Tough loss.
Tough loss. Otto Greule Jr / Stringer

The Seahawks are an injury ravaged juggernaut, a Ferrari turned jalopy due to an array of stingers, broken bones and torn tendons that have left a potential Super Bowl contender gasping for air in an increasingly tight NFC playoff race. And after Monday night’s 34-31 loss to Atlanta, the oil light is on. Despite a winning record, and a borderline MVP year from their quarterback, the Seahawks have had some really rough losses.

This one was brutal, not because the team played badly or their opponent was poor, but because so many of the costly plays in the game were self-inflicted wounds. Another slew of penalties left Seattle with impossible defensive tasks, bad turnovers led directly to points, and some baffling decisions on simple calls (kicking field goals, calling timeouts, challenging plays) took points off the board. For a game in which the Seahawks quickly fell behind by 14 points, it’s lunacy how much of the defeat can be chalked up to blunders.

That acknowledged, I think there’s too much playing of the blame game after Seahawks losses right now. I get the instinct, and I have it too. I just… I don’t think it’s healthy for us as a community of fans, and I don’t think it leads to smart or productive conversations about the game.

Blame Pete Carroll for this loss? Fine. I get it. He made a few of the dumber decisions you’ll ever see a head coach make on Monday night. But also he’s a defensive backs coach, down his top two cornerbacks and his strong safety, who managed to wring from his a beleaguered unit a performance that snapped Matt Ryan’s NFL record 67 game streak of amassing 200+ passing yards. To repeat: Matt Ryan had thrown for 200+ yards in 67 straight games. Without Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor or Shaq Griffin, the Seahawks extinguished that streak. Without Pete Carroll, this team gets absolutely shredded by the Falcons. I don’t think it’s worth throwing the Pete Carroll coaching great baby out with the dumb fake field goal bathwater he soaks in.

Blame Russell Wilson, who had an absolutely brutal fumble that was returned for a touchdown on a strip sack where he unwisely extended the play? Well then you don’t get to credit him for all the times when he extends a play and makes magic happen. Blame him for missing on a brutal interception early in the game to Tyler Lockett whom he couldn’t see over the line? Cool and fine. But dude is short. We know that, and he’s gotten us a lot of wins despite that. And he was on Monday once again responsible for 90%+ of the Seahawks offense. Put Austin Davis at quarterback? This team has an easier time seeing defenders and making safe plays, but it has trouble scoring ten points.

Blame Blair Walsh for missing a 52 yarder in Seattle? Well okay, but on cold nights at the CLink the ball doesn’t travel well. We saw Steven Hauschka beg off of a sub-50 yarder in the playoffs before. That’s the deal with this stadium; on cold nights the ball doesn’t go as far. It’s the same shit that affects the Mariners right next door. Walsh did everything asked of him the rest of the night including executing a weird trick kick that led directly to points. I get that he missed a kick at the end, but the outcome of this game wasn’t on Blair Walsh.

Blame the offensive line? I’d love to. Germain Ifedi is still beyond infuriating to root for. But the unit is largely better. Duane Brown and Justin Britt are both playing well despite having lingering ankle injuries. Ethan Pocic looks like a real contributor at guard. And Luke Joeckel, who had been the team’s second best lineman before getting hurt should be back soon. It’s a bad unit, but it’s a bad unit getting better as we hoped it would.

The team we root for is imperfect. The people we root for are imperfect. Fixating on who should be apportioned the blame for a defeat is pointless, in that it removes meaningful context from evaluating performance, and disrespectful, in that it implies the game was lost rather than won.

That weird fake field goal? That was a great play by Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett. The biggest penalties of the game were because world wrecking receiver Julio Jones exploited one-on-one matchups against backup cornerbacks. The missed kick? The Seahawks were denied better field position by good scheming by Atlanta coach Dan Quinn.

This was a hard fought, evenly contested game of football, where the most important people on the Seahawks made the most costly decisions of the night, but without whom the game would have been lost from the coinflip. I get wanting to blame people for everything right now (what with our truly terrible president and all) but I’m trying to enjoy football with that instinct dialed back a notch, and I think you should too.

A couple quick bullets:

• John Schneider is doing the lord’s work. That the Seahawks who are down Cliff Avril, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Michael Wilhoite, Jarran Reed and Shaq Griffin were able to slow a really good Falcons passing attack speaks to the roster depth he’s assembled in the face of massive adversity. He won’t win executive of the year, again, because this team won’t be one of the top three in the league in wins, but this season represents his best effort since drafting Wagner and Wilson with back to back picks.

• To that point, Naz Jones and Sheldon Richardson are really good defensive tackles. Schneider made the line younger and stouter this year, and it’s great.

• Rumors of Cliff Avril being replaced by Dion Jordan and Dwight Freeney were greatly exaggerated. Those two are nice rotational pieces, but Avril is missed in games like this one where having someone who can bend the edge and prevent Matt Ryan from comfortable dropping back can take away some of his deeper throws. Ryan didn’t get much from those throws tonight except for two big pass interference penalties, but those were arguably enough to swing the game.

• I think Byron Maxwell is going to play well for the Seahawks the rest of the season. He was the team’s most effective cornerback already with three days of practice under his belt. Also, he still wears weird sleeves, and I think that gives him a psychological edge that will only sharpen as he ages.

• Where is Paul Allen on the initiative to clone Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas, and deploy a whole team of Wagners and Thomases? I know that it seems like there would size mismatches on the line, but who cares? More Wagners and Thomases, please, Paul.

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• After two dumb years of injuries and weird playcalls, Jimmy Graham is a touchdown machine now and I couldn’t be happier about it. I could blame Darell Bevel for not getting it right sooner, but what did we just talk about?

• I think it’s worth considering lowering our expectations. The Seahawks could absolutely still go on a run and win the Super Bowl this year. They have a great quarterback, and there are no great teams in the NFL this year (unless the Eagles are that team, which maybe, but I need slightly more evidence). This loss changed my mindset for the season from “Super Bowl or bust” to “let’s have some fun watching Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner cook, and maybe get a win or two in the playoffs.”

Obviously the coaches and players aren’t thinking that way, but like, come on. This team IS fun if you release your grip on the need to win. Every Russell Wilson dropback is bananas. All of Pete Carroll’s nonsense is delightful. The pieces are there in the longterm (excellent QB, coach, GM, defensive stalwarts), so if this season is “lost” then it might as well be enjoyable. The Seahawks get the dreadful 49ers this weekend. Let’s relish watching them do cool stuff for a while against a really bad team. I think it will be nice and good.