics won 14 in a row at home and lost only four times in Seattle all season. But Game 5 went into overtime. Shawn Kemp put Seattle ahead 94-93 with 2:29 to play, but the Sonics didn’t score again. A couple of blocked shots by Dikembe Mutombo, who had 32 for the series, preserved Denver’s unprecedented victory – the Nuggets became the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1.
Connecticut 75, Washington 74, March 19, 1998; Connecticut 98, Washington 92 (OT), March 24, 2006: Twice the Northwest Huskies have met the Northeast Huskies in the NCAA men’s hoops tourney, and twice the Seattles were denied upsets at the last moments. In ’98, the Huskies entered the East Regional semifinal against UConn as nine-point underdogs and seemed on the verge of falling out of contention on multiple occasions. But the Huskies rallied for their only lead, 74-73, with 29 seconds to play. In the final moments Richard Hamilton put back his own wild miss to vanquish Washington. In the Sweet Sixteen of ’06, Washington fought through brutal officiating for the late lead, only to see UConn’s Rashad Anderson hurl a three with 1.8 seconds left to force OT, then walk away in the extra period.
Miami of Ohio 59, Washington 58, March 12, 1999: The favored Huskies seemed in control of their first-round, Midwest Regional matchup in the Louisiana Superdome after guard Donald Watts scored 12 consecutive points in a four-minute stretch in the second half that gave the UW a 43-37 lead. But Wally Szczerbiak, who finished with 43 points, shot the Redhawks back into the lead. With Miami clinging to a 59-58 lead, Watts was going for the game winner but was stripped. The ball popped to teammate Greg Clark, whose shot was snuffed by Szczerbiak.
Yankees 5, Mariners 0, Oct. 14, 2000: Back in the postseason after a three-year absence, the Mariners opened the ALCS with a 2-0 victory at Yankee Stadium, but were blown out in Games 2 and 3, losing 7-1 and 8-2. Looking to even the series, the Mariners ran into Roger Clemens at his postseason best. He allowed just one hit (a seventh-inning double to Al Martin) and fanned 15, pitching the first-ever LCS one-hitter. The Mariners lost the series 4-2.
Dolphins 20, Seahawks 17, Jan. 9, 2000: In the last game played in the Kingdome, the Seahawks took a 17-point lead over the Dolphins, but couldn’t contain 38-year-old Dan Marino, who rallied Miami by completing 12 of 21 passes for 158 yards in the second half. The Seahawks had enough time to pull out the victory late, but went backward on three consecutive plays.
Yankees 3, Mariners 1, Oct. 21, 2001: Winners of a record 116 games, the Mariners trailed the series 2-1, but led 1-0 in Game 4 of the ALCS after second baseman Bret Boone homered in the eighth inning off reliever Ramiro Mendoza. In the bottom of the eighth, Bernie Williams hit a wind-aided home run off Arthur Rhodes, and then Alfonso Soriano won it with a walk-off blast off Kazuhiro Sasaki in the ninth. Soriano’s home run became the turning point in the series as the Yankees went on to win it 4-1 and deny the Mariners their best opportunity in franchise history to reach the World Series.
Texas 47, Washington 43, Dec. 28, 2001: The Huskies, who led the Holiday Bowl with Texas by 19 points following Willie Hurst’s four-yard touchdown with 3:51 to play in the third quarter, came apart in the fourth as Longhorns quarterback Major Applewhite directed a 27-7 scoring binge, which included 20 unanswered points. On Texas’ game-winning drive, Applewhite, who finished with 473 yards and four touchdown passes (both bowl records against the Huskies), completed passes of 12, 25 and 32 yards.
Packers 33, Seahawks 27 (OT), Jan. 10, 2004: Facing Green Bay at Lambeau Field in an NFC wild card game, the Seahawks rallied to tie at the end of regulation on a one-yard run by Shaun Alexander. On the opening series of OT, the Seahawks were on the move after quarterback Matt Hasselbeck delivered his famous boast picked up by the referee’s mic, “We want the ball. We’re going to score,” just before the coin toss. Facing third-and-11, Hasselbeck threw the ball into the left flat toward little-used receiver Alex Bannister, who failed to run his route properly. Green Bay cornerback Al Harris intercepted and returned it 52 yards for the winning touchdown.
Rams 27, Seahawks 20. Jan. 8, 2005: In their first home playoff game since after the 1999 season, the Seahawks had a chance to tie in the closing seconds, but Bobby Engram could not handle Matt Hasselbeck’s pass in the end zone on fourth-and-4, the ball caroming off his facemask. By losing, the Seahawks extended their playoff drought to 21 years. By winning, the Rams became the first 8-8 team to win a playoff game. Three of the four previous 8-8 teams had lost by double-digit margins.
Steelers 21, Seahawks 10, Feb. 5, 2006: Seattle had multiple opportunities to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL, but a series of dubious officiating calls and numerous misplays (especially dropped passes and broken coverages) of their own relegated the Seahawks to 21-10 losers in their first appearance in the national holiday.