A week after stumbling out of the gate before recovering for a season-opening win, the Seattle Seahawks were rolling at the start of Sundays game against the Denver Broncos.
The offense was marching down the field, converting on third down, and even running the ball effectively. But then there was a penalty. Then another one. Then a turnover. And then another turnover. And just like that the Broncos were well on their way to a 31-14 victory at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Unlike the San Francisco 49ers a week ago, Denver was able to capitalize on Seattles early struggles, and unlike a week ago, the Seahawks werent able to make plays on defense to turn things around. So many of the things that led Seattle to a 25-point win a week ago were missing this time around as the Seahawks lost for the 21st time in 26 trips to Denver.
This was a frustrating game because the things that we did last week we werent able to do, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. That was our objective to be able to carry that forward and do it again this week.
Instead, the Seahawks began shooting themselves in the foot on the opening drive and didnt run out of ammunition until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
There are enough mistakes we made today that youll have enough for a couple of articles this week, Carroll said.
The troubles started after an impressive opening drive had taken the Seahawks to the Denver 1-yard line. Deon Butler, who finished with five catches for 50 yards, caught an 11-yard pass his fourth of the drive to give Seattle first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, but Seattle quickly went backwards thanks to a false start on new right guard Stacy Andrews. Following that penalty, running back Justin Forsett appeared to score on a 6-yard touchdown run to give Seattle the early lead. But tackle Sean Locklear was flagged for holding, and just like that, Seattle went from first-and-goal at the 1-yard line to first-and-goal at the 16. After an incomplete pass, Matt Hasselbeck was intercepted on second down by Champ Bailey, who jumped in front of a pass intended for Deion Branch.
Seattles defense, which played so well holding San Francisco to six points a week earlier, did its job following the interception, forcing Denver to punt. But rookie Walter Thurmond, attempting his first punt return of the season, dropped the ball, giving Denver possession at the Seattle 13-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Kyle Orton connected with wide receiver Eddie Royal on a 13-yard scoring pass to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead.
All of those things are the things that give you a chance to have a really tough day, Carroll said of the miscues.
And a really tough day it was. After Denver had taken a 14-0 lead, Seattles offense had another promising drive going, but Hasselbeck threw his second interception of the game, killing another scoring chance. Denver turned that interception into a field goal and a 17-0 halftime lead.
We kind of just flipped it from last week, Hasselbeck said. We had opportunities and we didnt come away with touchdowns.
The struggles were hardly limited to Hasselbeck, who threw three interceptions, or Thurmonds fumble. The defense, which allowed San Francisco to convert only 1 of 15 third down chances last week, allowed Denver to covert 14 of 20 third downs and gave up 307 passing yards.
We made really hard on ourselves and we werent able to get back out of it, Carroll said. There are a lot of stats in this game that will show what happened. The defense was really poor today and we couldnt get them out of there. We played the run great but we couldnt get them off the field on third down. … You give the game away when you give the ball up like we did four times.
Carroll had a questionable decision or two of his own as well, most notably the decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 with the Seahawks in field goal range and down 17 in the third quarter. Hasselbecks short options were covered, so he attempted to throw deep to Branch in the end zone even though Branch was covered by Bailey, a nine-time Pro Bowler.
It felt like, Kick the field goal, after you see that, but I liked the thought, Carroll said. We were being aggressive and going for it and we just didnt get the play converted.
The Seahawks looked like they might make a game of it early in the second half when they quickly cut the lead to 10 points. Following a stop by the defense, Golden Tate, on his first career touch, returned a punt 63 yards to give the offense a short field. Five plays later, Hasselbeck connected with Ben Obomanu for an 11-yard touchdown, the second career touchdown for the fifth-year receiver.
Seattles momentum didnt last long, however. Denver answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive, one that was sustained by more Seattle mistakes. On third down, Denver was bailed out by a pass interference call though it was a call the Seahawks vehemently disagreed with. There was no blaming the officials for what happened four plays later. On second down Seattle appeared to have a screen pass stopped in the backfield before Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno made Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu and defensive tackle Colin Cole miss in the backfield on his way to a 45-yard gain. That led to Denvers third touchdown, putting Seattle behind 24-7.
About the only good news, Hasselbeck said, is that the Seahawks feel like most of what went wrong Sunday can be fixed.
I think its fixable, so thats good, he said. Its not like we were just getting blown off the ball, its not like we couldnt block a great pass rusher or anything like that. All that stuff was fixable. I know that I can fix my stuff, I know we can fix the false starts, and that right there gives us a great chance. Im encouraged. I think we can do something special this year, and I know we can recoup from this.