BRADY HENDERSON

Pete Carroll: Seahawks’ loss to Bucs was a bad day, not a sign of trouble

Nov 29, 2016, 10:18 AM | Updated: Dec 2, 2016, 12:56 pm
Before Sunday, Seattle had either led or been within one score in the fourth quarter in 88 straight...
Before Sunday, Seattle had either led or been within one score in the fourth quarter in 88 straight games. (AP)
(AP)

Before kickoff Sunday in Tampa Bay, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had a conversation about the unpredictable nature of NFL games.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” Carroll told “Brock and Salk” on Monday, recounting what he said to someone as his team warmed up to play. “I don’t have a freakin’ idea what’s going to happen today. I feel like that every game. Every week I feel like I don’t know. I don’t know until we start playing. You think you’ve got a feel for it, but until the guys go out and start hitting it and doing it, then you’ve got to wait and find out sometime.”

The egg Seattle laid in its 14-5 loss to the Buccaneers was an example of all that.

The Seahawks came to Raymond James Stadium as one of the NFL’s hottest teams, winners of three straight games, including one two weeks ago in New England that showed they’re capable of beating anyone. Quarterback Russell Wilson was finally healthy and Seattle’s annual offensive surge was underway. That’s why the Seahawks were favored by a touchdown even though they were missing two starters in their secondary and others elsewhere.

But the Seahawks started slow and never got on track Sunday. Tampa Bay scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, and while the Seahawks’ defense pitched a shutout after that, even forcing two turnovers, the 14-0 hole was too deep given Seattle’s inability to mount anything on offense.

Seattle punted on seven of its 11 possessions, failing to convert a third down until the fourth quarter and finishing only 1 for 11 there. Wilson was picked off twice and finished with a 38.8 passer rating, the second-worst of his career. The Seahawks allowed a season-high six sacks as their offensive line, playing without starting center Justin Britt, took a major step backwards in pass protection. It all added up to only 245 net yards of offense and three points as Seattle’s other score came via a safety.

For an offense that had seemingly turned a corner over the last three games, this was an inexplicably awful showing.

A nine-point loss hardly constitutes a blowout, but this was by one measurement the least competitive the Seahawks have been in five seasons. They had either led or been within one score in the fourth quarter in an NFL-record 88 consecutive regular-season games (98 including playoffs). That streak began following a 24-0 loss to Pittsburgh in 2011 and it ended Sunday, when Seattle trailed by nine points throughout the second half.

Carroll believes it was merely one bad day, an aberration as opposed to the start of a trend in the wrong direction. At least that’s the way he chose to look at it.

“I ain’t worried about it a bit. Not one bit,” he said. “Let’s go back to work and get right. I couldn’t wait to get in the locker room and let’s turn the page and let’s get going because that was a day when we just didn’t start it well, I didn’t do well, we didn’t adjust well, we didn’t manage the game we need to to get the thing done.”

The loss dropped the Seahawks to 7-3-1 and hurt their chances of securing home-field advantage through the playoffs. They lost ground to Dallas, which improved to 10-1 and is running away with the NFC’s top seed. And Seattle’s hold on the No. 2 seed is now tenuous after Detroit and Atlanta, the other division leaders, improved to 7-4.

The Seahawks’ positioning in the NFC West didn’t change Sunday after every other team in the division also lost. The Seahawks have a three-game lead over Arizona (4-6-1), which they’ll host in Week 16, and their remaining schedule sets up favorably. Seattle’s final five opponents are all below .500 and have a combined record of 18-36-1. The Seahawks will be at home for three of those games.

And they should be getting healthier, particularly on defense. Michael Bennett and Mike Morgan are expected to be back for Sunday night’s game against Carolina while Earl Thomas and DeShawn Shead have a chance. Same for Britt.

But losing to a 5-5 Buccaneers team still stings.

“We’ve got a pretty good team and we’ve done a lot of good things and I really believe that we can get back on track,” Carroll said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with who’s playing or any of that kind of stuff. I just think that we missed an opportunity. We have been so consistent this year in the way we’ve started games, the way we’ve taken off, in terms of kind of like the readiness. It didn’t feel like we were as ready. It felt like during the week like we did fine, but when it showed up at game-time, that’s why I never know.”

The Seahawks’ previous loss marked something of a turning point for their season. A meeting on the plane ride home from New Orleans led to the conclusion that Wilson was healthy enough run Seattle’s entire offense, including the longer-developing passing plays that had to be shelved while his mobility was compromised by injuries.

There was no significant development on this flight home, Carroll said, just an understanding of how the Seahawks have to put their latest loss behind them.

“We knew we’ve got to get going again. We’ve got to start practicing again and get rolling,” Carroll said. “Now, if it happens next week and the next week, then we’re in trouble. I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll show you that. There’s nothing we can do about it but go back to work.”

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