SEATTLE—On one hand, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was proud of the fight his team once again showed late in a game. Trailing by 11 points late in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks offense got a touchdown and a 2-point conversion, the defense made a quick stop, and Seattle had a shot at a final comeback.
"The fight in these guys is just amazing," Carroll said after Seattle's 34-31 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. "And you can count on it, you know it's going to happen, you know we're going to be right back in there battling"
On the other hand, the Seahawks needed that late comeback that eventually fell just short because they were playing from behind for almost the entire game. Two short fields—one because of a big return on the opening kickoff and the other because of an intercepted Russell Wilson pass—helped the Falcons jump out to an early 14-0 lead, and the Falcons scored on another turnover, a 10-yard fumble return following a sack of Wilson, to go up 21-7 early in second quarter.
"Unfortunately the turnovers really gave them a great opportunity," Carroll said. "And they took advantage of it, so we were playing from behind all night long."
Of course explaining away a loss by saying it was just a few plays early in the game would fall short of telling the whole story. Even with those early miscues, the Seahawks were able to stay in the game thanks to plenty of big plays by the offense and Wilson, who rushed for a team-high 86 yards while passing for 258 yards and two scores; the defense, despite all the injuries, limited Atlanta to 279 yards; and after that early big return by Atlanta, Seattle's special teams played very well.
But against a good opponent like Atlanta that has playmakers on both sides of the ball, doing some things well wasn't enough on a night when the Falcons forced two turnovers and were lethal on third down, converting 9 of 14 attempts, including eight of their first 10.
"They did a great job on third down tonight," Carroll said. "For them, that was the difference. They were able to convert… It was a good night for them. We just have to get off the field. We had a number of opportunities to get that done, and we weren't able to get to the quarterback like we thought we would. So (Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan) had a good look at stuff, and they're really good, and they converted and did a nice job. I thought that was a real critical aspect of the game, their third-down ability."
Added safety Earl Thomas, "We've definitely got to be better on third down. That showed tonight… Third down was horrible today. We've got to get better, plain and simple. But we had new bodies out there, it's the first time we had to really work together in live-action. This is a great experience, but it's only going to make us stronger."
What Carroll wasn't interested in doing after Monday's loss was using his team's injuries on defense as an excuse, injury absences that included two Pro Bowl defensive backs, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.
"That had nothing to do with that," Carroll said when asked if Atlanta was able to score early because those two players were missing. "They got great field position. They got the kickoff return at the 50, and the next time they go 35 yards I think. It's a good club, and when you give them that short a field, it's really hard to stop them. We worked hard after that, and made it harder, but I thought those two field-position opportunities, they were able to take great advantage of it. That's not a surprise that Matt would do that and their offense would be able to get that done."
At 6-4, the Seahawks are still very much in contention in the NFC West, but they know they need to clean up certain areas of their play if they're going to be at their best down the stretch.
"We just need to tighten things down," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "We've been doing well, we've had good games and then we come back and we're not showing what we're capable of, so the inconsistency there to me only comes from the details."
And if the Seahawks do clean up those details, they're confident they can be a much better team than they were in Monday's loss.
"I think we will respond in great fashion," Wilson said. "I think we will respond in great fashion because we will go back to work… For us, we move on to next week. We still have a lot of things ahead of us. We had a really good chance to be first place in the NFC West tonight, and unfortunately we didn't, but there's a lot more football to play and a lot more challenges ahead of us, and we can't get discouraged now."
The Seahawks fall short 34-31 against the Falcons in Week 11 at CenturyLink Field.