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Seahawks’ defense fails to finish off a strong day

Byron Maxwell’s tight coverage wasn’t enough to stop Michael Floyd from scoring the go-ahead touchdown. (AP)

By Brady Henderson

The play didn’t necessarily lose the game for the Seahawks. It just epitomized it.

The coverage by Byron Maxwell on Michael Floyd’s 31-yard touchdown catch was actually quite good, Seattle’s cornerback running stride-for-stride down the sideline with the Cardinals’ receiver and then swiping the ball loose as it arrived.

It just wasn’t good enough as Floyd made a juggling catch while falling into the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning score.

“It could have been better,” said a sullen Maxwell when asked about his his coverage on the play.

The same was true for Seattle’s defense as a whole during Sunday’s 17-10 loss at CenturyLink Field.

It was dominant for three and a half quarters, intercepting quarterback Carson Palmer four times and holding the Cardinals to 227 yards of offense up until when they took over with 7:26 remaining in the game, trailing 10-9 after a Seahawks touchdown had given Seattle the lead. It was the reason Seattle remained in the game despite its offensive ineptitude.

But it could have been better, specifically at the end when Arizona drove 80 yards en route to the end zone, a score the Seahawks weren’t able to answer when their ensuing possession ended with an interception.

“We just didn’t capitalize on some of the plays we needed to capitalize on, and they did,” said safety Kam Chancellor. “That’s what it comes down to.”

The Seahawks had four interceptions Sunday yet lost largely because their offense couldn’t capitalize on them. (AP)

That’s not to say Seattle’s defense didn’t make any. The Seahawks picked off Palmer in the end zone on the game’s first possession, Chancellor catching a ball that had bounced off tight end Rob Housler’s hands. Cornerback Richard Sherman ended two Arizona scoring threats with picks on Seattle’s half of the field – including one he made in the end zone – while linebacker Malcolm Smith gave Seattle possession at the Cardinals’ 1-yard line with his.

The four interceptions were the Seahawks’ second-most in a game this season, which made it even harder to believe they lost.

Consider it the latest paradox in a season that has had a few of them.

The Seahawks are on pace to break the franchise record for fewest points allowed, yet their three losses have come in games in which they relinquished a fourth-quarter lead. It’s happened twice in the last three weeks, and sandwiched in between those losses to San Francisco and Arizona was a 28-0 shutout win over the Giants, possibly Seattle’s best defensive performance of the last four seasons.

Two weeks ago in San Francisco, it was a pair of plays that did in the Seahawks – first a 56-yard run by Frank Gore that put the 49ers in position for the go-ahead field goal and then an 8-yard gain by Colin Kaepernick that converted a third down, allowing the 49ers to bleed the clock.

More coverage of Seattle’s Week-16 loss to Arizona at CenturyLink Field.

Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews
O’Neil: What We Learned
O’Neil: Russell Wilson’s first clunker
The Pete Carroll Show: A ‘frustrating’ day
Henderson: Close calls go Cardinals’ way

On Sunday, it was a handful of them. The Cardinals converted three third downs – one with Floyd’s touchdown catch – during a 10-play drive before a successful two-point attempt.

“It’s definitely not a time to panic,” said safety Earl Thomas.

Perhaps it’s time to reassess, though, after talk last week about Seattle’s defense potentially being one of the best of its generation.

“I feel like we’ve got a special defense and we put a lot on our shoulders,” said defensive end Red Bryant, “and we came up short.”

Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.