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Originally published Monday, November 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Victory slips through Seahawks' grasp against Miami

The opportunity rested on the Seahawks' fingertips in the third quarter. Koren Robinson stood wide open in the end zone only to have the...

Seattle Times staff reporter

MIAMI — The opportunity rested on the Seahawks' fingertips in the third quarter.

Koren Robinson stood wide open in the end zone only to have the ball bounce out of a grip that proved to be as soft as a cast-iron skillet.

Seattle got a hold of another chance in the fourth quarter — Bobby Engram caught the ball in the back of the end zone on a two-point conversion only to find out the play was whistled dead because of a false-start penalty against Mike Wahle.

The Seahawks still had a sliver of possibility right up to the last minute of the final quarter, facing fourth-and-10 from right about midfield when tight end John Carlson couldn't quite grasp Seneca Wallace's last-gasp pass in a 21-19 loss to Miami at Dolphin Stadium.

"We had a chance," coach Mike Holmgren said. "That's all you can hope for in a situation like that. You position yourself to have a chance."

Actually, the Seahawks had plenty of chances in the second half of Sunday's game. They just never quite got their hands around any of them, and they failed to finish off their comeback from a first-half deficit.

They gave up a touchdown off a trick play in the first period and allowed Ricky Williams to run 51 yards untouched in the second, and Miami led 14-0.

Quarterback Seneca Wallace suffered a first-half groin injury that limited his ability to scramble and roll out, but just when Seattle seemed headed toward its sixth double-digit defeat of the season, the Seahawks worked their way into a most unfamiliar place: a close game.

Seven of the Seahawks' first eight games were decided by double figures, but the Seahawks cut Miami's lead to seven points in the second quarter when Jordan Babineaux returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown. The Seahawks scored field goals on their first two possessions of the third quarter and were behind by only a point.

Seattle ran the ball much better beginning in the third quarter as Julius Jones got the bulk of the carries and gained 73 of his 88 yards in the second half. Meanwhile, the Seahawks defense that functioned like a manhole cover for much of the first half, letting Miami roll right over it, stiffened after halftime. Seattle forced punts on each of Miami's first two possessions. The Dolphins' ground game, which averaged 8.3 yards per carry in the first half, averaged only 2.6 in the second.

The fact that Seattle stood its ground on the road against a respectable opponent counts as progress in this season in which the Seahawks lost their first three road games by an average of 24 points. But coming close isn't much consolation. Not for a franchise that has made the playoffs each of the past five seasons.

"We did some things better," Engram said. "That feels good, but we lost the game. Nobody feels good about coming close."

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And while the Seahawks played well enough to give themselves a chance in Sunday's game, they didn't play well enough to make the most of their opportunities.

The Seahawks settled for a 27-yard field goal by Olindo Mare in the third quarter after Robinson dropped what would have been the go-ahead touchdown in the end zone.

"That hasn't been how Koren has been playing," Holmgren said. "He has been pretty sure-handed."

The Seahawks allowed the Dolphins to drive 79 yards in 16 plays in the fourth quarter, converting three third downs, one fourth down and giving up a 16-yard touchdown run that put Miami ahead by eight points.

So by the time Robinson caught a 3-yard touchdown with 2:57 left in the game, the Seahawks needed a two-point conversion to tie it. That prospect got 5 yards more difficult after a false-start penalty against Wahle.

"I thought I was right on it, and obviously I wasn't," Wahle said.

Miami defensive back Yeremiah Bell knocked away a pass intended for Carlson on the two-point conversion.

And finally, there was the ball that caromed off Carlson's hands on Seattle's final play. It was a difficult catch with Bell right on Carlson's hip, but it was the kind of play Carlson expects to make.

"If I'm able to touch the ball, I should be able to catch it," Carlson said.

Carlson had a chance, but like some of the other Seahawks, he couldn't quite get control of that opportunity Sunday in Miami.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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