The Seahawks haven’t had a lead at any point in their last three games since beating the Rams on Dec. 4. They trailed Saturday by at least two touchdowns for all of the final 38 minutes and 56 seconds here in a 24-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
And they’ve now lost five of six to see a glittering — and surprising — 6-3 record devolve into a 7-8 morass.
But they left Kansas City feeling surprisingly upbeat, preferring to dwell on how they dominated the second half against a team that is a Super Bowl favorite, and how they hope they can take that good feeling into the final two games of the season — each of which are must-wins to get to the playoffs.
“We’ve got two games at home,” said quarterback Geno Smith. “I mean, what more could you ask for?”
Indeed, Seattle figures to be favored in each — Jan. 1 against the quarterback-challenged New York Jets and either Jan. 7 or Jan. 8 against the playing-out-the-string Los Angeles Rams.
What Seattle could have asked for more Saturday was making a few more plays that might have given themselves a legitimate shot at an upset that would have greatly enhanced their postseason hopes.
Instead, failing to convert three fourth downs in Kansas City territory, settling for a field goal on a drive to the Chiefs’ 3-yard-line and throwing an interception on a drive that had gotten to the Chiefs’ 20 meant a surprisingly sturdy effort by the defense went to waste.
Well, those plays and falling behind 17-0 during a first half in which it appeared as if the Seahawks might get run out of the building.
When the Chiefs kicked a field goal to go up 17-0 with 2:40 to play in the first half, they held a 181-32 edge in yards and a 10-1 advantage in first downs.
“In the first half, we just couldn’t get going and couldn’t make a first down,” Carroll said. “We didn’t get anything going at all and just had to wait it out.”
But from there, it was the Seahawks who dominated the stats, outgaining the Chiefs 300-116 the rest of the way, getting 18 first downs to the Chiefs’ five. The Seahawks outgained the number one offense in the NFL 332 yards to 297, and held the Chiefs 132 yards below their season average.
But the Seahawks couldn’t convert that into points until it was too late, going 2 of 14 on third downs and 1 of 4 on their first four fourth-down attempts until converting two during a late garbage-time drive.
Among the just-misses was DK Metcalf failing to get both feet in bounds in the end zone for a possible touchdown late in the first half. Seattle had to settle for three points at the end of an 87-yard drive.
“It shouldn’t have been close at all because I should have gotten my feet down,” said Metcalf, who spent most of his day being double-teamed with the Seahawks playing without Tyler Lockett. “I blame myself for that.”
Among other near-misses was a 7-yard pass to Laquon Treadwell on fourth-and-eight at the Kansas City 29 on the first play of the fourth quarter with the score 17-3.
“Think about how close those plays were,” said Carroll, who said he kept going for it on fourth downs out of “respect” for Kansas City’s offense.
“I wasn’t sure that we were able to hold them down as well as we did,” Carroll said.
The final dagger was an interception thrown by Smith on a pass to Marquise Goodwin with 7:42 to play from the Kansas City 22.
Smith overthrew Goodwin on a play that looked like there was miscommunication as Goodwin broke to the sideline at about the 5 while Smith threw into the end zone, It turned into an easy pick by Juan Thornhill, but Smith said lack of communication wasn’t the issues.
“It was just a bad pass by me,” Smith said. “I didn’t put it in the right spot and gave them a chance to get it and they did… I think Marquise did what he was supposed to do. He felt the coverage and broke open and I put it in the wrong spot. I gave the safety a chance to make that play. That’s completely on me, not on Marquise. I have to correct that and make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The timing of the play might also have been thrown off by some tight coverage on Goodwin by former UW Husky Trent McDuffie. Asked if he felt McDuffie was holding him, Goodwin said: ‘I’m not going to make no excuses. They made the pick. Made a good play.” Then he paused briefly. “Yes, he was holding.”
A defense that had held the Chiefs to punts on their first three possessions of the second half finally wavered, allowing a five-play, 80-yard drive — keyed by a 52-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce — with Mahomes running it in from 3 yards to make it 24-3 with 4:42 left and ending any remaining drama.
But if some might question taking much solace from a two-touchdown defeat, Carroll said he felt the way the defense played — in particular in holding the Chiefs to 77 yards rushing on 22 carries — was worth getting excited about.
“We played with these guys,” Carroll said. “That is a terrific football team, and we know it. The defense held their own with these guys. They kept their running game down.”
Maybe Carroll was trying to get his team looking ahead to two games that will now tell the tale of the season.
Seattle got the help it needed elsewhere with the Giants, Washington and Detroit all losing, leaving the Seahawks still in the eighth spot in the NFC playoff picture, a half-game behind the 7-6-1 Commanders, who now play Cleveland and Dallas at home.
Two Seattle wins and a Washington loss and the Seahawks are in the playoffs.
“Heck, you have an opportunity to go to the playoffs still,” said safety Quandre Diggs. “This is what you want at the beginning of the year. Nobody ever thought we would be in this position, anyways, to have the opportunity to go to the playoffs.”
That thought was enough to warm their hearts after playing in a game in which the temperature was 12 degrees at kickoff, making it the second-coldest in Seahawks history behind the famous minus-6 degrees wild-card playoff game at Minnesota in 2016.
“The weather had nothing to do with anything,” Carroll insisted. “It was just not a factor. I don’t know what the temperature was, but that factor was not there today. Our guys handled it beautifully and it wasn’t even an issue.”
What is an issue is time. If the Seahawks win their final two games and earn a playoff spot, the season is an unqualified success. Anything else, and it’ll be a long offseason wondering what went wrong after the 6-3 start.
“We had a tough stretch, but that’s in the past,” Smith said. “That has to be in the past. We have to evaluate this stuff really hard but we look forward to these next two games. Obviously, it starts with one. You have to focus on that one and then you can move on to the next one.”