The Seahawks must figure out how to win away from home if they expect to push their way into the playoffs
Following their 44-41 overtime loss to the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday, Seahawks players had every reason to feel they'd been jobbed. In the final minute of regulation of a game that Seattle had led 41-24 with 6:56 remaining, the Seahawks were the victims of a pair of questionable calls that helped set up Matt Stover's game-tying 40-yard field goal. But no one was talking about dubious calls in the Seattle locker room afterward, because the Seahawks knew they had no one to blame but themselves. Despite quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's best day as a pro (23 of 41 passing for 333 yards and five touchdowns) against the NFL's third-ranked defense, Seattle wasted an opportunity to reverse a disturbing trend: losing on the road.
Seattle is 1-4 away from home (7-4 overall), and though they had the opportunity on Sunday to keep pace with the Rams atop the NFC West, the Seahawks again failed to summon the fortitude necessary to close out a game that, in the words of a crestfallen Hasselbeck, "we could have, should have won."
First, Ravens safety Ed Reed blocked a Tom Rouen punt and returned it for a touchdown that trimmed Seattle's lead to 41-31. On the Seahawks' next possession linebacker Ray Lewis stripped fullback Mack Strong at the Ravens' 28 and recovered the fumble. On the ensuing drive quarterback Anthony Wright and wideout Marcus Robinson hooked up for their fourth touchdown pass of the day, a nine-yarder with 1:12 left. That score came only after the Seahawks had allowed Baltimore to convert a fourth-and-28 on a 44-yard pass to Frank Sanders that ricocheted off of Robinson's hands.
Down 41-38, the Ravens had only two timeouts left, and when the Seahawks recovered Baltimore's onside kick, they were in position to kill most if not all of the clock. But on second down Seattle tackle Floyd Womack was flagged for not reporting as an eligible receiver. In fact Womack had reported, and following a brief conference, the officials picked up the flag. They failed, however, to restart the clock (which now showed 58 seconds), effectively giving Baltimore an extra time out. When the Ravens stopped running back Shaun Alexander on third-and-one and Hasselbeck on fourth-and-inches, they still had 39 seconds with which to work. A questionable 44-yard pass-interference penalty against rookie cornerback Marcus Trufant put Stover in position for his game-tying kick. He then capped the comeback with a 42-yard field goal with 6:39 left in overtime.
Afterward, stunned Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren was at a loss to explain his team's collapse. "It's a momentum thing, a confidence thing," he said. "You have to win a couple of these, and all of a sudden you don't lose so many of them. On the road we haven't shut the door real well."
Indeed, for the third straight time the Seahawks failed to win a road game in which they led or were tied in the fourth quarter. The implosion on Sunday came against a team that piled up 41 points after halftime behind Wright (20 of 37 for 319 yards and four touchdowns), who was making his seventh NFL start.
It's a pity that Hasselbeck—whose evolution this year from disenfranchised quarterback to respected team leader has energized the team and the city—saw the finest day of his five-year NFL career eclipsed by a series of unlikely plays and bad calls. Even more disappointing for Hasselbeck was the nagging notion that the Seahawks, looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, finally had a chance to shed their image as nightmare travelers and fumbled it away. "Today felt like it was our day to show people who we are," he said. "We're better than this. I know we are."
With a brutal closing stretch that includes trips to NFC North leader Minnesota and division foes St Louis and San Francisco—combined home record: 14-3—the Seahawks can only hope he's right.
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