BY Art Thiel 01:07AM 12/30/2019

Thiel: 8 plays to a ‘perfect’ Seahawks win denied

Fantasy finish that every Seahawks fan hoped for was there. But 8 plays from the 12 produced incompletions, an uncalled foul and a massive screwup by Carroll. Niners win.

Marshawn Lynch carried 12 times for 34 yards upon his return. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The screaming will die down next year, or maybe the year after that, regarding the final minute of the final game of the NFL’s regular season in its 100th year. When it does, keep in mind that a few inches twice denied, a foul uncalled and a decision messed up, forced upon the Seahawks a 2,400-mile road trip instead of a home playoff game and helped create this fact:

From a first-and-10 at the San Francisco 49ers’ 12-yard line in the final minute, the Seahawks, one of the best teams in NFL history regarding fourth-quarter comebacks, had the ball for eight plays. They gained 11.9 yards. They lost the game. At home.

A crippled team was on the verge of fairy-tale success, with RB Marshawn Lynch back in service and ready to drop the final hammer, yet they didn’t get it done. From the one-yard line.

If the general circumstances of this 26-21 loss (box) ring a vague bell . . . welcome to the regional football nightmare, Part Deux.

As Lynch put it — yes, he even tolerated a few post-game questions — about his return that included 34 yards in 12 carries and a touchdown, “It felt good, man.

“But at the end of the day, I play to win.”

So do the Seahawks. They have done a lot of it, over a spectacular decade.

But when coach Pete Carroll can’t organize player substitutions to avoid a delay of game penalty, when Lynch can’t get in the game, when QB Russell Wilson completes two of seven passes, and when they have to rely on officials scared to death to make the right call, they deserved to lose this game.

After losing two in a row and three in the past four, they deserve the trek to Philadelphia Sunday (1:40 p.m., NBC) to meet a 9-7 Eagles team they beat 17-9 on Nov. 24, but who must be excited to catch a team wounded physically and shocked emotionally.

Carroll owned up to his principal role in the failure, from second and goal inside the 49ers’ 1-yard line with 22 seconds left, to sub in the proper personnel, perhaps including Lynch, before the play clock expired.

“That’s me all the way,” he said. “There’s nobody else to turn to . . . it just didn’t work out right. I should have got that done better.”

The confusion developed after rookie WR John Ursua, replacing injured Jaron Brown, made his first catch of the season near the goal line that was good for a first down, but was denied a touchdown by inches. The Seahawks scrambled to line up for Wilson to spike the ball on a first-and-goal to stop the clock, in order to swap out the no-backs personnel for the heavy unit.

But the Seahawks seemed to treat the stoppage like a timeout, which it wasn’t. Lynch started on to the field, then stopped and came off. Then flags flew. Delay of game, five yards lost.

“We just didn’t quite get communicated with the backs,” Carroll said. “We were late getting in there. We burned the time. We just didn’t function cleanly.

“With 22 seconds left, I’m thinking we’re going to get in the end zone, anyway.”

But no.

On second down, Wilson nearly had his pass to WR Tyler Lockett intercepted. On third down, TE Jacob Hollister was targeted but tied up by LB Fred Warner, the pass knocked away, yet no flags appeared for what seemed obvious defensive pass interference. Because no coaching challenges are allowed in the final two minutes, any challenge must come from the video-review crew in New York.

Nothing changed.

To a pool reporter, officiating chief Al Riveron explained later that upon real-time review, “Nothing happens that rises to the level of a foul while the ball is in the air before it gets to either player.” (See sidebar for fuller explanation). 

That explanation is piffle.

Screen shot of a goal line pass to TE Jacob Hollister that drew no interference call.

The contact hindered Hollister sufficiently to draw the foul. But Riveron’s crew knew the entire football nation was riveted on the moment, and lacked the guts to make the call.

Another officiating mess-up had a big role in an important game. Happy anniversary, NFL.

Yet the Seahawks STILL had a final chance.

Coming back from a horrible first half down 13-0, the Seahawks rallied on both sides the ball for a shot to get their first and only lead on their final offensive play, despite missing their top three running backs, top three tight ends, their best O-lineman and two receivers.

This time, Wilson zipped a quick pass to Hollister. He strained at the goal line, each side convinced as he went down that they had succeeded.

“I thought I did have it, honestly,” Hollister said. “It’s fourth down, so we’ve got to try to get it in. I just didn’t get it done.”

Upon review, he came up about as short as the 49ers’ field goal attempt that was wide in Santa Clara, costing the 49ers the first meeting Nov. 11. That’s how close these teams were in 2019. But one is the NFC’s top seed with a bye and one is a fifth seed trying to hustle with a limp.

“We certainly put ourselves in position to win a championship right there,” Carroll said. “It was, like, a perfect win.

“To me, it was a perfect way to win a championship, and unfortunately it just came up short by a couple inches.”

The wondering about this game is destined for perpetuity. For example, as splendid as rookie RB Travis Homer was in his first start (62 yards in 10 carries, five receptions for 30 yards) why didn’t Lynch play at all on the final drive, which started with 2:37 left?

“That really wasn’t his stuff, for this (game) plan,” Carroll said. “He wasn’t ready for all of that. Four days (of practice).”

Maybe so. But all the Seahawks needed was one good outcome among eight plays from the 12-yard line.

Yet . . .

The Seahawks remain undead. Zombie-like, they stagger into Philly. Who knows?

A win Sunday advances them to the second round.

Maybe to Santa Clara against the 49ers.

You know it has to happen. Zombies never stop. Although they can be flagged for delays.

Russell Wilson completed 25 of 40 passes for 233 yards, and ran eight times for 29. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest.



  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    Man, another complex game deciphered….way to go! Yet, I can only hear in my head “Satisfaction” by the Stones, as in “I can’t get no”, mostly.

    But 1st, it’s cool that the Seahawks are in the playoffs, and likely the one team with the least margin of victory to have an 11-5 record. They’ve got guts and belief, if nothing else.

    Justified wearing my Lynch #24 jersey: Leaping Beast Mode TD….Check
    Oh but what could have been……

    Game winning Beast Mode run on 2nd down and 1, or three tries from the 1, fer crying out loud – Nope. Non-call on the all-so-obvious Hollister pass interference, which would never get rectified/satisfied anyhow (N Frustration L), is shadowed by the delay of game. Live by the Carroll, die by the Carroll, and looking at the big picture, I’ll still always go with Carroll. Yet, when your team is stretched so thin that a great game plan and perfect execution is a must, you can’t afford to make mistakes.

    While the Hawks have shown resilience on the road, and an obvious loss of home field advantage this year (what the heck is up with that??), it’s still an obvious physical disadvantage to have to travel: dehydration, lack of rest, lack of prep time, especially if it’s two weeks in a row, in order to meet the rested 49ers. In that respect, the stakes were huge.

    I just hope that the guys go have fun and enjoy the playoffs, giving their best, regardless of the odds. Like you said – “who knows?”. They put themselves in a position to win a game against an obviously superior opponent and didn’t show a lack of trying…..
    As always…..GO HAWKS!

    • Lightninbug

      As is ever the case, the referees screw the Hawks on penalties. Not saying they don’t deserve a penalty here and there but it is my considered opinion that the NFL does not want small market teams advancing to the Super Bowl and cutting into their bottom line which, as we all know, is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

      I will not live to see it but I foresee an eventual independent organization of referees negotiating contracts with the NFL in the future. The corruption of vast amounts of money will still be a factor but the separation from the direct control of the NFL will count for something.

      • Husky73

        Humpty Dumpty was pushed!

        • Lightninbug

          Did they ever catch the responsible party?

      • art thiel

        I don’t think Seattle has been a small market since Paul Allen bought the team in 1997. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a conspiracy against Seattle or any team in the NFL. But every fan base in the NFL has people who are convinced otherwise. You go.

        • Lightninbug

          Thanks for the “opinion” Art. Yes, even big deal sports writers are guilty of thinking that theirs is the final word when it comes to opinions. I have been watching Collegiate football for 67 years and pro ball for only slightly less. Doesn’t make me any expert but it might indicate that I have some background for my observations.

          • art thiel

            Mine’s not “the” final word. It’s my final word, based on the experiences I’ve had traveling to and reading about fans in other markets. Most think their teams are the persecuted ones.

            The one exception that makes your point was the 1993 NBA West finals game 7 Sonics-Suns. The refs knew without being told that a Barkley-Jordan final was best for the league, and called the game accordingly.

            The non-call on the pass to Hollister was a case of neither the field refs nor the replay refs wanting to actively decide the big outcome with a PI. They chose passivity. They chose poorly, which I think is an operational flaw in the system as opposed to bias.

          • Lightninbug

            I expected you would double down . . .and I was correct in assuming so. But I am surprised that you did not bring up that one of the refs of the 2005 Super Bowl showed up a few years later in the Seahawks locker room with a massive apology for the screwing that was inflicted on them in that game. Instead you chose a circumstance from the Prima Dona League to make a point.

            At any rate I am comfortable with my take on the matter and actually believe that far more fans view this matter more like I do than like you do. That’s really all I have to say on the matter except this parting admission: there is an orifice of the body about which it is mentioned that everyone has one when discussing ‘opinions’. And I have one too. And I claim no special validity for it. I merely offered an observation that elegantly fitted so many facts that I have observed in Hawk games over the years.

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks are 14-10 at home over the past three years. Home most of the time isn’t the edge that people think. It’s better to have it than not, but talent is 80 percent of football, coaching 15 home advantage 5 at best.

  • jafabian

    By playing the Eagles it’s like the Hawks got a first round bye anyway. And then they face the Niners again with Diggs and Brown back plus Lynch and Turbin more familiar with the plays.

    • dingle

      Philly has won 4 straight. And they’re playing at home. Yes, those 4 wins were against the terrible NFC East, but still…wins is wins.

      The Seahawks have to travel 2500 miles to a hostile environment. With a still-depleted roster.

      Definitely not a “bye.”

      • BB46

        Philly is playing pretty well. That game would be considered close to a toss up. Especially considering our defense is not very good right now. SF had a 118 passer rating against us AND we really were not very consistent in stopping the run either. We are banged up and the odds of going very far into the play offs aren’t very good but,,,,, we do have Russel Wilson. That sure helps.

        • art thiel

          Wilson is the only large edge in Seattle’s favor.

          The betting line started as Eagles plus one, now Seahawks minus 2.

      • art thiel

        Agreed. Philly has underperformed, for some good reasons, but it doesn’t mean they can’t play well once. Pederson is a very smart coach.

        • Husky73

          It’s that Ferndale heritage.

    • Matt Kite

      I’m surprised how many people are looking past Philly. The way the Seahawks are playing — and as beat up as they are — they could very well be one and done in the postseason. Here’s a stat that should make us all nervous: they’re 0-3 this season playing teams a second time.

      • art thiel

        Personnel health is nearly everything at this time of year. I think the Seahawks should be sweating the loss of Kendricks, because Barton isn’t ready.

    • art thiel

      Not a bye. Maybe better than MIN, but four wins in a row suggests they’ve worked around a whole lot of injuries.

  • bevdog

    Spot on as always Art. Two UNBELIEVABLES
    1) failure by the coaching staff to get a play off in time resulting in a delay of game penalty from the one yard line.
    2) very poor officiating on the field and in the booth on the obvious pass interference penalty involving Hollister that was not called.

    Exciting game disappointing finish.
    Next game up. GO HAWKS!!

    • Husky73

      The non call on PI was atrocious. It should have been a first and goal on the one.

      • art thiel

        The pressure for a review in NY in real time before the next snap is immense, And flawed. Carroll is right to want the right to challenge in the final two minutes.

      • bevdog

        Agreed. Hollister got bear hugged by Warner.

    • art thiel

      Yes, and yes. How Riveron’s crew made that call is beyond belief.

  • Tim

    Yeah…win in Philly and we got a rematch in Santa Clara with Diggs patrolling the back end. Devastating loss but…we’re still alive.

    • art thiel

      True. They get Diggs back, but now they’ve lost Kendricks and three of the past four games. That single inch seems like a mile.

      • Tim

        I’m thinking of the Washington Nationals this past year, 10 games under .500 and written off by almost everyone…

        • Husky73

          The Nationals were struggling at the start of the year, not at the end.

          • Tim

            Good point. Still believe in this team though.

  • Macfunk

    This is good reporting, Art. Now I understand what really went down. Oh, how I wish we’d been abe to GIVE MARSHON THE BALL!

    • art thiel

      I don’t think you’re alone.

    • Chris Alexander

      I think I would have preferred a fake to Marshawn (over the top) with Russell scooting around the end for the score. But …. maybe in the rematch? Or in Philly? Or both?

  • Gary Patrick

    piffle? That has been the call replay has been making all season long. The league hates the replay rule for penalties and have set out to sabotage it from the beginning. Every game has one or more of these.

    • art thiel

      Not sure who “the league” is when all parties agree annually to accept rules changes for the next season. And I guarantee there’s no one smart enough in the NFL to create a sabotage conspiracy.

      English has many good words. And they’re free for our use.

  • Kevin Lynch

    On the morning after it’s just a Thanksgiving table full of skittled storylines.

    1. Hawks lose nailbiter to avoid playing a 10-6 team at home, where they went 4-4 this year and will now play a 9-7 team on the road, where they went 7-1 this year.
    2. Jimmy G. was 18 of 22 for 285 with no picks and the 49er’s came within inches of losing the game. Preposterous. He was the primary reason S.F. lost the first game!
    3. Russell, with his line getting shredded, nearly drove his team to 4 td’s in 4 possessions in the second half against one of the NFL’s best defenses. Rediculously good second half QB. A+. I believe, before he retires, he will break Peyton’s record for 4th quarter comebacks.
    4. Did Marshawn have a plan to spill the skittles if he scored?
    5. Hawks very nearly won three of four against the Rams and Niners but performed a distant third in common games among the three teams.
    6. Marshawn DID get a chance at ‘4th and one’ last night…and didn’t make the first down. And remember, he was 1 for 5 at ‘4th and one’ the year he didn’t get the chance to score in the Super Bowl. Running into a stacked line is often suicide for even the greatest running backs.

    • art thiel

      Regarding the belief that Lynch conquers all, Seahawks fans are drunk on that myth. In the SB, the Pats subbed in there heavy package to counter that. Any two tacklers will stop Lynch on a dive play. If they did get another shot, I would have given Lynch a chance to sweep outside. Resist the hormones, Pete.

      • Tman

        Ditto on the first play of the game. Most always ends up 2nd and 10.

      • Bruce McDermott

        That right there is the problem, or one of them. He cannot consistently do that. But hormones aren’t only problem–hormones didn’t lead to that timeout. Discomboobulation on a coaching staff did, and is another. 4th down execution and decisions another. Pete is a very good coach in many ways. But decisions during a game under pressure are just not his strength.

        • art thiel

          I hope you meant discomboobulation. You may have added to the lexicon. Onomatopoeia.

  • ll9956

    I believe that in the long run Pete Carroll has done many more good things for the Hawks than not-so-good. But there were serious clock management issues in the last two games, both losses. Both times Carroll took the blame, which is commendable. In the game vs. the 49ers, the screwup almost certainly changed the outcome. It’s hard to understand why Schottenheimer or Norton or one of the 67 coaches on the bench didn’t start yelling bloody murder when the play clock got close to zero. A bunch of players could have run onto the field, lined up and Russell could have spiked the ball again to avoid the delay of game penalty, even if there were ten men or less on the field. I think the Hawks (and maybe all teams) should assign one person to watch the play clock as his/her primary responsibility. Then catastrophes like this wouldn’t happen again.

    • art thiel

      They do have coaches assigned to such things. But as with any complicated endeavor under time pressure, people sometimes make mistakes. Your recommendation of bunches of players running onto the field as a solution is not found in any coaching manual of which I’m aware.

  • Chris Alexander

    The non-call was egregious, as was the delay of game. But …. as others have pointed out, facing a battered Eagles team on the road may be better for the Hawks than facing a relatively healthy Vikings team in Seattle. Win or lose, the Hawks were playing on wildcard weekend. Another week for Lynch and Turbin to get up to speed will help and, assuming they win in Philadelphia, they will have another week after that before the rematch in Santa Clara.

    I don’t think it can be overstated how much the Hawks need Diggs on the field. As hard as it was to come up inches short of a win, especially the way they did, had Seattle’s D not allowed the Niners to march down the field to quickly answer the team’s first 2 touchdowns, the game might have ended differently.

    Here’s to hoping the Seahawks win in Philly, that Diggs is healthy, and that the Hawks keep giving Lynch the ball at the 1.

    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      As I wrote, any one of the plays from the 12 could have been a game-winner that would have averted the play clock fiasco and the DPI non-call. They misfired on all.

  • jeff acorn

    I wonder sometimes if Carroll has some conscious or unconscious resentment toward Lynch that doesn’t want him to win the important games.

  • Tman

    Sure looked like a SF fumble the Hawks recovered and took into the end zone. From every angle. Looked like the ball was out when SF player hit the ground on his back.

    • art thiel

      I believe they ruled the pass was incomplete, ending the possibility of a fumble.