The Seattle Seahawks lost their sixth consecutive regular season opener in a 20-16 away loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Seattle had a chance to win until the dying seconds of the game. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and his receivers failed to score by the slimmest of margins with less than a minute to play.
The Seahawks and head coach Pete Carroll failed to carry over their preseason unbeaten record into the regular season. The 2013 opener left many questions open for discussion. They include:
Quarterback Russell Wilson was under the gun the entire game. Can he step it up to hang on to the starting job?
Without an effective passing game, are running back Marshawn Lynch and kick returner Leon Washington enough to carry the offensive load over a 16-game marathon?
Can Seattle's rookie class make a difference?
After one game, the same scenario is playing out as last year: an effective defense that's ahead of an anemic offense. Without the two on a similar tangent, the Seahawks are in danger of missing the playoffs. If so, it could be Carroll's last year in the Emerald City?
The first-year signal-caller showcased his scrambling ability and movement under intense pressure from the Arizona line. Russell lacked the touch and finesse on his passes to change the result.
Head coach Pete Carroll provided this analysis of Russell's performance via the team's official website: "There's things he could have done better."
Carroll went on to say, "He wasn't as sharp, but it was because he had so much pressure he was dealing with."
The ex-Wisconsin Badger finished the afternoon 18-of-34. Wilson passed for 153 yards and one touchdown.
With Matt Flynn in the wings, Wilson's may not have much time for on-the-job training. If the losses keep piling up, Pete Carroll may have to make a midseason switch to Flynn.
Running back Marshawn "The Beast" Lynch had a workmanlike performance in Sunday's loss to Arizona.
Days before the Cardinals matchup, Lynch was listed as questionable. He did not play beyond the second game in the preseason because of back spasms.
Despite not being 100 percent, Lynch missed the century rushing mark in his 2013 debut. He rushed 21 times and bullied his way past tacklers to gain 85 yards.
"Marshawn Lunch did a nice job of running the ball," Carroll said in his Monday press conference via Seahawks.com. "He was aggressive and tough. He made some big time plays for us."
In order for Lynch to be productive, he'll need help from rookie Robert Turbin. Without a backup to take some carries away from Lynch, it's unlikely that he'll be able to break the 1,000 this year.
Leon Washington, the versatile kickoff and punt returner, kept giving Seattle's offense excellent field position in Sunday's matchup against the Cardinals.
Washington accumulated 183 yards on the day. He influenced 10 points with an 83-yard kickoff return in the third quarter to set up Seattle's first touchdown. Washington then ran back a 52-yard punt return that led to a field goal.
"Leon played a monster of a game," Carroll said of his dynamic returner. (h/t Seahawks.com)
The 6'2" returner will surely score several touchdowns during the seasons. Those tallies could be the difference to notch two games into the winning column for the Seahawks.
With the NFL so competitive, those two wins might spell the difference between a postseason slot or watching the game on television.
Running back Robert Turbin, guard J.R Sweezy, linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive end Bruce Irvin all played on Sunday.
Turbin rushed twice for five yards. Sweezy struggled in his first regular-season game. Irvin continued his pattern of being around the quarterback, yet failing to record any meaningful defensive statistics. Wagner had the strongest game and received credit for one tackle and one assist.
"He (Sweezy) struggled a bit," Carroll said of his first-year lineman via the team's official website. "It was hard on him....When we was targeting right, he was fine. But he did have some problems."
Despite Irvin's inability to record a sack or a tackle, Carroll remained optimistic and said, "Bruce played solid...We'll just him continue to get better."
Turbin is the most likely to impact the season if he can become Marshawn Lynch's backup. According to Carroll, the game situations dictated the lack of carries for the first-year running back.
Lynch will need the help to replicate a 1,000-plus-yard season, and the key will be Turbin's ability to make a difference.
A road win in Seattle's first game of the 2013 season could set the tone for the rest of the year.
Carroll's decision to start newbie quarterback Russell Wilson is a bold move for the ex-USC head coach. He's putting a lot of faith in the hands of an unproven Wilson. On the sidelines, he has Matt Flynn, who comes with the Green Bay quarterback pedigree.
Besides Wilson's difficulties, Seattle was also called for 13 penalties by the replacement officials. Carroll didn't point the finger at the officials. Instead, he focused on the lack of discipline by his squad.
"Really disappointing, really disappointing after all the time we put into it," Carroll said via Seahawks.com. "We all take a hit here."
The affable Carroll may need to take another hard look at his quarterback situation and ensure his team shows more maturity to win close games.