Rewind to Oct. 26, when the 3-3 Seahawks traveled to Charlotte to face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. A loss probably would have derailed any chance the defending Super Bowl champions had of returning to the postseason. A dire outcome seemed imminent when the Seahawks took possession at their 20 with less than five minutes to play, trailing 9-6.
The Seahawks already produced enough botched plays to lose two games. With a chance to take the lead just before halftime, Marshawn Lynch let a Russell Wilson pass slip through his fingers at the goal line, giving Josh Norman an interception.
In the third quarter, Wilson induced the Panthers to bite on a fake handoff and had Cooper Helfet open along the left sideline for a potential TD, but couldn’t deliver the ball. The Seahawks also turned the ball over when center Stephen Schilling muffed a snap to Wilson that Mario Addison recovered at the Carolina 30.
But when Wilson convened the huddle for the do-or-lose drive, he told his teammates, “Let’s go do it.” The Seahawks did. With 47 seconds left, Wilson threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Luke Willson to cap a nine-play, 80-yard march — maybe Seattle’s most important of the season.
It was the first of nine wins in the final 10. The Seahawks took the NFC West and claimed the conference’s No. 1 seed. Saturday, they will try to be the first defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game since New England defeated Jacksonville 28-3 in the wild card round Jan. 7, 2006. Defending Super Bowl champions in the postseason since:
|2005||Patriots||10-6||1st AFC East||Lost to Denver 27-13, div. round|
|2006||Steelers||8-8||3rd AFC North||Won 4 of final 5, missed playoffs|
|2007||Colts||13-3||1st AFC South||Lost to SD 28-24 in div. round|
|2008||Giants||12-4||1st NFC East||Lost to Eagles 23-11 in div. round|
|2009||Steelers||9-7||3rd AFC North||Won last 3 but missed postseason|
|2010||Saints||11-5||2nd NFC South||Lost to Seattle 41-36 in wild card|
|2011||Packers||15-1||1st NFC North||Lost to NYG 37-20 in divisional round|
|2012||Giants||9-7||2nd NFC East||Lost 2 of last 3, missed playoffs|
|2013||Ravens||8-8||3rd NFC North||Lost last 2, failed to reach playoffs|
|2014||Seahawks||12-4||1st NFC West||vs. Carolina Saturday at 5:15 p.m.|
Oddsmakers predict a big Seahawks win Saturday (spread is 10½). But while they have won the past three against the Panthers, all in Charlotte, the combined score is only 41-28. The Seahawks have not won by more than five. Carolina held a second-half lead in all three and came within a minute of knocking off Seattle in October.
“They are our Achilles heel, man,” Panthers cornerback Norman said after the Oct. 26 loss. “They keep nagging us. They end up making one more play than us, every single time.”
Newton, who has never played at CenturyLink Field, has the playmaking ability to change that, as did Wilson when he directed Seattle on the game-winning drive. Consider some of the feats by the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Newton and the 5-11, 205-pound Wilson:
- Newton is the first player in NFL history to produce 10,000+ passing yards and 2,000+ rushing yards in the first four seasons of a career. Wilson is the only quarterback not drafted in the first round to throw 70 or more TD passes in the first three seasons of a career.
- Newton has four career games with at least 200 yards passing, multiple touchdown passes, and at least 80 yards rushing yards and a touchdown run. Only one other quarterback has accomplished the feat as many as three times:
|Year||Date||Quarterback||Opponent||Pass / TDs||Rush / TDs|
|2012||Sept. 30||Cam Newton||Falcons||215 / 2||86 / 1|
|2012||Dec. 9||Cam Newton||Falcons||287 / 2||116 / 1|
|2014||Oct. 12||Cam Newton||Bengals||284 / 2||107 / 1|
|2014||Dec. 7||Cam Newton||Saints||226 / 3||83 / 1|
|2014||Oct. 6||Russell Wilson||Redskins||201 / 2||122 / 1|
|2014||Oct. 19||Russell Wilson||Rams||313 / 2||106 / 1|
|2014||Dec. 21||Russell Wilson||Cardinals||339 / 2||88 / 1|
The similarities don’t end there.
- Newton is one of three quarterbacks (also Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham) with four seasons of 500+ rushing yards. Wilson and Vick (2004, 2006) are the only quarterbacks with at least three 100-yard rushing games in a season.
- Newton is the only quarterback to pass for at least 250 yards with two touchdowns and rush for at least 100 with one touchdown in a game. He’s done that twice, at Cincinnati Oct. 12, 2014 and vs. Atlanta Dec. 9, 2012. Wilson is the only quarterback to pass for 300+ yards and rush for 100+ in the same game, Oct. 19 at St. Louis.
- Newton is the only player with 50+ passing touchdowns and 25+ rushing touchdowns in a three-year span. Wilson and Cunningham are the only quarterbacks with 50+ touchdown passes and 1,000+ rushing yards in any two-year span.
- For his career, Newton has averaged 5.5 yards per rush and led the NFL at 5.6 in 2011. Wilson’s career number is 6.1 and led the league at 7.2 this season.
- Since 2011, 192 of Newton’s 467 rushes have picked up first downs. His 41.1 first-down percentage ranks No. 1 in the NFL over that span. Wilson’s 34.4 percent ranks second.
“You have to do a great job of staying with him because he can get you, and he can get you late in the play, too, which is really the most difficult part to defend,” Pete Carroll said of Newton. “We stress it in a big way all the time.
“Newton’s been on the verge of making plays in every game we’ve had. He’s such a dynamic football player . . . he has so many things that he can do so well. I feel like we have our hands full.”