CLEVELAND — The Seattle Seahawks found the end zone once. They weren't allowed to stay.
An illegal block — on a questionable call — wiped out Leon Washington's 81-yard punt return for a touchdown Sunday, and the Seahawks couldn't muster much offense in a sloppy 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns, whose only points came on a pair of long field goals by Phil Dawson.
Desperate for a big play with backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst unable to move their offense and running back Marshawn Lynch injured, the Seahawks (2-4) finally got one in the third quarter from Washington only to have his TD nullified by a blocking-in-the-back penalty against cornerback Kennard Cox.
Cox's bump of Browns cornerback James Dockery near midfield was deemed illegal, although Seattle coach Pete Carroll wasn't so sure about the call.
"That's a touchdown play and way after the fact here it (the penalty flag) comes," Carroll said. "They (officials) saw something and whether it was legit, I don't know. In this game, those calls are magnified and they play a big role. I kind of hope they were right. I hope they made the right choices on those things because it's pretty hard to live with otherwise."
Watching the Seahawks offense was hard enough.
With Whitehurst filling in for injured starter Tarvaris Jackson, the Seahawks (2-4) couldn't do much with the ball. They managed just 137 yards of offense and only had the ball for 17:04 to Cleveland's 42:56. Whitehurst completed 12 of 30 passes for 97 yards and was sacked three times.
"It's disappointing for sure," Whitehurst said. "We definitely had a chance to win the game and we didn't do it. We couldn't convert and I couldn't hit some guys when they were open. It was a tough day on offense."
Even Whitehurst's longest completion was, well, incomplete.
Rolling to his right in the third quarter, Whitehurst looked down field and saw wide receiver Sidney Rice wide open near the sideline. All Rice had to do was catch the ball and waltz into the end zone, but he stumbled after making the grab and went out of bounds at Cleveland's 9-yard line.
"On my turn, I didn't realize how close I was to the sideline," Rice said. "I was trying to get some extra yards and I went out of bounds."
The Seahawks then failed to score a TD despite running five plays inside Cleveland's 10 before settling for Steven Hauschka's 20-yard field goal that tied it 3-3.
Dawson's 53-yard field goal with 11:18 left gave the Browns a 6-3 lead, and the 36-year-old was set to give Cleveland a six-point lead but his 24-yard attempt with 3:05 left was swatted away by Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant, who earlier blocked a 48-yarder in the first quarter.
However, Seattle couldn't move the ball as Whitehurst had four incompletions and had a pass dropped on the Seahawks' final possession.
In the final minute, a frustrated Bryant was ejected for head-butting Cleveland tight end Alex Smith.
"Dumb move on my part," Bryant said. "I take full responsibility for it. I'm supposed to be a leader. I lost my composure. You never know what could have happened if we got the ball back on offense. He (Smith) was talking the whole game. He was taking cheap shots at me. That's what guys do when they can't block you."
The Seahawks were penalized eight times, and a few of the calls were sketchy.
In the first quarter, safety Kam Chancellor sacked Browns QB Colt McCoy on third down but was whistled for unnecessary roughness, a call that sent Carroll onto the field screaming at referee Mike Carey.Comment on this story
"They said he led with his head, you can't do that," said Carroll, careful not to blame the officials. "It looked like Kam tried not to do that and get his head to the side and then actually wrapped him up and threw him down. You guys had a better look than I had, so I don't know what to tell you about that."
Seattle's chances took a big hit before kickoff, when Lynch, the team's leading rusher and top offensive weapon, had back spasms. Lynch remained on the sideline and at one point appeared ready to enter the game.
"He's had an ongoing thing with his back since he arrived with us," Carroll said. "It came up right before game time and he couldn't get loose. We tried to work with him the whole game and keep him going. He was about ready to take a shot at going after it, but he had sat too long."
Notes: Seahawks starting CB Walter Thurmond broke his leg and is done for the season. Carroll said Chancellor injured his knee. ... Washington started in place of Lynch and finished with 39 rushing yards and caught four passes. ... DE Chris Clemons got two of Seattle's five sacks. ... LB David Hawthorne was credited with 11 tackles and intercepted McCoy.