On the road and down at halftime 14-0 with 10 yards rushing and no Russell Wilson or Chris Carson coming through the door, the Seahawks Sunday were in as bleak a regular-season moment as they have had in the Pete Carroll era.
So the rally to force overtime in Pittsburgh against an equally desperate Steelers team moved Carroll into a post-game gush that was lush even for him.
“It was gorgeous,” he said. “It was so electric (on the sideline). Everybody was helping each other. It was a beautiful thing. The game gives you these opportunities sometimes.”
Then he paused:
“The sick part is we didn’t get the win.”
In case the season ends on schedule Jan. 9, 2022, jot down that phrase as a candidate for the seasonal epitaph.
The Seahawks are 2-4 and could be 4-2 but for two overtime losses, including 23-20 (box) Sunday at Heinz Field, which would be good for a team that has had the worst defense in the NFL this year.
Seahawks fans are familiar with the theme, since it happened a year ago too. Then, the Seahawks were 5-0 before things slid, then recovered via defensive renaissance to finish 12-4. This time around, they have zero margin for error, because, for a while, they won’t have Wilson to cover up mistakes and shortfalls.
Nearly everyone else has to be healthy and at their apexes. Especially the premier guys. Like SS Jamal Adams.
In a game larded with turning points and controversial officiating calls that were, or could have been, decisive, the final-play fumble by new starting QB Geno Smith will be what is most remembered.
In OT, Steelers menace T.J. Watt blasted him from the side on his only scramble of the night. Pittsburgh recovered and kicked not only the winning field goal but the Seahawks in the gut.
In the previous game against the Rams, Smith, relieving Wilson, threw an interception that closed out Seattle’s final chance to win.
“I can’t keep coming up short,” Smith said. “l’ll put that on myself — back-to-back weeks.”
But at least Smith’s fumble can be attributed to the ruthless work of a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The Adams error has no such accessory.
With 1:53 left in the fourth quarter and tied at 17, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass hard and directly at Adams around the Seattle 35-yard line. There was a decent chance that Adams would have turned the interception into a pick-six.
Instead, the ball clanged preposterously off his face mask while Adams was looking directly at Big Ben.
It is hard imagine how that happened, other than to suggest he simply didn’t see it coming. Which is a little like Richard Dreyfuss overlooking the shark in Jaws.
“It was really loud, though,” said Carroll, presumably alluding to the size of the mistake. “I didn’t see it well enough. I’m going more that I thought he was very active tonight and I did nice job.”
If Carroll didn’t see it, he and Adams were the only two in the stadium and the Sunday night national TV audience to do so. The Steelers accepted the gift and turned it into a field goal and 20-17 lead with 1:35 left. The Seahawks then had to go on a wild drive in which Smith, in his first start in five years, went five-for-five passing to set up Jason Myers for a 43-yard field goal at 00:00 to force overtime.
Making the clank worse, at least from an audience-optics standpoint, was Adams using NBC’s pre-recorded self-intros to call himself “best in the NATION” in a cartoonish voice. For even newbie fans, Adams’ clowning made himself for a target of potential scorn if he didn’t live up to his own hype. Indeed, he failed.
He had six tackles, but even though the Seahawks made an effort to call on him for his specialty of pass rushing, he never got to Big Ben, a less-than-spry 39 who nevertheless was sacked once for a three-yard loss. That kept Adams at oh-for-the-season regarding sacks and hits for the guy who set an NFL record for DB sacks last year at 9.5.
Given that the Seahawks in July made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL with a long-term contract extension, the skunk through six games qualifies as more than an embarrassment. It borders on failure, especially during Wilson’s absence.
At least the rest of the defense picked up a lot of Adams’ slack. They “held” the Steelers to 345 yards total offense, 105 yards less that their grim average, allowed five third-down conversions in 14 attempts, recovered a fumble, and permitted only three field goals in the second half and OT.
Additionally, they may have found cornerback help in Tre Brown. The rookie fourth-round pick from Oklahoma saw his first NFL action after recovering from a knee injury and did well as part of a rotation at left cornerback, with D.J. Reed staying on the right side.
On offense, the Seahawks dispatched a terrible first half by slashing the Steelers with a 10-play drive to open the second half that included nine runs, the final one a two-yarder by RB Alex Collins, who finished with 101 yards on 20 carries in placed of injured Chris Carson. It was the first 100-yard game by a Seattle rusher since 2019.
The bigger development was that Smith handled the starting job — the first time a QB besides Wilson started a Seahawks game in 3,608 days — about as well as could be expected.
“He was solid,” Carroll said. “I thought he managed the game well. He gave us a chance to win. Unfortunately the ball was knocked out on that last play. But it was a great hit. (The fumble) kills him because these are extraordinary opportunities for him, and he wants to come through.
“He wants to show he can do it and play, wasn’t able to finish it. But I thought he played tough as hell. He was clear and calm and poised. This game was not too big for him at all.”
Wilson, of course, is the master finisher. The question is whether playoff hopes will be finished before he gets back.
Taylor returns home with team after injury
Seahawks DE Darrell Taylor flew back with the team Sunday after he was carted off the field and taken to a Pittsburgh hospital. A scary injury episode late in the fourth quarter brought the game to a halt as Taylor laid on his back with little motion for several minutes following a tackle of Steelers RB Najee Harris.
Carroll said after the game that CT scans on Taylor were “clear” and that Taylor, the team leader in sacks who missed his rookie year with a leg injury, had full movement of his arms and legs.
“That’s a really good preliminary report,” Carroll said, adding that Taylor will have to have more tests done.
TV replays showed Taylor’s face mask colliding in a scrum with the leg of teammate DT Al Woods. Both teams gathered around medical personnel as he was placed on a stretcher and taken off on a cart with his facemask removed and his arms taped to the board.
Carroll said that the care was largely a precaution, and Taylor was angry that he had to be taken off taped down on a stretcher.
“He didn’t want any part of that,” Carroll said.