The defense had five three-and-outs, four sacks, and nearly intercepted at least three passes. Seattle recovered two fumbles, including the strip-sack by rookie Bruce Irvin that sealed the 16-12 win, and had one big goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton never looked comfortable, his receivers dropped several of his 29 passes, and he finished the game with 12 completions for 141 passing yards.
Conversely, Russell Wilson showed he was dialed in from his first pass of the game, floating it just over the fingertips of a Panthers linebacker and into the hands of Sidney Rice for an 18-yard gain.
It was a Wilson’s biggest day yet as a pro. Had a 56-yard pass to Golden Tate not been nullified on a holding call, Wilson would have thrown for nearly 300 yards. Instead he finished with a career high of 221 yards.
During his postgame press conference, coach Pete Carroll had a lot of praise for Wilson, including his noticeable improvement in converting on third down. Wilson was 7-of-14 on third down.
“I thought he played a fantastic game,” said Carroll. “He delivered and came through when all of the scrutiny and all of the attention and focus was on that aspect of our game.”
Wilson wasn’t perfect, but even while throwing two interceptions within about three minutes of one another; it didn’t appear to faze Wilson. The second was due to a bobbled catch by Marshawn Lynch, but the other was clearly Wilson's fault in throwing behind tight end Anthony McCoy. Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn made him pay for the error with a 33-yard interception return, giving Carolina a 10-6 lead.
With the Seahawks down by four, Brandon Browner had the play of the game, stripping running back DeAngelo Williams of the ball on the Panthers 27-yard line.
That play gave Wilson a short field and an opportunity to redeem those earlier mistakes. He connected with Golden Tate for a 13-yard touchdown just five plays later. Catching the ball at about the 4-yard line, Tate evaded four Panthers defenders by spinning his way into the end zone to put the Seahawks up 13-10 after the PAT.
Carroll was impressed with Wilson’s ability to have a short memory on the turnovers and continue to move the team with confidence.
“He’s a great competitor,” said Carroll. “He has so much belief in himself that he does not let stuff waver him.”
On Seattle’s next drive, two big gains by Marshawn Lynch and a 23-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller put the Seahawks in position for a 44-yard field goal.
Down by six, Carolina got the ball back and had its best offensive series at a critical time. But a seven-minute, 79-yard drive ended with Browner making another big play.
On third-and-goal from the 6, Newton connected with wide receiver Louis Murphy just short of the goal line. Marcus Trufant wrapped him up around the ankles and as Murphy fell forward, Browner pushed him to the ground just inches from scoring.
“It was a fantastic job defensively, nothing can express it more than standing up on the goal line down there,” said Carroll. “It’s what defensive players and coaches live for.”
Down 16-10, the Panthers' only choice was to go for it on fourth down, which Newton ended up throwing at the feet of his intended receiver.
It was a great performance by the league’s most stingy defense in terms of yards allowed, and they bailed out the Seahawks offense. Had the Seahawks not come away with the win, there were a number of penalties that had a big impact and kept the Seahawks offense from having a bigger game.
“Geez, we just have to get out of our own way,” said Pete Carroll during his postgame press conference. “When we do that, we’re going to be OK.”
During Wilson’s postgame press conference, he echoed Carroll’s frustration in regard to the team’s mistakes.
“If we eliminate those penalties, we’re going to have a great, great chance to win a lot of games…obviously the turnovers as well,” said Wilson. So that’s our focus right now. It’s what we need to get better at.”
While Wilson was focusing on areas the Seahawks’ offense needs to improve, fantasy football owners were tweeting furiously at the Panthers running back that was stripped by Browner and finished with negative fantasy points.
“Dear upset fantasy owners with the bad language,” tweeted Williams. “You are a fantasy owner for a reason because you can’t play or apparently fantasy coach.”
This is my favorite tweet after the game for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a crack on people who are so upset about a fantasy loss that they feel like going after an athlete online. Don’t we all learn at a young age to be a good sport? Playing fantasy football isn’t even a sport, yet a few people have so much emotional involvement in a pretend team that it causes furious outbursts?
Second, he’s cracking people for their fantasy coaching skills. Essentially he’s asking why fantasy owners would even start him against a team that is so strong against the run. He has a good point. Outside of Seattle, Williams may be the only one giving the Seahawks defense some deserved credit.
Despite their winning record, Seattle remains in fourth place in the NFC West thanks to their loss to the Rams. St. Louis improved to 3-2 with a win over Arizona (4-1) on Thursday night. Like the Seahawks, the Rams defense played a dominant role in their 17-3 win.
Dominant defenses are the new trend in the NFC West, and the San Francisco 49ers are no different. They improved to 4-1, with a 45-3 win over Buffalo. After shutting out the Jets and putting up big numbers of offense, the 49ers are looking like one of the league’s best teams this year.
In terms of the Seahawks, some people seem to have a problem with the defense not getting enough credit. Personally, I’ll be happy if they continue to fly under the radar and teams choose to be surprised by how good this unit is.
In the meantime, we can all enjoy watching the media asking questions like, “What’s wrong with Cam Newton?” We can smile as we remember hearing the same questions asked about Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers after they played Seattle. Strangely, those guys all picked the Seahawks to have their worst game of the season.
Hopefully the trend continues with the next three quarterbacks they’ll face: Tom Brady, Alex Smith and Matt Stafford.
Brandan Schulze is a Navy veteran and member of the Military Sea Hawkers, the military chapter of the official booster club for the Seattle Seahawks. For more information on the chapter, visit www.militaryseahawkers.com. Membership is free for all military service members and veterans.