BALTIMORE—The Seahawks were trailing late in the first half but still within striking distance when Boye Mafe, who has been great all season, came through with another big play, a strip sack and fumble recovery that gave the Seattle's offense another possession before halftime with a chance to cut into Baltimore's lead.
But instead of getting a touchdown or even a field goal with a short field, Seattle's offense went backwards, with Geno Smith getting sacked on consecutive plays, the second of which was also a fumble, giving the Ravens a short field they would used to extend their lead with a field goal just before halftime.
It was a game-changing sequence for the Seahawks, and also a series of plays that illustrated just how difficult of a day it was for them in an eventual 37-3 loss, the team's most lopsided defeat since 2017, and one of the worst in Pete Carroll and John Schneider's 14 seasons in Seattle.
"This was about as unfamiliar as we can get here," Carroll said. "Coming out East and playing a game on the road like this and then not being able to play football where we need to. It was a terrific day for them. (Ravens coach John Harbaugh) had his team ready to go, and they did a great job. They kind of waited until there were some opportunities, and they took advantage of them. The game went back and forth for a while there early, which we thought could happen. We didn't handle what happened right before the half very well. We didn't take advantage of the turnover that we had. Instead of 14-6 or 14-10, they get the ball back, and they get points back. It just wasn't the right way to finish the half for us. And then they just went to work, and we didn't stop them. We couldn't make any first downs and couldn't convert on third down. So, it's just a really hard, long day against a really good team. They took it to us. I've got to give them a lot of credit."
As Carroll noted, the Ravens did indeed take it to the Seahawks, especially in the second half as they blew the game open following that key sequence at the end of the first half.
"Hat's off to them – a great organization, well coached," safety Jamal Adams said. "They came out, and they hit us in the mouth. It's as simple as that."
"Each week you get tested; it doesn't matter who you play. You've got to show up, because if you don't, things like that happen; you get hit in the mouth. They are a well-coached organization, they've been doing this for a long time, and obviously it was their day today."
The Seahawks knew they were facing one of the league's top teams in Baltimore, so they never expected anything but a tough game on Sunday, but they also expected, as a team coming into the game with an NFC West-leading 5-2 record, that they'd play a lot better than they did.
"It wasn't a good showing at all for us," receiver Tyler Lockett said. "It was just one of those things where it was unexpected."
Aside from Mafe's big play and another productive game from rookie receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, very little went well for the Seahawks, who were outgained 515-151, including a 298-28 disparity in rushing yards, and for the fourth straight game, the offense committed two turnovers, an interception by Smith as well as the aforementioned fumble at the end of the first half. With those two turnovers, the Seahawks have committed multiple turnovers in four straight games, a first for them since the 2013 season.
"I'm concerned about that," Carroll said. "The one, on the fumble, that's a pass-rush deal. The interception, (Smith) threw it up, and the guy who's been making all the interceptions made another one. But that's not the direction for us to be going. Up until this game, it took us to first place, whatever the heck we've been doing. We didn't play like a first-place team today. With those kind of turnovers, it's really hard to win."
Smith, who had just one turnover in Seattle's first four games, has now been intercepted six times in the last four games, and as is always the case with him, Seattle's offensive co-captain was quick to point the finger at himself.
"You know, it sucks," Smith said of the result. "We were looking forward to this matchup and I just feel like we didn't play our best football today. Obviously, we made a ton of mistakes and there are a lot of things we need to correct, but you know, as I always say, I put those things right at my own feet and I look at myself in the mirror and say, 'What can I do better to help my guys?' I'm never going to shy away from it and I'm going to keep on working."
Carroll, however, didn't see Sunday's loss as one that falls on his quarterback, but rather on the entire team.
"I don't think this is about Geno at all," Carroll said. "I think this is about our football team not answering the bell here. We couldn't get it done. We came in here to slug it out, and they did a better job than we did with all of this. When they're rushing the passer, that's not Geno. This is not on one guy."
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks couldn't stop the Ravens rushing attack, a departure for a group that had held opponents to just 3.6 yards per carry heading into the game.
"We didn't tackle that well," said linebacker Bobby Wagner. "We didn't stop the run like we knew we needed to, that's the biggest thing."
Added nose tackle Jarran Reed, "It's very frustrating, that's not like us. That's not anything that we have put on the film all season, but you know, it is the NFL. We are going to take that to the chin and take it back Monday to the drawing board."
The key for the Seahawks now is to learn from this loss and quickly move on so it doesn't affect them as they get ready to host Washington next weekend.
"We've got to take accountability," Wagner said. "This is one—no one likes to lose like this, but we've got to make sure we're accountable and fix our mistakes."
Said Jordyn Brooks, who had a team-high 11 tackles and one tackle for loss, "We look at it, we learn from it, but don't dwell on it too long, because we've got to focus on the next team we're playing. We've got a long plane ride home to sit up there and dwell it, then after that, we'll watch film in the morning and get over it."
The Seahawks have bounced back with wins following each of their previous two losses, and Carroll is expecting his team to put this loss in the right place so they are again ready to respond in the right way.
"What I'm telling our guys is this is about the discipline that it takes to go to the next challenge," Carroll said. "We talk always like that. Whether it's a big win or a big loss or whatever the circumstance of what happened the week before. It's the discipline that it takes to move on. That's the challenge. This game is already over with and done. We can't do anything about this one. It's, what are we going to do when we come back on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to get back on track and not let this define us. I would like that this game was maybe a marker that this is where things shifted, and we came right back and got back on track, and we see us come back to who we are. We'll see. This is a big deal. I've got to do a good job with them. Hopefully with the leadership that we have, I know we will get the right message out there. Then, we've got to act on it. It's a very big challenge. We'll see if we can pull it off."
At 5-3, the Seahawks are still in a good place, tied with the 49ers, who were on a bye this weekend, for first place in the division. But to stay in the playoff hunt, the Seahawks know they can't have another performance like Sunday's going forward.
"We understand that we are in a decent spot," Wagner said, "But that means nothing if we don't make changes that we need to make."
Check out some of the best action shots from Week 9 at the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 5, 2023. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.