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O’Neil: Seahawks’ utterly agonizing loss their worst at home under Carroll

The Seahawks' loss to the Saints was their first home defeat in September under Pete Carroll. (AP)

It wasn’t the biggest home defeat the Seahawks have suffered under Pete Carroll.

It was the worst, though.

Saints 33, Seahawks 27: Rost’s notebook | Recap & photos | 710 reaction

That’s not just because the Seahawks lost 33-27 to a New Orleans team that was down to its backup quarterback. It’s how the Seahawks lost to that New Orleans team that was down to its backup quarterback that made Carroll’s first home loss in September as Seattle’s head coach so utterly agonizing.

The Seahawks may have scored 13 points in the final 3 minutes, but that final score didn’t fool anyone. The touchdown Seattle scored on the game’s final play may have technically spared the Seahawks the shame of a double-digit loss at home but we all saw what happened on Sunday, and the fact that it was Teddy Bridgewater who was playing quarterback for New Orleans and not Drew Brees only made it more dispiriting.

The Seahawks were down 20 points at home in the fourth quarter to an opponent they wound up outgaining by 250 yards. It’s one thing to get beaten in the NFL. It’s another thing to give away a game that was eminently winnable, but apparently, Seattle was in a giving mood.

First, the Seahawks gave up a touchdown on a 53-yard punt return in the first quarter. Then, Chris Carson gave up a fumble that was returned 33 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Finally, in the third quarter when the Seahawks were already trailing by double digits, Al Woods gave New Orleans a first down on a play that would have been a missed field goal because he lined up over the center. Yep. He lined up in the wrong spot, giving the Saints a first down on a drive that ultimately resulted in a touchdown on a 1-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas.

At that point, Seattle trailed by 20 points and Russell Wilson had thrown only one incomplete pass. That bears repeating: Seattle was down 27-7 and Wilson had completed all but one of the passes he had thrown, which points to the bigger problem that was underlying Sunday’s game.

The Seahawks did what they always tend to do on offense: They tried to grind it out. They plodded their way through the first half with a heavy diet of running plays and quick screens to wide receivers, and as long as the Saints didn’t pull too far in front, the Seahawks were content to keep it close.

The problem with that approach on Sunday was that Seattle clearly had the more potent offense. The Saints had more penalties in the first quarter (four) than first downs. New Orleans’ offense didn’t do much more than punt for the first 20 minutes of the game, and while the Saints did punt the ball fairly well – twice pinning the Seahawks inside their own 5-yard line in the first half – Seattle should have been looking to press the issue earlier.

Instead, the Seahawks were down by six points after Carson lost his third fumble in three games and had it returned for a touchdown, and then when the Saints mounted what was a pretty impressive scoring drive in the final 5 minutes of the period, you got the real sense that Seattle had put itself in a pretty big hole.

It’s certainly not the first time, but when Woods’ alignment mistake resuscitated a Saints drive that had petered out, well, the Seahawks were officially desperate. They had to start going for it on fourth down in the third quarter, and while it might have turned out OK had Wilson not overthrown Tyler Lockett in the end zone on fourth-and-5 with just under 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter, the margin for error was utterly gone at that point.

This wasn’t a gimme putt the Seahawks had on Sunday. The Saints showed they’ve got a formidable defense, one of the league’s better special teams units (though that kicker seems shaky) and Alvin Kamara just might be the league’s most well-rounded running back.

But this isn’t one of those games where you tip your hat to the opposition, but rather the kind of loss that leaves you scratching your head.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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