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
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
COLOR PHOTO: DOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES Seattle could have run out the clock, but Hasselbeck got stuffedon fourth down.