Seattle and Carolina have played each other four times in the regular season with the home team winning every time. They’ve faced each other once in the playoffs with Seattle crushing Carolina to go to the Super Bowl, a game known to my family as the time daddy cried like a baby and hugged every person he saw for about three days. Well, what would you expect after all the years of futility?
The Seahawks traveled to Carolina with a 2-2 record—2-0 at home while 0-2 on the road. As I talked about in my first quarter report card, the defense and running game have been studs, while the passing offense has been a dud so far.
A lot of voices, including mine, in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) have been questioning Russell Wilson’s anointment as the starting quarterback. I think offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell heard the rumblings because the Seahawks came out throwing, looking to light up a suspect Panthers defense that was stacking the box to stop Marshawn Lynch.
Play of the Game
With the score 16-10, the Seahawks had the lead but was punting the ball back to Carolina with a minute left in the game. That doesn’t sound good but you know what the bad part was? The ball was on the Seattle 18-yard line with the Panthers special teams looking for a block.
Seattle took a timeout and came up with a plan. The snapper almost put the ball over Jon Ryan’s head. Ryan took the ball and scrambled around in the end zone, burning about 10 seconds off the clock before stepping out to the back of the end zone to take the safety.
I was shocked at first but a realization dawned on me. It’s a stroke of genius by head coach Pete Carroll and the special teams coach, Brian Schneider. Carolina was going to have to get a touchdown either way, as the two points were meaningless. The play didn’t allow the Panthers to attempt to get a blocked punt either.
That kind of thinking outside of the box is one of the things that has me becoming more of a fan of Carroll. Of course, that only matters if it works, though.
The Seahawks defense crushed the Panthers offense. That’s not hyperbole, that’s a fact. The run defense held a very potent rushing team to 82 yards total despite the trick plays and option style running game. The pass defense held the Panthers to 141 yards total. Seattle got to their QB Cam Newton for four sacks while hitting him constantly.
2. Sidney Rice
Rice has been under the radar as the leading receiver since the passing offense has been so moribund overall. Against Carolina, Rice had six catches for 67 yards and looked more like the receiver the Seahawks were looking for when they signed him away from the Vikings.
3. Bobby Wagner
While the announcers were busy slobbering over Panthers rookie and middle linebacker Luke Keuchly (from Boston College), who did have a good game, the Seahawks rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had a good game too. His most impressive play was chasing down Newton, earning himself 1.5 sacks overall.
4. Bruce Irvin
It was the other Seahawks rookie defender, first round draft choice defensive end Bruce Irvin, who put the hits on Newton, getting two sacks and forcing a fumble that sealed the win. Irvin had a lot of people questioning the draft choice but has come out of his shell in the last two weeks.
Seattle gave the ball away three straight times.
The first was Leon Washington fumbling the second half kickoff. No harm done since the defense forced a sack and a three and out for a punt.
The second was more costly, as Wilson threw an ugly interception that was returned for a touchdown by Carolina corner Captain Munnerlyn to give the Panthers the lead.
The third was the next drive when Wilson scrambled and tried to hit Lynch. The ball was behind Lynch, who bobbled it and had it taken away by Kuechly. No harm done again as the Seahawks defense stymied the Panthers again, forcing another punt.
The Seahawks play a very physical and aggressive style of defense and run offense. Penalties can be expected, even if they didn’t play that style. Where it becomes bad is when the penalties can be avoided by not crossing the line from aggressive and physical play to dirty and stupid actions. This game had three of the stupid variety.
Two were called on the quickly becoming infamous right tackle Breno Giacomini. The first was called holding but was really tackling and wiped out a beautiful pass from Wilson to WR Golden Tate.
The second was an unnecessary roughness call on a Ben Obomanu run that got the first down. That one was really ugly as Giacomini crushed a Panthers corner into the bench. It wasn’t necessary and it certainly was rough. He could have just held up the corner—he outweighed him by at least 150 pounds. That would have saved the penalty and the 15 yards. In the end, Giacomini was benched for a series and spent the rest of the game in much better control of himself.
The final stupid penalty fell on defensive end Chris Clemons for roughing the passer. Clemons had Newton in his grasp and the ball was gone when Clemons decided he needed to finish up by pile-driving Newton into the turf. It was really stupid, as it came on third down. The pass was incomplete, and the ball had been gone for a long time by the time Clemons hammered him.
Overall, this was an exciting game that Seattle played well enough to win while making enough mistakes to lose. I thought Wilson played a much better game, especially when he stayed in the pocket and went through his reads. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but I felt that this was the first game I could see progress.
The Seahawks welcome the visiting New England Patriots to Seattle next Sunday. The Patriots beat the Broncos 31-21 in a Brady-Manning matchup yesterday.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the Seahawks defense matches up against the Patriots offense. I only hope the Seahawks cut out the mistakes and send New England limping back across the country.
Photo credits: Nell Redmond/AP Photo, Bob Leverone/AP Photo, Chuck Burton/AP Photo