Still searching for the road to victory

Posted Nov 25, 2012

The Seahawks fell to 1-5 on the road as the Dolphins scored 10 points in the final 5½ minutes on Sunday to grab a 24-21 victory when Dan Carpenter kicked a 43-yard field goal on the final play of the game.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – In a game where the Seahawks had so much to play for, they just didn’t play well enough.

The problems that have plagued the team all season on the road continued Sunday in a 24-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium, in a game that wasn’t decided until Dan Carpenter kicked a 43-yard field goal as time expired.

The loss extended several bad streaks for the Seahawks, now 6-5. They fell to 1-5 on the road, the starkest of contrasts to their 5-0 record at CenturyLink Field. They failed to win their third game in a row, and now have only one three-game winning streak since 2007. They dropped to 1-6 against the Dolphins in games played in Florida. They are now 6-18 in games following bye weeks – compared to 18-6 in games before their bye weeks.

What happened in this one, where the Seahawks took a 21-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter on a 98-yard kickoff return by Leon Washington?

Coach Pete Carroll put the blame squarely on his shoulders, saying he should have handled the team’s bye week differently.

“You have to execute and do things right,” said Carroll, who was especially perplexed by his team’s 10 penalties for 59 yards. “You perform like that you’re going to get beat.

“We did not play well. We were not sharp.”

But rookie quarterback Russell Wilson wasn’t ready to accept that explanation.

“I usually agree with coach 100 percent, but not on that one,” Wilson said after his most productive road performance of the season. “I really do think that guys were really focused, guys were ready to play. You’ve got to give credit to Miami.

“The break was good for us. Coach Carroll is doing a tremendous job.”

It’s just that this one felt especially grating for several reasons.

A defense that ranked third in the NFL in both average (296.8) and rushing yards (100.6) allowed entering the game, allowed a Dolphins offense that had been struggling during the team’s three-game losing streak drive 94, 82 and 80 yards to touchdowns. The Dolphins compiled 435 total yards and 189 rushing yards.

“We had our opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize on them,” defensive end Red Bryant said. “There’s no question it’s frustrating. Because we know we’re a helluva team at home, but in the National Football League you’ve got to be able to win tough games on the road. So far, that’s a part of our game we haven’t been able to translate just yet.

“You don’t get a lot of opportunities, so you’ve got to seize them. I feel we let one go today.”

None were more frustrating than the six-play, 80-yard drive to a 29-yard touchdown pass from rookie QB Ryan Tannehill to Charles Clay that allowed the Dolphins to tie the score at 21 with 5:13 remaining and the seven-play, 65-yard drive to Carpenter’s game-winner that followed.

Things could have, and probably should have, turned out differently for the Seahawks on this day – in yet another road trip that ended with more questions than answers.

In addition to the eighth kickoff return of Washington’s career – which tied the NFL record – Wilson completed 16 consecutive passes at one point. That was one shy of the franchise record set by Warren Moon in 1998. For the day, Wilson was 21 of 27 for 224 yards – with TD passes to tight end Anthony McCoy and fullback Michael Robinson that came after he had moved in the pocket or rolled out to buy the necessary time to make the scoring play. It all made for a 125.9 passer rating.

But it also made the way this one turned out even more difficult to digest.

“We didn’t throw and catch the ball. We didn’t tackle right,” Robinson said. “So the blame should be squarely on us. We’ve got some things we’ve got to fix this week.”

While the passing game and special teams were holding up their end of the deal, a defense that has carried the team at times this season just could not get off the field when it mattered most.

“There’s nothing more we can do to play better on the road except just start playing better,” linebacker Leroy Hill said. “It’s crazy. We came flat and we didn’t play our ball today.”

As difficult as it will be to put this one behind them, that’s all the Seahawks can do. They can’t let a hangover from this loss affect their preparation for next week’s game against the Bears in Chicago. As disappointing as this loss was, they can’t allow it to become discouraging. There still are too many games to play, and too much to play for.

“It’s one of those things where guys – or me – could possibly think, ‘What if we could have done this?’ Or, ‘What if we could have done that?’ ” said Wilson, who continued to play and think beyond his years. “The only thing we can focus on is the now. And move on. We’ve got a huge game in front of us. That’s our only focus. That’s got to be a narrow focus. We’ve just got to keep battling.”