O’Neil: Coaching decisions cost Seahawks in loss to Falcons
It wasn’t a foot that decided Monday’s game between the Falcons and the Seahawks.
It was a coaching decision that wound up costing the Seahawks in a 34-31 loss to Atlanta.
Actually, a couple of them. Because while Blair Walsh’s 52-yard field-goal attempt came up just short on the second-to-last play, denying the Seahawks a chance at overtime, it was Pete Carroll’s decision to go for a touchdown at the end of the first half that really cost the Seahawks.
Well, that and burning a timeout with an ill-advised challenge in the fourth quarter, a timeout the Seahawks most certainly could have used during a final drive which began at the Seattle 25 with 1 minute, 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks got as far as the Atlanta 35 before attempting what would have been a game-tying field goal with 7 seconds to go. Walsh’s kick was on-line but landed 3 feet short, and that would leave the Seahawks kicking themselves for everything from the two turnovers Seattle committed in the first 16 minutes of the game, to the decision to forego three points at the end of the second quarter for a chance at a touchdown, to the defense’s game-long difficulty in stopping the Falcons on third down.
Seattle didn’t play all that poorly, outgaining Atlanta 360 yards to 279, which was remarkable given all of the injuries afflicting the Seahawks. Russell Wilson threw for 258 yards and led the team with a season-high 86 yards rushing, and Tyler Lockett was a threat in kickoff return for the first time all season.
Seattle had to do all that, though, just to keep it close.
And honestly, that’s more than the Seahawks should have been able to do given all the injuries, the errors and the impulsive coaching decisions that took place on Monday.
Seattle lost cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a head injury on the second play of the game, further thinning a secondary that was already missing Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman.
Then there were two turnovers that Seattle committed on its first three possessions, one of which Atlanta returned for a touchdown. Throw in a hormonal decision to fake a field-goal attempt at the end of the first half and an absolutely inexplicable replay challenge in the fourth quarter, challenging a pass to Doug Baldwin that was ruled incomplete on the field and in which replays showed the ball hitting the turf.
Carroll challenged, costing Seattle the second of its three timeouts before punting the ball back to Atlanta with 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was Seattle’s first punt all game, and that timeout would have been really useful in the final 2 minutes.
Atlanta converted nine of 14 third-down plays in the game and took advantage of a pair of early Seattle turnovers, including a second-quarter fumble by Wilson which Adrian Clayborn returned for a touchdown.
The Seahawks trailed by 14 points midway through the first period. They were down 11 with 7:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Seattle came back to cut the lead to three points after Wilson threw 29 yards to Doug Baldwin for a touchdown. A two-point conversion to Jimmy Graham cut the deficit to three points with 3 minutes remaining.
Of course, those were three points the Seahawks would have had if Carroll had been content to attempt a 31-yard field goal at the end of the first half. Instead, punter Jon Ryan took the snap and flipped the ball to tight end Luke Willson, who was tackled almost immediately. The Seahawks had a timeout left but would have had to score a touchdown from the Atlanta 14 to make the gamble pay off.
“It would have been a great call if it had worked,” Carroll said.