Seahawks (1-0) 12, Carolina Panthers (0-1) 7.
The Seahawks won on the road, in the Eastern time zone, in southern sticky heat against a team that was superbly prepared to stop QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch. The game was left to the defense and special teams, and they responded by holding Carolina’s passing game to 119 yards, keeping QB Cam Newton in check, punting and kicking well and getting a game-saving, red-zone turnover on Carolina’s final possession.
FISTS TO SKY
- Wilson made the equivalent of a full-court basketball shot in the third quarter when he avoided a sack at least twice and, almost 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, flung the ball off his back foot a moment before he was splattered. About 50 yards later along the sideline, Doug Baldwin grabbed the ball over a defender and came down barely in bounds. The improbable play set up a field goal that closed Carolina’s lead to 7-6.
- With less than six minutes remaining, Carolina RB D’Angelo Williams broke free for a 13-yard run to a first down inside the Seahawks 10-yard line. But FS Earl Thomas, who missed him earlier, caught up from behind and knocked the ball free. The fumble was recovered by DT Tony McDaniel. The Seahawks offense burned up the clock’s final 5:35.
- In the fourth quarter, one play after WR Stephen Williams couldn’t hang on to what would have been a 40-yard pass and near-touchdown, Wilson went back to the same streak-play route. This time, WR Jermaine Kearse went over the top of a defender at the 3-yard line for the catch and tumbled into the end zone for the Seahawks’ only touchdown.
PALMS TO FOREHEAD
- Pass protection, a problem throughout camp and preseason, remains unresolved. Wilson took his worst beating as a pro with two sacks, six hits and 11 hurries. On Seattle’s first play, Wilson was nearly sacked in the end zone for a safety, before getting rid of the ball. In the third period, Seattle’s OL had two holding penalties on the same play. A part of the protection problem may have to do with rookies at tight end (Luke Willson) and fullback (Derrick Coleman), but Carolina created a blueprint for how to keep Wilson contained in the pocket to limit his explosiveness on rollouts.
- Continuing their felonious ways from the preseason, the Seahawks had nine penalties for 109 yards. Two that seemed to be fatal were in Carolina’s final possession, which looked to be sustained by a face-mask penalty on DT Michael Bennett, nullifying a tackle for loss, and SS Kam Chancellor’s late-to-the-pile personal foul. A Panthers turnover killed the drive, otherwise Carroll would have to consider waterboarding Bennett and Chancellor.
- No surprise, given all the personnel absences, but the Seahawks didn’t get much pressure on Newton. Newcomer DE O’Brien Schofield had the lone sack, for minus-six yards. But the secondary didn’t give Newton many downfield options except to run, which he did five times for 38 yards. Health permitting, DEs Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons may return next week.
WOE TO FOE
- Special teams gunner Armond Smith was penalized twice for going out of bounds on Carolina punts. The second one in the fourth quarter prompted a televised rebuke from teammate Steve Smith on the sidelines. For good reason: The Seahawks accepted the penalty, received a re-kick, and PR Golden Tate improved the field position from the 8-yard line to the 26-yard-line, from where they began the drive to the game-winning touchdown.
The first 300-yard, regular-season game of his pro career seemed most unlikely, given the beating he took. But he was 25 for 33 for 320 yards and one turnover, when he was strip-sacked into a fumble in the red zone. But he led the sixth fourth-quarter comeback of his young career primarily by finding the underneath routes the defense gave him, and eluding multiple sack attempts.
On the TD pass to Kearse: “We called another shot play. It surprised we missed the first one (to Williiams). Maybe I threw it too far. I just kind of read the (Kearse) play. I went through my progressions and he was the second option. Kearse just keeps showing up and making those big plays.”
On finding just enough plays at the right time: “The biggest thing is the small things.”
On the sideline bomb to Doug Baldwin before he was clobbered: “I figured nobody was going to get to it, but I tried to get him a chance. I knew I was getting blown up. Doug has a great ability to create and make the smart decisions on third down. Biggest thing we worked on (in the off-season) is having that camaraderie. In the second half (of last season), he was lights out.”
On completing so many passes in tight windows: “The biggest thing I’ve learned is to trust what you you see. Going against our DBs in practice — they’re the best in the NFL –makes you realize how tight the windows can be.”
On returning to the the state where he spent his first three years of college ball at North Carolina State: “I’ve had so much support here, from the day I first stepped on campus. I’ll never forget NC State and all the people who’ve helped me.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on Newton: “We gave him a chance to be in command early, but we hung in there real tight against him. He made some nice plays, but we wanted to stay connected to him.”
On the red zone troubles: “We had troubles with penalties and a turnover. It was really hard today. The thing I love about our guys is they hung tough. It’s so hard. I thought Carolina played excellent. It was a quality win for us.”
On Wilson: “After the first five or six passes, he was on fire. He made a ton of plays. Finding Doug on the sidelines, that was a ridiculous play. . . . Russell did a great job against the pass rush. He’s more in command of everything we’re doing. We don’t have to hold anything back. He can handle it.”
On Thomas forcing the turnover: “No one takes more pride in knocking the ball loose. They had a lot of momentum. It was a gigantic play for us.”
On the largely absent running game: “We didn’t feel good at all the way we ran the football. We thought we would be better than that. We tried everything. Carolina was very active and difficult.”
On the offensive line: “I don’t think anyone did well up front.”
A NUMBER OF THINGS
- WR Doug Baldwin: 9 catches, 71 yards.
- RB Marshawn Lynch: 43 yards on 17 rushes, but last carry was his longest, 14 yards, biggest because it was for a first down that kept Seattle in possession until the gun sounded.
- Seahawks rushers: 26 for 70.
- P John Ryan: four for 49.5 average. A big help in a field-position game.
The Seahawks won ugly in Charlotte a year ago, 16-12, but they lost two close games earlier by not finding a key third down offensively, or failing to a key third-down stop defensively. This time, just enough. Winning a grinder on the road at the outset, in adverse conditions, was a great omen for Seattle for the 2013 season.