SEATTLE — It was a game that felt less like the end of the Seahawks' playoff hopes — though it was almost certainly that — and more like the end of an era.
The Seahawks lost 23-13 to a team with a second-string quarterback and missing its All-Pro wide receiver. They lost at home, where they used to be indomitable but now are 1-4 in an increasingly nightmarish 2021 season. They lost with many of the same deficiencies, inefficiencies, errors and failures to adjust that have plagued them all year.
The Seahawks are now 3-7, and despite all the wishful postgame talk about how they still have time to turn this around, the truth is that it would take a miracle that no one outside the locker room sees coming.
The deeper truth is that they look like a tired, depleted version of the Seattle team that has been a factor in the NFL for a decade. And the deepest questions — whether it's time for a major change in philosophy and personnel — are lurking just around the corner.
It's telling that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was uncharacteristically short in his postgame news conference. He went without an opening statement and cut off questions about eight minutes in, no doubt tired of addressing the same shortcomings that keep cropping up. Like the Seahawks' immense disparity in time of possession (40:22 for Arizona, 19:38 for Seattle) and their dismal third-down efficiency (two conversions out of 10).
"I don't know when it became a mystery for us to score points," Carroll said. "We've always been able to move the ball and score points. It has to be able to be fixed. We've got a lot of time, we've got a couple of months left. Shane (Waldron, the offensive coordinator), Andy (Dickerson, the running game coordinator) and I have to do a better job."
To his credit, a more composed Carroll came back into the interview room after half an hour, saying his respect for the media compelled him to return for more questions. Though there still weren't many answers to the essential question of how the Seahawks can turn things around, beyond faith.
Carroll acknowledged during his second stint at the podium that it had been decades since he coached a team that was so far out of contention and that situation is confounding him. He specifically cited his one-year stint coaching the New York Jets — which was way back in 1994 — that resulted in a 6-10 record.
"I'm just not any good at this," he said. "I'm not prepared for this. I'm struggling to do a good job of coaching when you're getting your butt kicked week in and week out. It's new territory. So I'm competing in every way I can think of, but I'm just unfamiliar with it. I'm not good at this."
Asked if this was the most frustrated he's been since he became Seahawks coach in 2010, Carroll replied immediately: "Yes, absolutely. Not even close. Not even close."
That frustration is radiating out to the fan base, which peppered the team with more boos than I've heard in a long time at Lumen Field. There was a mass exodus from the stadium in the fourth quarter after the Cardinals scored a clinching touchdown with 2:20 to play. Only two missed field goals and an extra-point by Arizona's Matt Prater made it that close.
What no one on the Seahawks is ready to say, but which is becoming more apparent by the week, is that beyond all the questions about schemes and execution, they just aren't good enough. Certainly not as good as they were perceived to be after a 12-4 season in 2020 that netted them the NFC West championship.
The Seahawks have scraped through the past two seasons with an inordinate (and unsustainable) number of close wins. Much of that was on the back of quarterback Russell Wilson, but the 2021 version of Wilson — sidelined for a month in the middle with a finger injury — has been unable to summon the same magic.
After being shut out for the first time in his career last week in Green Bay, Wilson could engineer just one touchdown Sunday and was outplayed by career backup Colt McCoy. Twice the Seahawks got the ball to the 9 but had to settle for field goals. It marks just the third time in his 10-year career that Wilson has gone two consecutive games without a touchdown pass.
But he still managed to win three of those games the previous times. Certainly, part of that was attributable to what then was a world-class defense that made the Seahawks elite. In this game, the Seahawks' defense gave up backbreaking scoring drives of 92 and 82 yards that ate up huge chunks of time and put Seattle on its heels right from the start.
The Seahawks' offense looks out of sorts, and not just Wilson, who hasn't been sharp since coming back from his monthlong absence. And while since-fired Washington offensive coordinator John Donovan received most of the local scrutiny this year for unimaginative play calling, Waldron has been unable to ignite an attack that features three dynamic playmakers in Wilson, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
The truth is, everything and everyone on the Seahawks is under renewed scrutiny now. Carroll said the need for improvement "starts with me." But the uneven drafts of GM John Schneider have led to a diminishment of talent since the halcyon days when the Seahawks were teeming with Hall of Famers who Carroll and Schneider unearthed.
That version of the Seahawks is getting dimmer and dimmer in the memory banks. Normally, it would be possible to dream of some replenishment of talent that would come via the high draft pick that poor seasons like this yield. But the Seahawks' first-round draft pick in 2022, which as of now would be No. 5 overall, belongs to the New York Jets via the Jamal Adams trade.
That trade was deemed as an example of the Seahawks going all-in to maximize their championship window while Wilson was still in his prime. But now it's legitimate to wonder if that window has slammed shut — and if Wilson will be around beyond this season to try to lift it back up.
Adams himself addressed the media after the game and said, "We've got to climb out of this. We're in a storm right now. ... Obviously, this is not what Seattle is used to."
The problem is that it's getting more believable by the week.