SEATTLE – Nothing worse than faking yourself right out of first place.
The Seattle Seahawks failed on a fake field-goal attempt at the end of the first half, giving away three points that proved pivotal in a 34-31 loss to the Atlanta Falcons Monday night.
I’m all for trying to catch the defense off guard and run a few trick plays here and there, but this one just didn’t make much sense.
The Seahawks were down 24-17 near the end of the second quarter. Thanks to another example of Russell Wilson’s Houdini-like scrambling skills, Seattle drove to the Atlanta 17 in the final minute and had a fourth-and-1 with seven seconds left in the first half.
Take the three points and head to the locker room. Seattle coach Pete Carroll and his coaches had other ideas. The ball was snapped to holder Jon Ryan, who flipped a quick shovel pass to tight end Luke Willson crossing behind the linemen.
Huge mistake. Atlanta defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was all over it. He wasn’t fooled for a second. Jarrett burst through the line and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss as soon as he got the ball.
What in the world were the Seahawks thinking? Even if Willson had managed to get the first down, they still would have needed to kick a field goal because only a few seconds were left.
The only way the fake made sense is if the Seahawks believed they could score a touchdown on a backfield shovel pass from 17 yards out. Yes, they did believe it.
“It was a 100 percenter going into it,” Willson said. “It was the look we were waiting for, something they had done all year. I don’t know why, but for this game they changed it up. It was a first-time thing for them, so obviously, and it didn't work [for the Seahawks].”
Carroll also thought it was close to a sure thing.
“We figured we were going to break it,’’ Carroll said. “It was a terrific opportunity right where we wanted it. We knew exactly what was going on. It was something we saw that we wanted to do, but the defensive tackle [Jarrett] made a better play. He wasn’t supposed to be there. It would’ve been a great call if we had made it.”
But was it worth the risk? The Seahawks would have been down 24-20 (assuming Blair Walsh made a 35-yard field goal), knowing they would get the ball to start the second half. That opening series of the third quarter resulted in a field goal.
So much was on the line in this game. The Seahawks fall to 6-4 and are outside looking in for the moment in the playoff hunt.
They could have taken control of the top spot in the NFC West, tying the Los Angeles Rams at 7-3, but having the advantage with a victory over the Rams earlier this season.
The Seahawks were playing a game for the first time in six years without both Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor on the field for the Legion of Boom.
Things got worse when starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin went down with a possible concussion on the first series. It forced Seattle to insert former Seahawk Byron Maxwell into the starting lineup after only being with the team for a few days.
Too many times the defense couldn’t get off the field on third down. Atlanta converted on eight of its first 10 third downs. And the Seahawks had over 100 yards in penalties (9 for 106 yards) for the fifth consecutive game.
They might have overcome all those issues had they just kicked the field goal instead of attempting a risky fake at the end of the half. Walsh was short of a 52-yard attempt at the end of the game to try to tie it.
The Seahawks still control their own destiny in the division with a game against the Rams at CenturyLink Field on Dec. 17. But it’s a tough road ahead, including Philadelphia at home and Jacksonville on the road.
Maybe the disastrous fake won’t matter down the stretch. However, if the Seahawks fail to make the playoffs, one flop of a fake field goal will be an ugly memory of what might have been.