GLENDALE, Ariz. — The final grade for Russell Wilson’s first NFL assignment: incomplete.
That was the result of his final seven passes, and it was also the story of the Seahawks’ comeback attempt. The Seahawks and their rookie quarterback couldn’t make that one last play to save their season opener Sunday, and when Wilson’s fourth-down pass from the Arizona 4-yard line sailed up and over receiver Braylon Edwards, Seattle’s season officially began with a thud.
Arizona 20, Seattle 16.
“We had our shots at it,” coach Pete Carroll said. “There were four balls to be thrown and caught there. It was close.”
Very close. Four yards were all that separated Seattle from the kind of comeback it never could manage last season. The proximity only made this loss more painful as the Seahawks ran seven plays from inside the Arizona 20-yard line in the final minute, including four from inside the 10. Wilson threw to four receivers but couldn’t complete any one of them.
“I felt great about the opportunities we had,” Wilson said. “We put ourselves in a good position, we just fell short.”
Seattle fell behind 13-3 early in the third quarter, fought back to reclaim the lead only to give it up again and then turn down the winning opportunities that were handed to them. Repeatedly.
Seattle’s final two first downs were awarded by virtue of pass-interference penalties against Arizona, and the referee admitted afterward the officiating crew erred in awarding Seattle what amounted to a fourth timeout in the second half.
And all that couldn’t keep Seattle from losing its first road game of the regular season for a sixth consecutive year. Instead of seeing how far these Seahawks have come as Carroll begins his third season as head coach, it’s clear how far they still have to go as a team.
That was true for an offense that ranked 28th in the league in yards gained last season and didn’t have a scoring drive longer than 33 yards in Arizona. Seattle started four drives in the Cardinals’ half of the field, but still managed only three field goals and a touchdown.
Seattle was set up at the Arizona 34 after cornerback Richard Sherman’s tiptoes interception in the third quarter. Three plays and 5 yards later, the Seahawks settled for a field goal that tied the score 13-13.
The Seahawks got the ball at the Arizona 16 after Leon Washington’s 52-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. This time, three plays resulted in a net loss of 5 yards because of penalties and they settled for another field goal. While that gave Seattle a 16-13 lead, it ended up feeling like a missed opportunity.
“We missed red-zone opportunities,” Carroll said. “Taking the field goals is probably the difference in the game.”
But not the only difference. Seattle’s defense allowed 10 points in the first half and then held the Cardinals without a first down on their first six possessions of the second half. But with Seattle leading 16-13, the Seahawks allowed the Cardinals to drive 80 yards after quarterback Kevin Kolb came in to replace starter John Skelton, who suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter.
“Bottom line, we’ve just got to finish,” free safety Earl Thomas said. “We had a great game except that last drive.”
But in the end, Seattle showed progress. The Seahawks got to the opponent’s 4-yard line, which was closer than they ever came to pulling off a last-minute comeback a year ago.
And while Wilson’s final seven passes fell incomplete, this isn’t the end of the season, but rather the beginning; next time, maybe Seattle will find a way to write a different ending.
“Hopefully, we grow,” Carroll said. “We just find that way to make that last catch, make that last throw and make that last block and stop them. It’s across the board.”