Seahawks left waiting for title

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, left, carries the ball on a 51-yard run as Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas (29) and cornerback Richard Sherman (25) look on in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in San Francisco. The 49ers defeated the Seahawks 19-17. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

RENTON, Wash. — The celebration of an NFC West title was put on hold for the Seattle Seahawks.


And unless they get some help, the delay could be for at least another two weeks.

“We would’ve loved to come out on top. We had our chance and we let the opportunity get away,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said on Monday.

“So we crank it up. It’s really important, as we have throughout regardless of what the game is before, you have to handle it properly and put it in the right perspective and move forward effectively.”

Seattle’s 19-17 loss to San Francisco on Sunday was the Seahawks first setback in more than two months.

It snapped a seven-game win streak and left Seattle (11-2) still needing two more wins — or a win and a 49ers loss — to clinch the division title.

They still hold the best record in the NFC and have a one-game lead over New Orleans — along with the head-to-head tiebreaker — in the race for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

But they realize a chance to make the final three weeks of the season a tuneup for the playoffs is now gone. These games will have significant meaning, perhaps all the way to Week 17.

From that standpoint, the loss to San Francisco may not be as much of a negative.

“I don’t think there is any question it can help if you use it right. It’s a learning opportunity again, a reality check. How the littlest of things can determine the outcome of a game and being in a good hard-fought game is good always,” Carroll said.

“I like the other guys to learn the hard way, as always, but that is not the case. There will be an emphasis throughout the last three games of this year, every one of them is going to count in a big fashion and they’re all going to make a difference that will call on us to be on it all the way throughout.”

The loss also came with an injury cost. Outside linebacker K.J. Wright suffered a fractured bone in his foot and is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday to insert a screw and stabilize the fracture. Carroll said the initial prognosis is that Wright will miss 4 to 6 weeks, but won’t be fully determined until after the surgery.

Wright’s absence will create an opportunity for Malcolm Smith, who started at the opposite outside linebacker position earlier in the season and now gets the chance to start at his natural weakside linebacker spot.

“That’s where he’s played a lot for us over the years. He understands the position really well,” Carroll said.

Center Max Unger was the other significant injury to come out of Sunday. Unger suffered a strained pectoral muscle in the second half and was replaced by backup Lemuel Jeanpierre. Carroll said Unger will be limited in practice this week, but hopes he’ll be able to play Sunday.

While Seattle’s defense managed to keep Colin Kaepernick from making a major impact on the game, the most damaging play was Frank Gore’s 51-yard run that led to the game-winning field goal.

Both middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and strong safety Kam Chancellor overran the play and Gore was able to cut back. Earl Thomas also took a poor angle to try and clean up the play and Gore was able to slide past him and into the open field.

Carroll said the play should have been held to a far shorter gain.

“We were going this way and he was going that way,” Carroll said. “So they blocked it well up front, but we had plenty of shots to keep it to being an 8-to-9 yard gain.”

Seattle also committed nine penalties, and many coming at costly times that either erased sizeable gains on offense or were defensive penalties that kept drives for San Francisco going.

Seattle has committed at least six penalties in every game and nine or more seven times.

“I don’t think that was the story of the game at all,” Carroll said. “In terms of where I would be criticizing the officials, I don’t see it as that, but penalties really were a big factor in the game.”


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