SEATTLE -- Russell Wilson was awful at the start. He was incredible after that. Ultimately, he wasn't enough.
Wilson was picked off on his second pass attempt and lost a second-quarter fumble that was returned for an Atlanta Falcons touchdown, which contributed to a brutal start for the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson rallied Seattle back with two passing touchdowns, a rushing score and some of his signature elusiveness -- showing that the Seahawks are never out of any game as long as No. 3 is at quarterback -- but they needed more than Wilson's magic on Monday night.
They needed a much cleaner performance, they needed to get off the field on third down and they needed to put a whole lot more pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan than they ever got in their 34-31 loss. They also needed Blair Walsh to come through at the end to push the game into overtime, but his 52-yard field goal attempt with seven seconds left came up short to seal Atlanta's victory.
"Unfortunately, the turnovers really gave them a great opportunity, and they took advantage of it," coach Pete Carroll said. "So we were playing from behind all night."
The loss snaps the Seahawks' 11-game win streak on Monday Night Football, and much more importantly, it further narrows their margin for error in the NFC playoff race.
What it means: The Seahawks wasted an opportunity to move into first place in the NFC West over the Los Angeles Rams, who dropped to 7-3 with a loss on Sunday (the Seahawks own a tiebreaker by virtue of their head-to-head win). Seattle's playoff chances took a big hit. According to ESPN's Football Power Index, a win against Atlanta would have given the Seahawks an 85 percent chance of reaching the postseason. A loss drops that down to 58 percent. The Seahawks' chances of playing in January for a sixth straight season are looking iffy, especially with a banged-up defense and a tough remaining schedule. Among other things, they'll need the Rams to keep coming back down to Earth like they did in their loss to Minnesota on Sunday.
What I liked: Tyler Lockett was excellent in the return game. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, his 197 kickoff return yards (on five attempts) are the most by a Seahawks player in a game since Leon Washington had 222 in a 2010 game against the San Francisco 49ers (Week 14). Lockett's long returns set up Seattle with short fields. He added 37 yards receiving. Lockett hasn't looked as explosive this season coming off a badly broken leg from 2016, but he was tremendous in this game. So was Wilson after his poor start.
He pulled Seattle to within three points with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin and then a two-point conversion to Jimmy Graham with three minutes left. Wilson finished 26-of-42 for 258 yards and did a ton of damage with his legs, avoiding several sacks, keeping plays alive and leading Seattle with 86 yards on seven carries. "He was a huge factor in the game," Carroll said. "He was all over the place."
What I didn't like: Carroll made a pair of decisions that were questionable, to put it charitably. The Seahawks lined up for a 34-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half, which would have cut Atlanta's lead to four points if made. But Seattle attempted a fake, with a shovel pass to tight end Luke Willson that never stood a chance.
Why it was curious: Wilson likely would have had a hard time finding the end zone from 17 yards out, and the Seahawks had only 7 seconds on the clock with one timeout left. Even if Wilson got the yard needed for a first down, Seattle wouldn't have had time for a shot into the end zone before attempting a field goal. Carroll said the Seahawks thought they could score a touchdown on that play and that, at worst, Wilson could have run out of bounds to stop the clock. "It would have been a really good call if we made it," he said. Carroll also wasted a timeout in the fourth quarter with what felt like was an unnecessary challenge of a dropped pass by Baldwin.
Fantasy fallout: Graham continues to be a touchdown machine. His 4-yard touchdown gives him seven in the past six games. He had eight touchdowns in his first 31 games with Seattle. Six of Graham's touchdowns have come near the goal line, where he's finally making the impact the Seahawks thought he would when they acquired him in a 2015 trade. Graham also caught a two-point conversion and finished the game with seven catches for 58 yards.
Bad luck with injuries continues: Already without Richard Sherman because of a season-ending Achilles injury and Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury that will likely end his season as well, the Seahawks lost starting right cornerback Shaquill Griffin after two plays. He left after suffering a concussion and didn't return, pressing Byron Maxwell into action opposite Jeremy Lane. Seattle also lost running back Mike Davis at the start of the third quarter to a groin injury. He was giving Seattle's offense a spark in his first game since he was promoted from the practice squad. Davis had two catches for 41 yards and six carries for 18 yards before he was hurt. Right guard Oday Aboushi (shoulder) left in the fourth quarter and didn't return.
What's next: The Seahawks head to the Bay Area next week to face the San Francisco 49ers (1-9), who will be coming off a bye and could be starting Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. It's a game the Seahawks should win even if they're banged up and even though the 49ers hung tough against Seattle at CenturyLink Field in Week 2. The Seahawks have a difficult four-game stretch after that -- vs. Philadelphia, at Jacksonville, vs. the Rams and at Dallas -- so the 49ers will be their easiest opponent for a while.