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Wilson, Seahawks have struggled vs. good defenses all season

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It was bound to happen.

Russell Wilson has been bailing out Seattle's disjointed offense all season, and even when he has not played his best he usually has found a way to make sure the offense did just enough to win.

But on Sunday, Wilson played the worst game of his career and -- appropriately -- lost at home for the first time in his 15 games there.

As much as no one expected it to happen, perhaps we should have. After all, Wilson and the offense have struggled against good defenses for most of the season.

A year ago, Wilson and Seattle were cruising along as they entered the playoffs. The Hawks won their final five games, including a three-game stretch in which they scored 150 points.

This year, however, the offense is stumbling into the postseason. And it's not a big shock -- considering the mess the offensive line has been all season and the duress Wilson often has been under.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has leaned heavily on Wilson without giving him much help via play calls. Bevell has refused to move Wilson around by design, or use much misdirection or throw to the tight ends enough. But, through the first 12 weeks, Wilson and Seattle's dominant defense managed to bail Bevell out in all but the Colts game.

The Hawks put together a seven-game winning streak, including a three-game stretch in which they looked every bit the Super Bowl favorites by beating Atlanta, Minnesota and New Orleans 108-37. But they have now lost two of their last three and just scored their fewest points at home since a 41-7 loss to the Giants in November 2010.

The Hawks thought they could hit a bunch of deep passes against Arizona. But the Cardinals shut down the passing game, holding Wilson to a career-low 108 passing yards and a season-worst 40.7 percent completion rate.

"Their corners played really well," Carroll told 710 ESPN on Monday. "They made plays in this game that we thought we would make. They came up and knocked some balls away that I thought they wouldn't get to. …

"We didn't execute as well as we needed to."

Last year when Wilson and the Hawks took off at the end of the season, they did so because they were using his mobility.

Wilson had turned into a dual threat, averaging 265.8 yards per game and accounting for 13 touchdowns (2.6 per game). He ran 37 times for 262 yards and scored four times in those final five games.

Early this season, because the line was so unsettled, Wilson was running just to keep the Hawks in games. But in the losses to San Francisco and Arizona in the last three games, he has run just three times.

As has happened so often this season, especially against good defenses, Bevell had no alternative plan of attack against the Cardinals. And Wilson had another bad day against them.

In four games, the Cardinals have given Wilson all kinds of trouble. He has completed 54 of 103 passes (52.4 percent) for 644 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

Of course, they aren't the first team to stymie Wilson and the Seattle offense this season.

In Week 2 against San Francisco, Wilson completed just 8 of 19 passes (42.1 percent) for 142 yards, with 63.9 rating. The Hawks blew out the Niners 29-3 because of five turnovers and 172 rushing yards.

At Houston, Wilson was 12 of 23 (52.2 percent) for 123 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, with a 49.7 rating. The Hawks won 23-20 in overtime because Richard Sherman returned an interception for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and the Texans committed a personal foul to help set up Seattle's winning field goal. Wilson also ran 10 times for 77 yards in that game.

At Indianapolis, Wilson was just 15 of 31 (48.4 percent) for 210 yards, two TDs and a pick, with a 78.7 rating. Wilson did run for 102 yards on 13 carries, but the Hawks lost 34-28 because they went 2 for 12 on third downs and couldn’t stop the Colts in the fourth quarter.

At St. Louis, Wilson was harassed all game and completed just 10 of 18 passes (55.6 percent) for 139 yards -- but he threw two TD passes in an ugly 14-9 win that was led by the defense.

And then Sunday, Wilson had his worst game ever: 11 of 27 (40.7 percent) for 108 yards and a 49.6 rating.

He didn't make enough correct decisions and he was inaccurate on a lot of throws. It really was the worst game of his career -- even worse than his first NFL game, which came in a loss at Arizona in the 2012 opener.

It almost seemed at times as if Wilson was distracted and not paying attention. On a third-and-3 at the Arizona 4-yard line early in the second quarter, Wilson let the play clock expire. He then threw incomplete to a covered Jermaine Kearse at the goal line, leaving the Hawks with a field goal after they had started with a first down at the 12.

Wilson also messed up in the final two minutes of the first half. On second down, he hit Marshawn Lynch for a screen pass that was just short of the first down. But Wilson thought it was a first down. On the next play, as he scrambled to his left, he eschewed running for an easy first down and instead threw Doug Baldwin out of bounds.

The Hawks had the ball at the 3-yard line with 42 seconds left in the half and came away with no points at all. Lynch misread a block that Carroll said should have been a "walk-in" touchdown, and then Wilson was rushed on third down and threw incomplete. A false start then nullified a 19-yard field goal and Steven Hauschka missed a 24-yarder.

It was just one bad play after another for Wilson and the offense.

"There were a couple of times he could have made a snap decision and got the ball out," Carroll said on radio. "He went conservative with his thought, went to the next guy and ended up having to run.

"We need to make sure that we get the ball to the right guy, the guy that is the most open, or the most available," Carroll told reporters Monday. "Sometimes we missed that and we didn’t get that done."

Wilson was so bothered by his performance that he texted Carroll late into the night and was back at Seahawks headquarters before 5 a.m. Monday to watch the film.

"He was in early and he couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t sleep," Carroll said. "So we found ourselves sitting in the room, watching the film together really early this morning and just trying to be really critical … and understand what happened and make some sense of it.

"He’s real frustrated about it. He knew he could play better and wanted to do more stuff and wanted to get that win as much as anybody.”

He didn't. And now the Hawks face an equally troublesome Rams defense in the season finale with the division title on the line.

"We played a very good team and this is, again, another statement about the NFC West and how loaded up it is," Carroll said of the league's only division with three teams with 10 or more wins. "It’s a terrific effort by the Cardinals, on both sides of the ball, the way they did it. And we didn’t get it done."

Just another bad offensive performance -- this time courtesy of Wilson's worst game -- against another good defense.


**If the Hawks lose to the Rams and the 49ers beat Arizona, the 49ers will win the NFC West and the Seahawks will end up as the No. 5 seed in the NFC. That would send them to Chicago, Green Bay or Dallas for the wild-card round. And that would be a huge disappointment.

"We’d like to win this last game and then win our division and that’s it," Carroll said.

**This is the third time in Carroll's four seasons in Seattle that his team has faced the Rams at home to conclude the season. Every game has had meaning. In 2010, they played for the division title, which the Hawks won at 7-9. In 2012, the Hawks had a chance to win the division if the 49ers had lost, but both teams won and the Hawks finished a half-game back.

**Asked about the officiating on 710 ESPN, Carroll said he thought the officials made a bad call on the final offensive play -- an interception off a ball that the referees said bounced off Baldwin's arm rather than the ground. Video was inconclusive (it still looked like the ball might have hit off Baldwin's arm), so the play had to stand as called on the field.

"In a close game, it makes a difference," Carroll said. "There (were) a few calls in there that made a difference. The last interception was really unfortunate. That ball really was on the ground. It's too bad."

**The Hawks had a season-high 102 yards in penalties. The only flag Carroll seemed to have a big issue with was the third-down holding call on Malcolm Smith during Arizona's winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.

"It was a very, very late decision by the official. He had already signaled it incomplete," Carroll said. "That's a second-thought penalty that hurt us badly at about the six-minute mark. We'd get the ball back right there."

**Carroll also lamented the third-down failures. The Hawks were 2 for 13 and are just 5 for 26 (19.2 percent) over the past two games after converting 48.3 percent over the previous seven games.

"That's enough of a stat to tell you we're off," he said. "… That's the problem right now. We have to make sure to get that back on track."


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