Grading the Game: Seahawks improve, make plays on offense when they needed it
The Seahawks teetered and the tottered here in Carolina Sunday.But the defending Super Bowl champs never fell, driving 80 yards in the final minutes of the game to pull out a critical 13-9 win over the Panthers.
Seattle Times staff reporter
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For a team used to winning, two weeks without a victory created a foreign feeling the Seahawks would just as soon not experience again.
“Big time, big time,” said running back Christine Michael when asked how much Seattle’s 13-9 victory Sunday over Carolina was needed. “It’s right in the middle of our season and I feel like this is the turning point. Everybody feels good about it.”
Certainly, everybody played a role in a victory that got the Seahawks to 4-3 and prevented them from falling under .500 for the first time since the opening week of the 2012 season, as the grades will reflect.
Simply viewing the final numbers makes it look like a subpar outing for Russell Wilson — 20-of-32 passing for 199 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 77.5 passer rating, second-worst of the season ahead of only the Dallas game (47.6). But when it mattered most, Wilson was at his best — 4-of-4 for 53 yards passing and two runs for 21 yards. And that ultimately mattered most.
Seattle had just 22 yards on six carries in the first half, but finished with 119 on 26 as the offense began to find a rhythm in the second half — Seattle gained 208 yards overall in the final two quarters. Marshawn Lynch didn’t always find room to run, but a 25-yarder helped him finish with 62 yards on 14 carries. Michael’s four carries, for 12 yards, were a season high, and Robert Turbin had three receptions for 32 yards.
Luke Willson rebounded from a drop of a potential touchdown to haul in the game-winner while Cooper Helfet helped spearhead the final drive with an 11-yard grab — and was in position for a touchdown pass earlier in the game that Wilson underthrew. Willson also got called for a hold in the third quarter when Seattle had first-and-goal at the 8 and was eventually forced to kick a field goal.
No spectacular numbers on a day when the Carolina defense looked more like its 2013 self than the recent bedraggled version. But Doug Baldwin was steady (six catches for 61 yards) and some of the younger players came through in the clutch — rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood each had receptions on the final drive. Seattle also sent Richardson deep in the third quarter, with Carolina breaking it up in the end zone. Seattle has to keep trying those plays, though.
Injuries to guards J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter in the second quarter forced the Seahawks to play for a time with Garry Gilliam and Alvin Bailey. Sweezy and Carpenter eventually returned on a day when the Seahawks again had some rough moments up front. To name one, the bad snap that Carolina recovered at its own 21 was credited as a fumble to Steve Schilling. The penalties, though, were reduced — no holds on the line and only one false start.
It looked a little spotty early, but in the end this might have been one of the best days of the year for the line, as the Seahawks tied a season-high with three sacks — two by Bruce Irvin, who played a little more coming off the edge, and another by Brandon Mebane — and were close to a handful of others. The Seahawks also held the Panthers to 14 yards rushing on five carries in the fourth quarter, helping stall two drives into Seattle territory that resulted in just three points.
Rookie Kevin Pierre-Louis got the most significant playing time of his career, filling in at weakside linebacker when Malcolm Smith suffered a groin injury in the second quarter. Pierre-Louis looked comfortable, finishing with three tackles.
Smith had eight tackles and K.J. Wright, in his second full game in the middle in place of injured Bobby Wagner, had seven. Just as critically, the linebackers played a key role in holding Carolina tight end Greg Olsen, who came into the game with 41 catches, to just one for 16 yards.
Wright, though, dropped a potential interception, something that has ailed the Seahawks throughout the season.
Finally, a game that statistically looked like the Legion of Boom, with Cam Newton going 12 for 22 for 171 yards, one interception and a passer rating of 61 — Seattle’s defense hadn’t forced a passer rating below the 81.5 by Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in the first game.
Carolina doesn’t have a great passing attack, but the Seahawks made it look subpar other than allowing a few catches to standout rookie Kelvin Benjamin. His 51-yarder in the fourth quarter between Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman mostly has to be credited to being a great play. Marcus Burley, continuing to play well as the nickel corner, got his first interception.
A huge turnaround from last week, even though there was a 49-yard kickoff return by Carolina that ultimately proved harmless. Steven Hauschka tied a franchise record with a 58-yard field goal set up by a 47-yard kickoff return by Richardson, filling in for the injured Bryan Walters. Sherman handled punt returns in the absence of Walters, with one return for no yards, and fair catching his only other attempt.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.