Seahawks can't rally, lose 34-12 blowout for Bengals
Bengals return punt and interception for touchdowns late in the fourth quarter.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Division standingsCan the Seahawks defend their 2010 NFC West title? Doesn't look likely at this point.
San Francisco 49ers
St. Louis Rams
The Seahawks gave up 17 points in the final five minutes to Cincinnati, but don't say they collapsed.
That would imply Seattle had control at some point of Sunday's 34-12 loss. It didn't.
Not in the beginning, when the Seahawks failed to gain a first down on two of Charlie Whitehurst's first three possessions at quarterback and fell behind 10-0. Not in the middle, when Tarvaris Jackson came back from a pectoral injury and showed himself to be the Seahawks best bet at quarterback.
And certainly not in the end, when Seattle allowed Cincinnati's Brandon Tate to return a punt 56 yards for a touchdown and watched as Bengals safety Reggie Nelson returned an interception 75 yards for good measure.
The Seahawks started out bad, they got better and then wound up much, much worse in a game that left coach Pete Carroll hoping this team had reached rock bottom.
"It's not a good place to be," he said. "But it's a good place to leave behind, and we're going to do everything we can to get that done."
In nine years at USC, Carroll became used to running a powerhouse, not building one. Routs, not regrets. But on Sunday, one of the winningest coaches in college football history got a reminder of all the different ways an NFL team can beat itself. From the 11 penalties the Seahawks committed, to the headstrong gamble he took going for a touchdown just before halftime and costing his team a field-goal opportunity, to his team's late-game swoon.
"We really gave them everything they needed in this game," Carroll said.
But when it was over and Seattle had fallen to 2-5, Carroll kept his chin up and looked to the future.
"I can only think of what we can become," he said.
That wasn't entirely his imagination.
The Seahawks picked off Cincinnati's Andy Dalton twice in the second half, and the defense has not given up a second-half touchdown in past two games despite the fact Seattle lost the time-of-possession battle in both.
"We had mental breakdowns at times," safety Earl Thomas said. "But I still think we held up."
The offense showed progress, too. At least it did after Whitehurst was replaced at quarterback.
Jackson entered in the second quarter, and by the end of the period Seattle's offense was playing better even if it didn't translate into points.
The Seahawks' three red-zone possessions produced nine total points. Seattle ran out of time in the second quarter, holding the ball at the Cincinnati 1 when halftime arrived. The Seahawks settled for a field goal in the third quarter and scored on Marshawn Lynch's 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth, their first touchdown since the fourth quarter of the Oct. 9 game at New York.
Jackson finished with a career-high 323 yards passing. Ben Obomanu, starting in place of Mike Williams, led Seattle with 107 yards receiving, and Sidney Rice had 102 — the first time since 2004 Seattle had two receivers hit triple digits in the same game. The Seahawks gained 411 yards, 159 more than the Bengals.
And they still lost by 22.
"Obviously, we took some steps back, because we haven't been as productive as we were," Jackson said. "But we're still growing. Guys are still fighting hard. It's hard to deal with, being that we're 2-5. We've lost two straight coming out of the bye week. This is not what we pictured."
And Sunday was a portrait of Seattle's futility, a game that showed how far away the Seahawks are from being a consistent team.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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