Simple game, football.
Your guys run over the other guys, you win.
They run over you, you lose.
Sometimes it comes down to those man-on-man challenges, and that’s the plain and primitive truth about the game.
And when it’s late in the game, and you can’t stop the opponent on a third-and-20 play, you lose.
And you deserve to.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll pinpointed that obvious factor after the 30-23 loss to Dallas at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
He wasn’t happy with the Seahawks’ fundamentals, he said. His team just didn’t block and tackle well enough.
True enough. Dallas rushed for 162 yards. Seattle rushed for 80.
And when the game was there to be won, Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin had a shot at sacking Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo on a key third-down play, but Romo shook free to make the long completion.
These are the kind of losses the Seahawks have dealt to so many other teams over the last couple seasons, when they came up with the key turnover, made the dramatic late play, or, throughout the course of the game, just physically dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Not on Sunday, when the Cowboys (5-1) nearly doubled the Seahawks yardage, 401-206.
Receiver Doug Baldwin captured the frustration of the Seahawks in the locker room, and was absolutely correct in his assessment that the problems were “all over the board.”
Asked of the content of heated talks on the sideline between players late in the game, including Baldwin with quarterback Russell Wilson, Baldwin fired the answer: “What do you think? We’re frustrated. The offense can’t move the ball. We’ve got too much talent over here not to be moving the ball.”
The culpability is widely shared, Baldwin said, and the corrections will have to be a “collaborative thing.”
“We just left so many plays out there on the field. … We’ve got to get better,” Baldwin said.
Safety Earl Thomas called it a “hard lesson.”
“We didn’t have the right mindset today,” Thomas said.
“Right,” Thomas said. “We knew how they were going to attack us and we didn’t execute. We didn’t stop the run the way we always do. That was it.”
That wasn’t solely it, though.
The Seahawks have had spotty performances during their recent run of success. But so often, Wilson has come up with some improbable play and scored the late touchdown that covered the game’s warts.
But Wilson, under considerable pressure all day, was shown to be human on Sunday. He completed half of his 28 passes for a scant 126 yards for a passer rating of 47.6 — his lowest since the 38.7 rating against San Francisco in the seventh game of his rookie season.
The man needs help sometimes. It usually comes from back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch averaged 6.1 per carry on Sunday, but he got the ball only 10 carries.
When you manage just nine first downs in the game, there aren’t enough plays to go around. And Lynch got shorted. It’s the formula that led to the Seahawks’ other loss, at San Diego.
So, nobody’s happy. And that’s a good thing.
At 3-2, the Seahawks are a game behind Arizona in the NFC West standings. They haven’t had to deal with this kind of frustration in quite a while.
They’re more used to riding in parades and picking confetti out of their hair. They’re more used to being the ones pounding their chests after a game.
They’re used to looking at the faces of the guys on the other team and seeing that slightly sick look that comes from being beaten — sometimes one-on-one, sometimes man-on-man.
It’s tough for a proud athlete to swallow.
And this, too, will be a test of the Seahawks.
Will sideline discussions get more heated? Will this team, remarkably cohesive on the way to last season’s Super Bowl title, start quibbling about who gets the ball, or who gets the blame?
Or can they, as Thomas suggests, arrive at the proper mindset?
Last year’s group won a championship, in part because of its resilience and its attitude.
This season’s team now has the chance to show it has the same qualities.
Because now they face back-to-back road games, at St. Louis and Carolina.
And they’re going to have to start by going back and improving the very fundamental skills of the game — blocking and tackling.
Because that cost them a loss on Sunday against Dallas.