After clinching the NFC West last week, the Seattle Seahawks
let down their guard Sunday in a sluggish 13-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers
Neither team could score for the first three and a half quarters of the game, but Carolina finally took a 6-3 lead on two John Kasay field goals in the fourth.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck then fumbled the ball away on a potential game-tying drive after being sacked by linebacker Thomas Davis.
With less than 1:30 left in the game, DeAngelo Williams burned the Seahawks
defense with a 35-yard touchdown run to seal the victory for the Panthers.
Facing Matt Moore, a rookie quarterback making his first NFL
start, the Seahawks defense failed to get consistent pressure and notched no sacks on the day.
Patrick Kerney—NFL sack leader and reigning NFC defensive player of the month—was neutralized all day by Panthers' right tackle Jordan Gross.
Moore had an efficient, productive day, completing 70 percent of his passes for 208 yards and no interceptions. He converted two key third downs—with completions to Steve Smith—on a fourth quarter scoring drive that gave the Panthers a three-point lead.
The story of the game was third-down conversions: Seattle converted just three of 12 opportunities, while allowing Carolina to convert nine out of 18 third downs.
The Seahawks went three and out on their first three possessions. and punted on their first eight.
The Seahawks' running game was abysmal again, picking up 44 yards on just 14 carries, while the Panthers ran 38 times for 114 yards. Both teams averaged just three yards per attempt, but Carolina's emphasis on the rush helped them hold the ball for over 35 minutes.
Shaun Alexander picked up a measly 17 yards on seven rushes—and that's including a 20-yard burst in the third quarter.
That's right—he totaled -3 yards on his other six carries. Don't bother figuring out the yards per carry on those numbers.
Maurice Morris continues to get inconsistent touches, with only four rushes on the day for 15 yards. He obviously is quicker, faster, and more elusive than Alexander, yet doesn't receive the bulk of the carries.
Morris also caught four passes for 31 yards.
Seattle's running game was encapsulated on their first drive of the game. After a nine-yard completion to Deion Branch, Alexander was stuffed for no gain on second and one.
Care to guess what happened on third and one?
Morris lost two yards on a toss play to the right side, forcing the Seahawks to punt.
Seattle's inability to convert short downs with their running game has stymied the offense all season—and will very likely haunt them in the playoffs.
One bright spot for Seattle was wide receiver Bobby Engram passing the 1,000-yard mark in a season for the first time in his career. Engram, the Seahawks' most consistent wideout, finished the day with nine catches for 84 yards—both team highs.
Punter Ryan Plackemeier also played well, bouncing back from poor showings in recent weeks. While Plackemeier averaged just 40.6 yards per punt, he placed three inside the 10-yard line.
With Tampa Bay
's thrashing of Atlanta
, the Hawks are now tied with the Buccaneers at 9-5. Seattle still holds the tiebreaker over Tampa, and thus has the inside track on the third seed in the playoffs.
The Seahawks will look to bounce back next week at home against a Baltimore Ravens
team that was embarassed Sunday in Miami