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Penalty problems delay Seahawks’ playoff aspirations

December 18, 2018
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Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll gestures during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Coach Pete Carroll didn’t have to decipher all the reasons the Seattle Seahawks booted their first chance at clinching an NFC playoff spot.

“Without the added issue of getting behind on the penalty situation, we would have won the game,” Carroll said Monday. “So it’s really clear. It’s not like there’s any mystery what happened this game. We just have to clean it up.”

The Seahawks seemed to have a winning formula against San Francisco on Sunday. They got the combination of runs and passes they were seeking. The offense didn’t turn the ball over while the defense forced one. Chris Carson had the best day of his career running the football.

But Seattle couldn’t overcome 14 penalties for a franchise-record 148 yards, even against an opponent with little to play for and three wins on the season entering the week. The Seahawks (8-6) showed that while they may be good enough to make the playoffs, they are not good enough to overcome a litany of mistakes, whether it be turnovers, protection or in Sunday’s case, penalties.

Perhaps most troubling for Carroll: Seattle was called for seven penalties in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“Really disappointed in that because that’s about finishing and doing right. That just didn’t happen,” Carroll said. “That’s too bad because we’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of emphasis on trying to finish games by doing the right things instead of that kind of stuff happening because that’s what can occur. It was really clear to these guys.”

However shocking the loss was for Seattle fans, it did essentially nothing to affect the Seahawks’ playoff hopes. Seattle can’t clinch a postseason berth just by beating Kansas City on Sunday. But a win over the Chiefs, coupled with losses by a couple other NFC wild-card contenders, would be enough. Even if the Seahawks were to stumble against the powerhouse Chiefs — who have a lot to play for in the AFC playoff picture — a win over NFC opponent Arizona in Week 17 would still get Seattle into the playoffs.

Injuries were the other big story out of Sunday’s loss, and Carroll gave an ominous update on guard Jordan Simmons, who suffered a knee injury in the second half. Simmons had played well in his three starts this season, but went down late in the third quarter and never returned. Carroll initially said it was a first-degree knee sprain, but avoided specifics on Monday afternoon.

“He’s got a pretty good knee injury. It’s going to be an issue,” Carroll said.

Carroll was also unsure whether D.J. Fluker would be able to play this week while still recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered on Dec. 2 against San Francisco. If Fluker can’t make it back, the Seahawks would likely go with Ethan Pocic or Joey Hunt at guard. Pocic stepped in on Sunday after Simmons was injured and struggled. He was called for holding late in the fourth quarter and again in overtime, negating plays of 19 and 32 yards that got Seattle into San Francisco territory both times.

“He had a bit of a struggle on a couple of plays,” Carroll said.

Carroll was also unsure on Bradley McDougald’s prognosis after he left the game early with patellar tendinitis.

The one piece of good injury news for Seattle was that linebacker K.J. Wright, who has missed 11 games with knee issues, might be able to play against Kansas City. Wright practiced last week with an eye on returning against the Chiefs. Carroll said Wright came out of the week of practice in good shape.

“The ramping up has worked out fine and he is ready to go,” Carroll said.

NOTES: K Sebastian Janikowski was lamented by fans for missing an extra point in the first half and his lackluster effort to slow Richie James Jr. on his 97-yard kickoff return touchdown. While Carroll doesn’t expect the 40-year-old kicker to be making open-field tackles, he would have liked a little more effort. “I wish he would have tried anything. The first thing the kicker has to do is get the guy to turn back into the field. He got that done. Just anything. We’d take anything because it wound up being a touchdown. We could do more.” ... Seattle’s previous high in penalty yards came in 1979 against Denver when it had 145.

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