That margin may be gone. Now, one poor decision or bad break may be too much to overcome for a talented team that has been beset by injuries to key players.
The latest example came Monday night in Seattle’s 34-31 loss to Atlanta. The Seahawks were down four starters on defense, had no run game outside of Russell Wilson, were careless with timeouts in the second half and watched Blair Walsh’s 52-yard attempt at a tying field goal in the final seconds fall a couple yards short.
Instead of talk about Seattle’s resiliency playing without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, or pulling out a home victory to move atop the NFC West, the Seahawks were left to answer questions about strange special teams decisions and whether they must play differently going forward to have success.
”I think for us, we stay the course,” Wilson said. ”We don’t waver. I think that we’re going to have to score. We believe in that. We scored 31 tonight. Keep scoring. There are still more things out there. We can go get it.”
Atlanta readily took advantage of Seattle’s shortcomings. Matt Ryan only had 195 yards passing, snapping his streak of 200-yard passing games at 64, but the Falcons still jumped on Seattle. They led 21-7 after two costly turnovers by Wilson in the first 16 minutes of the game and held on in the final minutes as Wilson nearly brought Seattle back.
”We are a confident group. We know we have players that can match up with everybody,” said Falcons’ cornerback Desmond Trufant, responsible for one of those turnovers with a first-quarter interception. ”We have a great scheme, great chemistry, it’s just a great environment here. We just have to continue to put it on film and display it on game day.”
Seattle’s special teams blunders will be debated after Carroll’s decision late in the first half to fake a field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yard kick that could have pulled the Seahawks within 24-20 at halftime. Seattle believed it had a touchdown with the call, yet it turned into a disaster when Luke Willson was slammed for a 4-yard loss.
That decision was amplified at the end when Walsh’s kick fell short.
”I was happy with everything else that I did in that game, but it’s tough that the last play is what it comes down to,” Walsh said.
Here’s what else to know from Atlanta’s second straight victory over Seattle:
MORE INJURIES: Already without Chancellor and Sherman from their secondary, the Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game. Griffin’s absence forced Byron Maxwell into a far more prominent role after being signed to add depth this week.
”It went OK. There’s a couple plays, probably like two plays I wish I could have back,” Maxwell said.
NO PRESSURE: While Ryan didn’t have big passing numbers, he was efficient throwing touchdowns to Mohamed Sanu and a 25-yard strike to Levine Toilolo in the third quarter to take a 31-20 lead. Seattle was never able to get any pass rush on Ryan. He was hit just three times and the only sack came in the final two minutes when Sheldon Richardson finally got to the quarterback.
”The more we can stack those back-to-back weeks, that’s what we need to do moving forward,” Ryan said. ”We have to find a way to win games and we did a good job of that tonight.”
RUNNING NOWHERE: Wilson was again the bulk of Seattle’s run game. Wilson finished with 86 yards rushing, while the remaining three Seattle running backs combined for 50 yards on 16 carries. Seattle did get a spark both running and receiving from Mike Davis after he was promoted off the practice squad, but he left in the third quarter with a groin strain.
The Seahawks averaged 5.9 yards per carry but can’t keep relying on Wilson to be their best ball carrier.
STAY ON THE FIELD: Much of Atlanta’s success came from being able to stay on the field and extend drives. The Falcons were 9 of 14 on third-down conversions – 64 percent – after entering the week converting almost 42 percent of its third downs. Ryan was 8-of-10 passing on third-down, with seven of those going for first downs.
”We got a lot of man-to-man coverage on third-down tonight,” Ryan said.
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Short-handed Seahawks no longer have same leeway for errors
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