Seahawks lose finale, miss playoffs for first time since '11
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By TIM BOOTH
SEATTLE (AP) Doug Baldwin spent the week preparing for the inevitable reality, knowing that even with a victory it was going to be difficult for the Seattle Seahawks to make the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
"For it to end this way is really just disappointing," Baldwin said. "Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for all the years we have played in the playoffs, for getting nine wins. But there is more out there. There is definitely more out there for us."
Seattle will have an entire offseason to lament its issues after Sunday's 26-24 loss to Arizona to finish the 2017 season.
The Seahawks started the day needing help for the first time in Pete Carroll's tenure if they were going to make the playoffs. Seattle (9-7) needed to beat the Cardinals and get a Carolina victory over Atlanta to earn a wild-card berth.
Neither fell in Seattle's favor. The Falcons beat the Panthers moments after Phil Dawson gave the Cardinals the lead with his fourth field goal.
Even with the playoff hopes dashed, Seattle had one more chance to still finish with at least 10 wins for the sixth straight season.
Russell Wilson led one final drive with key completions to Baldwin and Jimmy Graham along the way. But Blair Walsh's 48-yard attempt with 32 seconds remaining missed wide right, his eighth missed kick this season.
The way the finale played out and Walsh's missed kick was a microcosm of Seattle's season. Early struggles, followed by a second-half rally and ultimately too much inconsistency and too many missed opportunities that left the Seahawks on the outside of the playoffs.
"The slow starts, the getting in our own way, making it hard on us at times when it wasn't about the opponent, it was about us," Carroll said. "There is a lot of stuff that kind of showed up again today."
Seattle went 4-4 at home, three times losing games because Walsh's kicks were inaccurate. The losses weren't entirely his responsibility but losses to Washington, Atlanta and Arizona were partly due to Walsh missing kicks.
"I had some big games and some moments where I came up short. So it's a tough year, it's a weird year," Walsh said.
Then again, if Seattle didn't have another awful first half on Sunday, it wouldn't have come down to Walsh. Seattle was flat from the start with only Tyler Lockett's 99-yard kickoff return touchdown keeping them close in the first half.
At one point of the second quarter, the Cardinals were outgaining Seattle 140-0 and had an 11-0 edge on first downs.
Russell Wilson was tentative with his throws, pressured too often by Arizona's defensive front and Seattle's run game was again absent. The result was a 20-7 halftime deficit which could have been worse.
And as was the case most of the season, Wilson woke up in the second half. He threw a pair of touchdowns to Baldwin, including a great 29-yard TD catch early in the fourth quarter to give Seattle a 26-24 lead. But a trio of personal fouls in the second half ended up being significant.
Thomas Rawls was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and knocked Seattle out of field-goal range. Frank Clark and Bobby Wagner both picked up personal fouls for hitting Drew Stanton late. The foul on Wagner kept alive Arizona's final drive that led to Dawson's final field goal that proved to be the winner.
"We expected more out of ourselves, but that's just the way it rolls," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said.
The Seahawks are likely facing their most extensive overhaul of Carroll's tenure. They've gotten old and expensive in certain positions and trades for Richardson and Duane Brown in an attempt to win this season have left Seattle void of some key draft picks.
Both Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett questioned whether they'd be back next season. Seattle has injury concerns with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, who all had major season-ending injuries.
"I have no clue, I have no clue. I know for sure that I'm going to win in the end, regardless," Thomas said.
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Updated December 31, 2017