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Updated Monday, November 26, 2012 at 01:31 AM

This game should have been a gimme for Seahawks

By Steve Kelley
Seattle Times staff columnist

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — When the season is over, we might look back on Sunday as one of the most damaging days in the Seahawks' history.

First, the game should have been the 2-foot putt your partner gives you in a Saturday morning Skins game. But it wasn't.

And Miami should have been the Palooka bout before the big, pay-per-view payday. But it wasn't.

This game, this 24-21 Seahawks' defeat Sunday against the Dolphins, should have been the calm before the December storm. Instead it was just the beginning of a very stormy Sunday.

Compounding the pain of this defeat to the Dolphins was the report that surfaced after the Seahawks left the stadium, that starting cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman could be suspended by the NFL for testing positive for performing-enhancing drugs.

A spectacularly good-looking Sunday morning turned very ugly by late Sunday afternoon.

This should have been a guaranteed win. The Dolphins had lost three games in a row. Their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, was playing like the rookie he is. And their weaknesses — like not being able to convert on third downs — played into the strengths of the aggressive, ambitious Seahawks' defense.

There was no menacingly loud crowd for quarterback Russell Wilson to tame. In fact, Sun Life Stadium had all of the excitement of a train terminal at midnight.

This Sunday after Thanksgiving was the gift from the scheduling gods before a trip to Chicago to play the Bears' Midway Monsters.

There almost was an inevitability about this game. No way the Seahawks could lose. They were going to beat the pants off the spread. You could have bet the mortgage on this win.

And you would have lost.

Penalties mounted like unpaid parking tickets. The Hawks were flagged for illegal substitutions and false starts. They committed six penalties in the first quarter alone.

"We didn't show up today," said fullback Michael Robinson, who caught a 4-yard touchdown pass that gave the Hawks a 14-7 third-quarter lead. "For whatever reason, we didn't play our best football today and we got beaten up."

They came out of the bye week, looking like an entirely different team.

"We're pros at what we do," running back Marshawn Lynch said in his team's defense. "A bye week is mandatory in the schedule. What was going to happen? We weren't going to take our bye week?"

But the bye week was last week. Teams are supposed to return rested, not rusted.

Who were those guys in blue? What was that offense that ran for only 96 yards? Who were those offensive linemen who were missing their blocks?

"That just wasn't us," Robinson said.

What was that passive, confused-looking defense that Tannehill filleted in the fourth quarter?

In the fourth quarter, the defense allowed touchdown drives of 82 and 80 yards. On that first drive, the defense was burned by a 39-yard completion to a wide-open Davone Bess. The Hawks were lucky Bess fell down. The stumble briefly postponed the game-tying touchdown.

Later, the defense was burned on a wheel route, a 29-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay, who was 5 yards behind the nearest defender.

"We were not very sharp," coach Pete Carroll said. "We were off in all phases."

The Seahawks made Tannehill look like Dan Marino and turned the 2012 Dolphins into the undefeated 1972 Dolphins.

Carroll took the blame for the defeat. He second-guessed his decision to give the players the bye week off and blamed himself for his team's uncharacteristic sloppiness.

"Well, you know, hindsight's 20-20," Robinson said. "But Coach is always trying to find things that he could have done better. That's accountability. That's why he's our leader."

Certainly Carroll and his staff deserve blame. The play-calling was bland and the team didn't look ready or prepared.

"We had all kinds of issues on both sides of the ball," Carroll said. "If you perform like that you're going to get beat. ... I didn't do this thing right. ... I screwed this up. ... I've got to do a better job during the week."

The only thing this crazy game lacked was a sprinkler malfunction while both teams were on the field. Oh wait, that happened too, in the third quarter, when the system's timer was still on its Saturday schedule and the players were treated to an early shower.

It was a brief bit of levity in a seriously flawed game.

This is the kind of unforgivable loss that can haunt a team in late December when the playoff math gets complicated and the possibility of injuries and suspensions can sabotage a season.

"It's going to haunt me," Robinson said.

Like the upset loss to the Palooka before the title fight.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com


GERRY BROOME / AP
The Seahawks weren't the only ones off their game on Sunday. Someone didn't do their job in making sure the sprinklers' Saturday schedule didn't carry over to Sunday.




WILFREDO LEE / AP
One of Russell Wilson's best games still ended in a road defeat, despite his 224 yards passing and 21 completions in 27 attempts.




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