Seattle Seahawks

With NFC West all but lost, Seattle Seahawks must realign playoff hopes

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll protests a call in the second half of a game against Arizona on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Seattle.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll protests a call in the second half of a game against Arizona on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Seattle. AP

So where do they go from here?

At 4-5, the Seahawks are under .500 this late in a season for the first time since Tarvaris Jackson was their starting quarterback and team captain, Tacoma’s Marcus Trufant was starting games for them and the team was wearing those old metallic all-blues.

Yes, that was 2011. It only seems longer ago, before two consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

Or does it? After the latest performance by Seattle’s offense for most of Sunday’s 39-32 loss to Arizona, then its defense blowing another fourth-quarter lead at the end of it, who knows?

The Seahawks do know this: Forget winning the NFC West for the third consecutive season. They need help just to make the playoffs for the fifth time in coach Pete Carroll’s six seasons.

And unlike last season, when they rallied from being 3-3 and 6-4, they don’t control their playoff fate.

I don’t ever remember a game when you have your first four drives you’re first-and-20. I can’t ever remember that ever happening

Pete Carroll

“The difference is we don’t have full control of everything at this point,” Carroll said Monday. “We’ll see if we can work our way back in that. That would be great, (but) it’s a long ways from that at this point.”

Because of their latest loss, the Seahawks just got a lot more interested in the goings-on with their former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons.

Seattle is two games behind Green Bay and Atlanta (both 6-3) for the NFC’s wild-card spots. The first NFL tiebreaker between two teams for a wild card is head-to-head results. The Packers, who have lost three in a row, beat the Seahawks in September so Seattle is essentially three games behind Green Bay for a playoff spot.

Atlanta has lost three of four after a 4-0 start to Quinn’s initial season as a head coach. Its losses have been to New Orleans, Tampa Bay and San Francisco, all sub-.500 teams. The 49ers (3-6) are the Seahawks’ next opponent, Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

The Falcons still have to play 6-2 Minnesota and undefeated Carolina twice over their final seven games.

Seattle’s final regular-season games after San Francisco: Pittsburgh (6-4), at Minnesota, at Baltimore (2-7), Cleveland (2-8), St. Louis (4-5) and at Arizona. The Seahawks will likely need to go 6-1 in order to finish 10-6 and have a solid chance at the playoffs.

Since the league’s current postseason format of six teams from each conference began 25 years and 300 playoffs entrants ago, only nine teams that finished 10-6 did not make it.

The NFC West? The Seahawks can just about forget about that after allowing the Cardinals’ Michael Floyd to get behind them for 27- and 35-yard touchdown passes from Carson Palmer and Andre Ellington the clinching 48-yard touchdown late in Sunday’s game.

Only seven games remain. There is no Ryan Lindley in sight for Arizona to boost Seattle this season. A knee injury to Palmer in the latter half of the 2014 season forced second-teamer Drew Stanton and third-stringer Lindley to play and saved the Seahawks in 2014. So Seattle’s two-year run of division titles is almost assuredly over.

No need to further explain that message.

6 The number of wins the Seahawks need over their last seven games to have a realistic shot at a playoff berth

“I thought we had a really good meeting (Monday),” Carroll said. “The truth of it was really clear. Frustration, yeah. The execution, we could see there’s so many clear areas of things we can do better. Things that we normally do real well. Giving guys deep balls is not what we do. That’s not how we play.

“But they get it. These guys are smart. They understand.”

Making sense of all their flags is another matter. Seattle had 14 penalties against Arizona — tied for the most since Carroll became its coach in 2010 — for 131 yards. Seven of those fouls were on the offense for 73 yards. Six of those seven penalties were on offensive linemen.

“I think it really makes sense for me to convey to you that we’re really frustrated by that game,” Carroll said. “It just didn’t happen the way we had planned at all. We didn’t find the opportunity to even get in the game plan. We never really did, particularly offensively.

“I don’t ever remember a game when you have your first four drives you’re first-and-20. I can’t ever remember that ever happening.”

Those long yards to gain is why Marshawn Lynch had just eight carries against Arizona. It’s why the Seahawks were down 19-0 at home in the first half.

Was there a common reason for all the holding penalties on an offensive line that has allowed a league-high 33 sacks this season, including two more of Russell Wilson on Sunday?

“I don’t even know how to answer that question right now, honestly. I don’t even know how to talk about penalties at this point. I really don’t,” Carroll said. “So what I would say is that we’ve got to keep our hands in. Those are all up to interpretation, those guys are calling them the best they can.”

Carroll said he and his staff coach their players about the officiating crew before each game, as they did last week for referee Clete Blakeman’s crew.

“Absolutely. … We have a full day on Friday that we dedicate to the crew that’s coming in, the tendencies of their calls,” Carroll said. “We show film of calls that they’ve made to make them aware. We go into great depth in that way because the crews have their own way, somewhat.”

Seahawks cornerback Cary Williams said after Sunday’s game that Blakeman’s crew didn’t have the communication and rapport with players most officials do.

“I’ve got nothing to say about it.” Carroll said. “I’m sure Cary was right.”

EXTRA POINTS

LB Bruce Irvin (knee) and WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) have “legitimate” injuries,” Carroll said. “We’ll see.” Irvin is scheduled to become a free agent after this season. Richardson made just one catch on his only target, a sprint down the left sidelines for 40 yards, in his season debut Sunday before getting hurt. The speedy second-round draft pick in 2014 missed the first eight games following reconstructive knee surgery. … The Seahawks signed DT A.J. Francis off waivers from Miami and released DT David King. The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Francis is a third-year veteran and former undrafted free agent. He’s played in one game this season for the Dolphins. “He’s a real big guy,” Carroll said. “Our guys have had their eye on him for some time, and he just popped available here and so we jumped on the opportunity to get him.”

SUNDAY: San Francisco (3-6) at Seattle (4-5), 1:25 p.m., Ch. 13, 710-AM, 97.3-FM

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