An afternoon that started with Pete Carroll taking a football off the face only got worse for the Seahawks as the game went along.
The mistakes began piling up for the Seahawks on the first play from scrimmage and continued throughout the game, and the Saints were more than capable of capitalizing on those miscues, resulting in a 33-27 victory for New Orleans at CenturyLink Field.
"This was an unusual game," said Carroll, bandaged nose and all, the result of a football hitting him in the face during pregame warmups. "So many things happened in this game that just hurt us. Even the coach got hurt in this one. We made mistakes and errors, big plays, the returns, the mistake in the kicking game that gives them another chance for another touchdown, it's like a turnover. We just had a really hard time getting out of our own way. Sometimes a game goes like that and you just can't get out of your own way and you make the mistakes that cause the problems, and you try to recover, and we just didn't get it done."
While there were plenty of mistakes made by players that contributed to Seattle's first loss of the season, Carroll was quick to point the finger at himself for his team's performance.
"I had a particularly bad day with stuff," Carroll said. "There were too many chances I had to make things happen, and I tried to hard at times, and kind of got in the flow of it. I'm just really disappointed, just disappointed across the board."
For Seattle's miscues to bite them, the Saints had to take advantage, and head coach Sean Payton's squad was more than capable of doing just that, even without quarterback Drew Brees. Yes, Chris Carson fumbled, leading to a Saints touchdown, but Eli Apple made a very nice play to punch the ball loose. And yes, an illegal formation penalty on a missed field goal gave the Saints another set of downs, but New Orleans' offense still had to take advantage, which it did by scoring a touchdown to open the second half. And with Brees sidelined by a thumb injury, the Saints needed their other stars to step up, and Alvin Kamara came through with 161 total yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"They played really good," Carroll said. "They played really hard and tough, the running back was fantastic, was a big factor in the game… They took advantage of their opportunities in a really winning way. Sean's guys played really good to get that done. There were just so many ways for this game to be different, it's just unfortunate. It's very frustrating. But this is one game, and I hope maybe this is the one game that we learn from and we grow from, and we can put this one behind this, and we can turn things in the right direction and not let this happen. It's particularly hard to do this in front of our own fans at home."
That the Saints were good enough to capitalize on Seattle's mistakes underscored the point made by several Seahawks players in the locker room after the game—that they can't be that sloppy and expect to beat playoff-caliber teams. The Seahawks started 2-0 but did so despite a lot of miscues that led to first-half deficits in both games, and on Sunday the Saints proved to be too good for Seattle to again get away with so many errors.
"We can't shoot ourselves in the foot, we can't continue to do these things thinking that we're still going to win," said receiver Tyler Lockett, who established new career highs in receptions (11) and receiving yards (154). "We have to be able to be on our Ps and Qs, because we're playing great teams, we're playing teams that are playoff-caliber teams, Super Bowl-caliber teams, and you can't put yourself in the hole and expect to find a way to be able to always come back every single time. So for us, I think it's a learning experience and it helps us down the road. It's a process, the season is a marathon, not a sprint, so for us, we've just got to be able to get ready for the next game, and leave this game behind after we watch film tomorrow."
Despite the final score, there were positives to take from the game for Seattle, from Lockett's big game, to Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright combining for 31 tackles, to Russell Wilson's performance that saw him throw for 406 yards and two touchdowns and rush for 51 and two scores, making him the first quarterback since at least 1950 to throw for 400 yards and two scores and rush for 50 and two scores. But ultimately the Seahawks lost despite outgaining New Orleans 515-265 because there were far too many costly errors.
"Obviously, we didn't play our best football," Wilson said. "We gave them a touchdown with the punt return, and they had a fumble recovery for a touchdown. We had some other miscues too. We've just got to play smarter. We just have to play sharper. We've got to be cleaner. We're a little young, so we've got to make sure that what it takes to win in this league is detail, detail. Little things. All those little things matter. We have a great football team and we can be great. To play a championship caliber team, the Saints, even if they didn't have Drew, they had all the other players. They got Kamara. You saw, he's a playmaker. Michael Thomas, playmaker. Teddy (Bridgewater) played great today. Their defense did some good stuff too. I think about, when you're going into a game like that, you've got to play clean football."
The Seahawks now turn their attention to a Week 4 contest in Arizona hoping they can learn their lessons from this loss and clean things up moving forward.
"It's just one loss and it's along season," center Justin Britt said. "It won't define us."