Seattle Seahawks Beat Carolina Panthers to Stay Alive in NFC West Playoff Hunt

Brandan SchulzeContributor IIIDecember 6, 2010

Marshawn Lynch had a career-high three touchdowns and rushed for 83 yards on 21 carries.
Marshawn Lynch had a career-high three touchdowns and rushed for 83 yards on 21 carries.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

There were clearly two very different Seattle teams on the field this weekend. The first half of the game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was a display of everything the Seahawks had been over the last six games in going 1-5. Hopefully their 28-point second half will serve as a sign of Seahawks football to come, as the team hangs onto plans for making the postseason.

Down 14-3 at halftime, the feeling was not uncommon that we were about to see another Seahawks home loss. To this point, the Seahawks had not come back on an opponent all season after trailing at halftime. I sure hope that no one left or turned off their television sets. 

If they did, it would almost be understandable. Nobody wants to see a loss to a 1-10 football team. But if any fans happened to turn away, they missed a great second half of football as the Hawks turned it around on their way to a 31-14 win.

On the Panthers' first possession, it was as if the Seahawks expected the run but couldn’t do anything to stop it. Carolina marched right down the field, bowling over Seattle defenders on their way to a 7-0 lead. It was so bad that the ring of boos began to come in from the crowd. Hawks fans made it clear that expectations weren’t simply for a victory over this one-win team—they wanted dominance.

When Carolina added another score in the second quarter and Matt Hasselbeck responded by throwing an interception, the booing got louder. The Seahawks offense was going nowhere.

And if anyone tuned away from the game or left Qwest Field before Seattle retired Walter Jones’ jersey number at the two-minute warning of the first half, then I would question their credentials as a fan. Not only did his display of appreciation for the 12th Man get more than a few fans a bit choked up, he seemed to fire up the team as well.

On the very next play, Hasselbeck linked up with Cameron Morrah for 36 yards. Justin Forsett nearly got the Hawks into the end zone, only six inches away from a score, but a false-start penalty backed them up. Two incomplete passes later, Olindo Mare came in to put the first Seahawks points on the board.

As the Seahawks started the second half it didn’t look like it was going to go much better. Leon Washington muffed the opening kickoff and was lucky to make it to the 4-yard line.

A 26-yard pass to Morrah and 31-yard run by Forsett, capped by a 15-yard personal foul, helped lead the Seahawks on a 96-yard drive. Marshawn Lynch punched it in from one yard out for the first of his career-high three touchdowns.

With the offense coming out strong with an impressive drive to start the second half, it was as if the defense wasn’t about to be outdone. On 3rd-and-1, Lofa Tatupu intercepted a Jimmy Clausen pass and went untouched into the end zone. In about 90 seconds the Hawks had turned an 11-point deficit to a three-point lead.

Offense, check. Defense, check. Now it was special teams’ turn, and after Carolina was forced to punt on their next possession, Leon Washington responded with an 84-yard punt return. Had he not been tripped up by the punter after a premature celebration, he would have added that special teams touchdown.

Instead, Lynch came in and got Seattle those last two yards and his second score.

Down 24-14, Carolina nearly jumped right back in the game after a 96-yard kickoff return. But two penalties by the Panthers on the return brought the ball all the way back to the 10-yard line, and allowed the defense to continue to do their thing. After another score by Lynch, the Seahawks defense finished off the second half shutout with a goal-line stand to end the game.

It’s worth noting that the last time the Panthers came into Seattle, it was for the NFC Championship Game in 2006. Although the final score was the same result, 31-14, Seattle definitely took a much different route to get there this time.

The win brings the Seahawks back to a .500 record at 6-6. It also keeps Seattle in a tie for the NFC West lead with the St. Louis Rams, who took down the Arizona Cardinals 19-6. Arizona got out to an early 6-3 lead, but completely folded after the first quarter on their way to losing their seventh straight.

I didn’t watch the game that closely, but I expect that Derek Anderson wasn’t seen laughing on the sidelines after he got pulled in favor of Max Hall.

Although they’re still not mathematically out of the playoffs, San Francisco dropped another game behind the Seahawks with a 34-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers. With a win in San Francisco next week, Seattle can ensure the 49ers won’t be playing in the postseason this year.

The Rams have a tough game ahead of them next week as they go on the road to New Orleans. The Saints won on the road in Cincinnati this weekend 34-30, and are now 9-3. The Cardinals and Broncos, both at 3-9, will face off in a matchup of the two worst teams of their respective Western conferences.

In Seattle, some fans and people in the media have asked the question if it is even worth the Seahawks making the playoffs at this point. As if a few picks higher in the draft is a better alternative than being one of six teams in the NFC to have a shot at the Super Bowl.

I suppose they must be assuming that the Hawks would be one-and-done in the playoffs, otherwise I’m not sure if there is even an argument. But that’s a big assumption to make for those of us who watched the Cardinals go to the Super Bowl after going 9-7 in the NFC West just two years ago. If you don’t remember, Arizona nearly pulled off the win over the Steelers.

I’m going to go on record right now saying that I would take even one playoff game, with the chance for more, as opposed to waiting until April to see the Seahawks get “player X” instead of “player Y” in the draft. I know the NFL Draft has become more of a television event nowadays than it ever has in the past, but for me, it hasn’t yet eclipsed the enjoyment of an actual football game.

Brandan Schulze is a Navy veteran and member of the military chapter of the Sea Hawkers, the official booster club for the Seattle Seahawks. For more information on the chapter, visit Membership is free for all military service members and veterans.