Seahawks are unable to overcome penalties and other mistakes in loss to Chargers
In the moments after Seattle’s 30-21 loss on Sunday to the Chargers, the truth the Seahawks had to come to terms with was obvious: They aren’t so much better than other teams that they can overcome repeatedly stubbing their toe.
Seattle Times staff reporter
SAN DIEGO — Out of every loss, a cold truth emerges.
And in the moments after Seattle’s 30-21 defeat Sunday against the Chargers, the truth the Seahawks had to come to terms with was obvious: They aren’t so much better than other teams that they can overcome repeatedly stubbing their toe.
The margin for error in the NFL is so small that even the better teams in the league can’t afford poorly timed mistakes — and they can’t afford the costly ones the Seahawks made against the Chargers.
There was Bruce Irvin’s late hit on third down that kept a drive alive in the third quarter and allowed San Diego to score a touchdown. There was Percy Harvin’s fumbled kickoff that led to another San Diego touchdown. There was Malcolm Smith’s holding penalty on third down that kept Seattle’s defense on the field. And there was J.R. Sweezy’s false start in the fourth quarter that made it third-and-15 instead of third-and-10; Russell Wilson scrambled for 14 yards and the Seahawks punted.
The Seahawks were the most penalized team in the NFL a year ago and still won the Super Bowl. But the cost of doing business that way caught up with them against the Chargers on Sunday as they committed eight penalties for 53 yards.
“We definitely had some dumb penalties,” defensive end Cliff Avril said. “Penalties are something we strive to get better at. We have to make better decisions all around, especially penalties before and after the plays. Those are the ones that are unacceptable, and we have to get better at them.”
A glaring example was Irvin’s late hit. In the third quarter, with the Seahawks trailing 20-14, the Chargers faced a third-and-seven deep in Seattle territory.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers bolted from the pocket and took off down the sideline. Irvin and linebacker Bobby Wagner forced Rivers to step out for a 1-yard gain, meaning the Chargers were going to attempt a field goal. Irvin, though, unnecessarily shoved Rivers in the back when he was out of bounds. He was called for a personal foul, and the Chargers scored a touchdown two plays later.
“I couldn’t really see it, but I think that was one he could have avoided,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I think he could have held off there.’’
Harvin’s fumbled kickoff return in the second quarter came immediately after the Chargers took a 13-7 lead. Harvin fielded the kickoff off the bounce and fumbled when he ran into San Diego defenders. The Chargers converted that extra possession into a touchdown.
The penalties called to mind Seattle’s two-point defeat in San Francisco last season. The Seahawks committed nine penalties that day, including many that wiped out big gains or kept drives alive for the 49ers.
As linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said after that game, “If we want to win the close games, we have to play smart football and not just give the game away from dumb penalties.”
The Seahawks now find themselves in the same situation again. The volume of mistakes wasn’t so much the problem as much as the timing of them.
The Seahawks had only two more penalties than the Chargers, and both teams had the same amount of penalty yards. But the Seahawks made mistakes in what turned out to be big moments.
“We made some mistakes toward the end and they capitalized on them,” defensive end Michael Bennett said. “That’s what great teams do.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org