Seahawks' sloppy loss means playoff berth will have to wait

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- While talking this week about the damage a resurgent Seattle Seahawks team is capable of doing in the playoffs, veteran receiver Doug Baldwin noted that they've got to get there first.

It's all but certain they still will, but their 26-23 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday means that berth will have to wait.

And it means you can put on hold for now any talk of the Seahawks (8-6) making a deep run in the playoffs. That was much easier to imagine last week, when the Seahawks were coming off their fourth straight win, than it is in the immediate aftermath of a performance like Sunday's against a team that entered the game with three wins and a backup starting at quarterback.

The Seahawks would have secured a wild-card spot with a win over the 49ers, whom they had beaten 10 straight times dating back to the NFC Championship Game five seasons ago. Instead, they turned in one of their sloppier efforts of the season, which included a season-high 14 penalties for a franchise-record 148 yards and some baffling defensive breakdowns in the first half.

The good news: Live projections from ESPN's Football Power Index still give the Seahawks a 99 percent chance to make the playoffs. They would guarantee their spot with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday night. They could lose that game and still get in by beating the Arizona Cardinals in the regular-season finale, according to FiveThirtyEight.com data. The website also lists Seattle with a 70 percent chance of making it even with losses in both games.

"We're well aware of that, but just not today," coach Pete Carroll said when asked if the likelihood of a playoff berth is any silver lining. "There's no silver linings in this day today."

Carroll pointed to the penalties as the difference while rejecting the idea that effort or focus were issues. So did several players, including receiver Doug Baldwin.

"I think anybody watching the game would think that," Baldwin said. "I personally don't think that is the case. I know how hard these players work. I know how hard these coaches work, and I can't take anything away from the 49ers. They played an excellent game tonight. They battled hard. They fought back every time we threw a punch. I have to give the credit."

It was more than the penalties that did the Seahawks in Sunday. In a sequence that won't be going on his season highlight reel, Sebastian Janikowski missed the extra point after Seattle's first touchdown, then made a weak attempt at stopping Richie James Jr. as James ran by while returning the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.

And although Russell Wilson gave Seattle another turnover-free performance while throwing two first-half touchdowns to Baldwin, he missed what would have been a big gain -- if not a third score -- to his longtime No. 1 receiver late in the game. On a third-and-15 play on Seattle's final drive of regulation, Baldwin was running wide open up the seam, but Wilson instead threw incomplete toward David Moore on the sideline.

"We were trying to take a shot, trying to get one of those guys a go-ball kind of thing, see if we could make a big play," he said. "Unfortunately, it didn't happen."

The Seahawks trailed 17-13 at halftime after a handful of defensive breakdowns allowed tight ends George Kittle and Garrett Celek to find themselves wide open in the secondary, including the play that resulted in 41-yard touchdown for Celek.

"We've just got to tweak a few things," Wilson said. "There's no panic mode. I think our heads are down and ready to work, and that was going to be our mentality either way, because that's the way it has to be."

Was this just a one-week slip-up, the type of clunker that every team has now and again? Or is it a sign that the Seahawks are too flawed to make any noise in the postseason?

Next week's game against the 11-3 Chiefs will provide a better idea.

"Everything we want is still in front of us, but it's not going to get any easier," left tackle Duane Brown said. "We've got a really good team coming into our stadium next week. We've got to go back to the drawing board and correct our mistakes and make it happen."