For the first three quarters, the Seahawks controlled the ball, the clock and the game in Cincinnati, taking a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter over the undefeated Bengals.
Unfortunately, over the final 15 minutes of regulation and overtime, the Bengals stole it right back, overcoming a 17 point fourth quarter lead to win 27-24.
So much went so well for so long Sunday, the loss - which drops the Seahawks to 2-3 - is especially disappointing.
The much maligned offensive line held up well in pass protection and cleared rushing lanes for Thomas Rawls to exploit. Russell Wilson recognized blitzes and threw the ball beautifully from the pocket, picking apart man to man coverage. Earl Thomas ended Seattle's interception drought, intercepting Andy Dalton in the end zone to thwart an early scoring opportunity for the Bengals.
For much of the game, the big story was Rawls.
The undrafted rookie starting his third consecutive game in place of injured All-Pro Marshawn Lynch rushed for a career-high 169 yards, including a beautiful breakaway 69-yard touchdown in the third quarter that served as Seattle's first rushing touchdown of the year and the first the Bengals have allowed in five games.
Rawls initially started to his right but showed off the vision, burst and determined, powerful running that have the Seahawks excited, cutting back to his left and taking advantage of a terrific seal block from left tackle Russell Okung and running block from wideout Jermaine Kearse. Bursting past Okung and winding behind Kearse, Rawls slithered his way to the left sideline, eventually shaking off Bengals' safety Reggie Nelson and keeping his feet to finish the run in the end zone, staking Seattle to a 17-7 lead.
That lead was widened when Michael Bennett broke through Cincinnati's offensive line to hit Bengals running back Rex Burkhead, punching the ball out. Bobby Wagner, trailing on the play, picked up the ball and scooted 23 yards for the first touchdown of his career, giving Seattle a 24-7 lead.
All of the momentum was on Seattle's side. Unfortunately, the Seahawks again were unable to hold a double-digit fourth quarter lead.
As he did whenever he had time, Andy Dalton torched Seattle's secondary with pinpoint downfield passes, finding A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and especially tight end Tyler Eifert for critical gains that chipped away at Seattle's lead. Dalton completed 30 of 44 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns, along with the interception.
Dalton was especially successful in finding Eifert, who led all participants with eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns. On both scores, Kam Chancellor appeared to release him prematurely, leaving Eifert open in the end zone.
Dalton's recognition (and improved poise) was most evident on Cincinnati's fourth quarter comeback, including on the five-yard quick-snap QB sneak up the middle that caught the Seahawks napping and narrowed Seattle's lead to just 24-21.
Unable to run the ball and kill the clock when it mattered most, Seattle managed just three plays and six yards on its final drive of regulation, punting the ball back to a red-hot Dalton and Bengals, who promptly marched 69 yards on just seven plays before racing kicker Mike Nugent and the field goal unit to tie the game as the final seconds ticked off.
Wilson and the Seahawks had two opportunities with the ball in overtime but mustered just one first down and a total of 12 yards while losing field position to the Bengals.
The Seahawks, in fact, were able to generate just three first downs altogether on their final six drives of the day.
With the defense clearly exhausted, Dalton was able to drive Cincinnati down the field, picking up 33 yards over six plays to set up Nugent for the game-winning 42-yarder, which - just to make the loss sting even more - ricocheted off the left upright and through to break the Seahawks' hearts.
Fortunately for the Seahawks, they're returning back to Seattle with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers next up.
In the meantime, Pete Carroll and the Seahawks will spend the trip back to Seattle wondering what the club has to do to finish a game outside of the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.