For the third straight game, the Seattle Seahawks offense had the ball in their hands with a chance to drive for a winning score.
For the third straight game, the offense was unable to accomplish the task.
The Seahawks fell short in a 13-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday night that dropped them to 2-5 on the season. It's the first time since 2011 that the Seahawks have won just two of their first seven games in a season. That season was the last time the franchise also finished a season with a losing record, going 7-9 in Pete Carroll's second year with the team.
"We've come in here a number of times here and really had very similar results that we're not getting the game when we have chance to get the football game that's out there for us," Carroll said. "And it's really difficult. Because we're so close to winning games and we haven't been able to do it at home, for sure. Which is a real shock to me. It's a shock that we're not able to do that. But we're still trying to get these games finished properly."
In rainy and windy conditions, offense was difficult to come by. Both teams already ranked near the bottom of the NFL coming into the night and the weather didn't help makes things any easier.
Geno Smith took some bad sacks in key moments. The Saints shutdown Seattle's rushing game. Smith only completed 12 passes on the night for Seattle. Jason Myers missed a pair of field goal tries.
The defense was gashed heavily by Alvin Kamara in the second quarter but otherwise held their own against New Orleans. But in the end, the collective effort fell short once again as the Seahawks season spirals away.
Here are the takeaways from the Seahawks loss to the Saints:
-- Way too many sloppy mistakes on both sides of ball.
It was not a banner night for game management from the coaches and players of the Seahawks.
Two separate times on the night, Al Woods ran onto the field late because the team did not have 11 players on the field. On one of those two occasions, Woods then ran into an offsides position at the snap that drew a penalty.
The team had to burn two timeouts in the third quarter alone to avoid delay of game penalties on offense.
Geno Smith took multiple sacks with the team bordering on field goal range. The 11-yard sack Smith took with just over seven minutes left to play made Myers' field goal try to take the lead come from 53 yards instead of 42 yards.
Marquise Blair hit Jameis Winston helmet-to-helmet on a key sack that he shared with Bobby Wagner with six minutes left to play. The drive would end up continuing another four minutes before Brian Johnson's 33-yard field goal gave the Saints the lead with 1:56 left to play. After the Seahawks made a second third down stop on the drive with 3:08 remaining, Woods jumped offsides again as the team lined up for a field goal try giving the Saints a fresh set of downs and the ability to burn another minute off the clock before Johnson's go-ahead field goal.
Center Kyle Fuller snapped a ball at the end of the first quarter just after the clock had hit zeroes when the team was trying to hard count the Saints into a penalty with no intention of running a play before the quarter break.
Just numerous gaffes that were avoidable where the team didn't handle situations correctly. The Seahawks do not have the margin of error available to them to suffer those kind of mistakes and win a football game when Russell Wilson isn't playing quarterback.
-- Defense has put forth better efforts the last two weeks. How much better is tough to say.
The Seahawks defense was the league's worst defense though the first five weeks of the season. Last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they held the team to 23 points in an overtime contest and 345 yards. Against the Saints, they held New Orleans to just 304 yards and 13 points.
While those marks are significant improvements over the effort seen through the first five weeks, some of that could be attributed to the quality of opponents they've played in those two games.
Carroll feels like it's more than just smoke and mirrors improvement.
"We have made a big jump and we've turned the corner on a lot of areas on our defense," Carroll said. "I think the defense is playing -- go back three or four weeks, we've turned it. And so, we can expect those guys to continue to play really well and be a factor and make 13 points against this -- any NFL team is remarkable. And so, I'm counting on those guys to keep improving."
Carroll pointed specifically to the improvement in third down defense as being one of the areas they've improved the most. He's right about that. The Seahawks defense had allowed 20 conversions on 41 third down attempts from their opponents through the first three weeks. Since then, they've allowed just 11 conversions on 51 attempts in the last four games, which is just 21.5 percent.
Unfortunately, the Seahawks are still 1-3 in those four contests.
And while the defense is better, it still has its issues. Kamara caught four passes for 64 yards on the final drive of the half as the Saints took a 10-3 lead into the break.
"The whole sequence, we were just out of whack with covering him," Carroll said. "There was five different calls in there, different things that happened when we had him manned up. We had some -- we needed to get it done one way or the other. And we tried, tried, tried. We didn't get it done. The second half, the guys made the adjustments, and everything was fine. And we were sharp at it and it wasn't the same thing anymore. But just in that sequence, we couldn't stop it until they got to the end zone with the calls that we made."
-- Geno Smith keeps making just enough mistakes as the Seahawks keep falling just short.
Geno Smith isn't playing terrible football. He's making some big plays here and there for the Seahawks offense as they try and bide time until Russell Wilson can return from injured reserve. However, Smith keeps making just enough errors as the team keeps coming up short with him under center.
"Playing quarterback, you got to put the team in the best position to win," Smith said. "And whatever I got to do to get the ball out or evade a sack, whatever I have to do to not have that happen, that's a part of my job. And I put that solely on my myself, honestly. And I got big enough shoulders, I'll take it all. You can put the blame on my feet. No worry. I know I'm going to do whatever I need to do to make sure that we get a win."
Smith is trying damn hard to keep the Seahawks season afloat. You could argue he tried too hard on certain plays Monday night against the Saints in taking sacks that proved costly. And he's accountable, too. It's one of the reasons the team supports him as much as they do because the believe in Smith the person as well as Smith the quarterback.
Smith opened the game with a great 84-yard strike to DK Metcalf that gave Seattle the early lead. He made another great deep throw to Tyler Lockett, who was unable to haul in the pass. A big catch-and-run completion to Freddie Swain put Seattle in position to get a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter.
But the sacks killed Seattle with the one on that fourth quarter drive being the most consequential.
With the Seahawks at the Saints 24-yard line, Smith was sacked for an 11-yard loss that moved Seattle to fringe field goal range amid windy conditions. Myers miss from 53 yards set the table for the Saints to drive for the winning score.
"The time we were on the 23-yard line or something like that in great shape and we take a big loss. We've just got to find a way to get the ball out and get it gone when we're in trouble," Carroll said. "That's easy to say. Go play quarterback and try to figure it out. I love Geno and he's busting his ass to do everything he can to help us. But that's the kind of decisions that you make that keep you in the games and give you a chance to win."
Then after the Saints took the 13-10 lead, Smith took two more sacks on the final drive as Seattle came up short.
Smith had 84 yards to Metcalf on his first completion of the night. He managed just 83 yards the rest of the night on his ensuing 11 completions.
The Seahawks' problems extend far beyond Smith's performance at quarterback. But Smith's play does illustrate the gulf between the backup job and what Russell Wilson can provide.
"I've been here a long time," Carroll said. "And if we didn't have Russell, I probably wouldn't have been here a long time. Because think of all the magic that he's created in the years. He's got numbers and stats, and fourth quarters, thises and thats, and all of that stuff. One of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. And it will be really fun when he comes back and plays football again for us this year. And we owe a tremendous amount. You can see how hard it is."
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 25: Jameis Winston #2 of the New Orleans Saints is brought down by Bryan Mone #90 of the Seattle Seahawks during the first half at Lumen Field on October 25, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)