The fans were back, Lumen Field was rocking, and the Seahawks raced out to a 15-point halftime lead.
For a couple of hours on Sunday, it looked like the Seahawks' home opener was going exactly as planned, with Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett combining for big plays, and with the defense getting big stops and a takeaway that set up a touchdown. And seeing as the Seahawks were 65-2 dating back to 2012 when leading by four or more points at halftime, the 15-point advantage they built over the Tennessee Titans was surely enough to secure a win in this game, right?
As it turned out, that lead didn't hold up, and a team that takes so much pride in its ability to finish wasn't able to get the job done Sunday, with the Titans rallying to score two four-quarter touchdowns to send the game into overtime, then winning 33-30 on a field goal after the teams traded scoreless possessions.
The Seahawks last loss when leading that big at halftime came in 2004 when the Rams overcame a 17-point deficit, and Sunday's loss marked the second-largest lead surrendered at any point of a game in a loss since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010, trailing only the 2015 overtime loss at Cincinnati that saw the Seahawks lose a 17-point third-quarter lead.
The Seahawks lost first and foremost because the Titans are a good team that was able to make a lot of things happen in the second half, particularly with running back Derrick Henry getting going after a quiet first half. But Seattle also lost because of plenty of self-inflicted wounds, most notably the 10 penalties for 100 yards that included several that either extended Tennessee drives or killed Seahawks offensive possessions.
"I mean, I hate this," Carroll said "I hate having to… 24-9 at halftime, come on. We took care of the ball all day long, did a great job with the football and wound up plus, and give the game away. It had to be other really big things which happened which were the penalties and the two hits on the quarterback, those were huge plays for them. And the out of bounds is unnecessary. They're just unnecessary things that happened. We need to be better than that. I need to be better, I need to help our guys be better than that."
The Seahawks had plenty of highlights on Sunday, from Tyler Lockett's 8-catch, 178-yard, 1-touchdown performance, to Freddie Swain's 68-yard touchdown, to Alton Robinson's sack/forced fumble that set up a touchdown, to Bobby Wagner's franchise-record 20 tackles, but none of that was enough to overcome the costly penalties, a monster second half for Henry, and a second-half offensive performance that saw the Seahawks punt on three of four possessions outside of the big Swain touchdown.
Carroll referred Sunday's game as a "most difficult loss for us today, because there were so many good things that happened and it was such a great day at the stadium, the fans were ready and rocking and we wanted to reward them with a big win as well. We did so many good things and then we really hurt ourselves just too many times when you're playing a good team. The penalties were just so costly, so many first downs off penalties when we had them and really had control of the situation and it was really unfortunate that we weren't poised enough, and I totally take that on myself. There were just opportunities for us to make better decisions that we didn't make. And I know sometimes I get these guys so fricking crazy that, you know, they're just going out after it. And I'm not even—I don't have any question about the calls or any of that kind of stuff, I'm not talking about the refereeing or any of that. We have to do better. We have to play better and handle the situations so that we get the benefits of all of the good play. And we gave them way too much stuff. Like I said, you give a good team that much, they keep hanging. They're tough. They got great players and a terrific approach to the game and all that, and it came through and they won a game with it. Credit to them."
Wagner, who now has 33 tackles and a sack in two games, said there was a feeling of disappointment in the locker room after the game, and said the next step is learning from this loss so the team can bounce back when it travels to Minnesota in week 3.
"Just making sure we're all accountable, making sure we're doing our job, and just executing, and not hurting ourselves," Wagner said. "We had some untimely penalties in this game, we have to clean that up. That's on us, that's nothing that they're doing. That's hurting ourselves.
"We just have to be smarter. We have to look at the film. We have to understand what they did against us in the second half, that teams are going to start mimicking. We just have to play better, execute better. Definitely in big moments and big times when we really need a stop or we really need to be on our jobs and make sure that we're focused and locked in."
Added safety Jamal Adams, "Frustrated that we didn't come out on top. We beat ourselves. Hats off to Tennessee, a great football team, but we put ourselves in a hole, and just couldn't get out."
As Carroll mentioned when putting the blame on himself for the penalties, the Seahawks try to walk a fine line between playing with a ton of energy and feeding off the crowd, and letting that energy spill over into unnecessary penalties such as the late hit out of bounds called on Jordyn Brooks on a Titans touchdown drive, or the roughing the passer calls against Robert Nkemdiche and Adams.
"We can't have those penalties," Adams said. "At the end of the day, we have a job to do. We have to have controlled chaos, is what I call it. It's an even keel mindset. We can't have those penalties in crucial situations. Some are ticky-tack. Like D.J. Reed on the taunting penalty. Come on, man. You're taking the passion and the emotions out of the game of football. At the end of the day, that's the rule, we have to play smarter. But we definitely shot ourselves in the foot with a lot of our penalties, that led to points and extended drives."
The good news for the Seahawks is that they still have 15 more games to correct the mistakes made Sunday. Not just the penalties, but the issues on defense that allowed Henry to get on track in the second half, and the things that caused the offense to stall a bit after such a good first half, one that ended with a very impressive 75-yard touchdown drive at the end of the half.
"We've got to be sharp, be on our stuff and we got to make plays, and unfortunately it didn't happen," said Russell Wilson, who threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns, giving him six touchdowns and no interceptions to start the season. "We did some really great things though. It's a journey. You don't get to the championship overnight; It takes a lot. But we could have handled that game and played better. And that's really it."
Said Lockett, "At the end of the day, all you can really do is learn from it. I think that's something that we're going to do. We've got 'Tell the truth Monday', so we'll hear a bunch of truth while we're out there. Just learning from it and getting better form it. Even if we would've won, it's the same thing, you've got to be able to learn through those wins and through those losses."