After last season, when the Seahawks had Tarvaris Jackson starting at quarterback, they needed a leader who could make a last-chance push to the end zone.
So, during the offseason, the Seahawks picked up quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency and Russell Wilson in the NFL Draft.
One of them, the team brass hoped, could lead a big comeback of the kind seen so often in the NFL.
Well, the Seahawks on Sunday needed such a comeback in Arizona, and they had their chance — a few chances. Wilson, the rookie selected over Flynn to start the season under center, led Seattle downfield in the final two minutes of Seattle’s season opener, getting the Seahawks to the 31-yard line with four downs to use and under two minutes to play. Down 20-16 in enemy territory, the Seahawks needed a touchdown — a three-point field goal wouldn’t cut it.
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An incomplete pass to receiver Doug Baldwin, a 5-yard carry by running back Marshawn Lynch and a sack put the Seahawks on the Arizona 27-yard line for fourth down with 6 yards to go. The game had all come down to this, and it was Seattle’s last chance. Or was it? Wilson put it in the air to receiver Sidney Rice, but the refs pulled out their flags and called Arizona’s Patrick Peterson for pass interference.
That gave the Seahawks four more chances at the 13-yard line. On first down, Wilson’s pass to receiver Braylon Edwards dropped incomplete. On second down, Wilson went to Baldwin from the shotgun, and it looked like he had the touchdown before the ball popped out. Another incomplete pass, and Baldwin didn’t get up. Seattle’s medical staff rushed over and the clock was stopped.
After Baldwin walked off the field under his own power, the Seahawks were still at the 13-yard line on third down. Wilson tried Edwards again, and the Cardinals got flagged again for pass interference, this time committed by William Gay. Armed with four new chances and better field position, at the 6-yard line, the Seahawks had yet another last chance to win the game.
On the new first down, Lynch ran two yards up the middle and the Seahawks called a timeout. The replacement refs stopped the clock with 30 seconds left in the game — but Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt went wild. Seattle, he argued, shouldn’t have a timeout left — under NFL rules, any time-stoppage for an injury inside the two-minute warning results in a charged timeout. Whisenhunt was correct, but the refs said Seattle was in the clear. Yet another break for the Seahawks.
But from the 4-yard line, Wilson threw three more incomplete passes into the end zone and the Seahawks blew their final final chance. With 18 seconds to go, Arizona got the ball back on downs and Kolb took a knee to run down the clock.
Seattle on Sunday lost its hard-fought season opener despite solid efforts by both the offense and the defense.
Wilson was stellar in the preseason but on Sunday looked a bit more like the rookie he is, completing 18 of 35 passes for 153 yards and tossing one touchdown and one interception. Seattle was able to fight through his handful of rookie mistakes — a couple delay-of-game flags, a few questionable throw-aways and a backward-pass fumble that turned over the ball — and led Arizona deep into the game. After trailing 10-3 at halftime, the Seahawks fought back to take a 16-13 lead in the fourth quarter.
Things kept going Seattle’s way when, with 8:33 left in the game, Arizona starting QB John Skelton went down and was carted off the field with an ankle injury. Cardinals backup Kevin Kolb came in — but shocked the suffocating Seahawks defense by marching downfield and tossing a touchdown on his first series, giving Arizona their final 20-16 lead with 4:59 to go.
Kolb threw 66 yards in his short time on the field, going 6-for-8 with Arizona’s game-winning touchdown. He was able to break through a Seahawks defense that had shut down the Cardinals throughout the second half. In fact, Seattle’s defense didn’t allow Arizona a first down in the entire third quarter.
Linebacker K.J. Wright had nine tackles and safety Kam Chancellor had five tackles and a sack in the game. And heads-up play by cornerback Richard Sherman resulted in a third-quarter interception that shifted the momentum in Seattle’s favor.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks also got a lot of energy from fullback Leon Washington, who had two long returns — one on a kickoff and one on a punt. His 83-yard kickoff return in the third quarter and his 52-yard punt return in the fourth quarter set Seattle up for a touchdown and a field goal, respectively, and put the Seahawks up 16-13 with less than 10 minutes to play.
But three points weren’t enough to keep the Cardinals at bay.
The matchup was strikingly even-sided: Arizona ended up with 253 totals yards and Seattle with 254. The Cardinals out-passed the Seahawks, getting 210 yards through the air to Seattle’s 139 passing yards. Lynch led Seattle’s running game, resulting in 115 rushing yards for the Seahawks; the Cardinals had just 43 yards on the ground. Lynch, who was questionable for the game after experiencing back spasms last week, had 85 yards on 21 carries.
Penalties also cost both teams. The Seahawks committed 13 infractions for 90 yards, but the Cardinals made more serious mistakes on their 10 penalties, resulting in 102 yards for the Seahawks.
Also during the game, offensive tackle Russell Okung limped off the field. In post-game comments, according to reports, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Okung hurt his knee but did not tell the severity of the injury. Carroll also said Baldwin is expected to be OK.
Courtesy: Seattle Post | Photo: Rick Scuteri – AP