It took almost the entire game for the Seattle Seahawks to get their offense going, but Russell Wilson was sharp right from the start until the very end, resulting in a big touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to come from behind an earn a dramatic fourth quarter victory.
The Carolina Panthers played well on defense, holding the Seahawks to only 12 points. But the feeling to the entire game right from the start was that the Panthers will settle for anything, while the Seahawks were going for the big players, and looked confident enough all day long that they’ll get what they deserve in the end.
If it wasn’t for the fumble by DeAngelo Williams with 5:25 left in the game on the Seattle 8-yard line, we might be talking a bit differently, but the bounce went Seattle’s way. Earl Thomas, who also led the teams in tackles on the day, made a big play from behind, stripping the ball away from Williams, which allowed the Seahawks to run out the clock with some very nice short-game passing from Russell Wilson.
With Marshawn Lynch being limited to only 43 yards on 17 carries, Wilson had to be at his best. It was hard to notice him picking up the yards, but when you review the game, he barely made a mistake all afternoon, finishing with 25-of-33 for 320 yards and the touchdown pass that one the game.
Wilson didn’t take many risks and throws deep downfield, but was money when trying them. It was his first career 300+ passing game, and he was 5-of-7 on passes that went more than 15 yards downfield, including the touchdown pass to Kearse, who only found himself as part of the plan after a very strong performance during the preseason. A big part of Wilson’s success has been the Seahawks using the option more and more since the end of last season (last 7 games including the win over the Panthers), although it didn’t really show in the running game this time, averaging only 2.7 yards per carry.
The key to win against the Panthers, no matter how improved their defense might be is stopping Cam Newton. The Seahawks limited his very few downfield targets in Steve Smith and Greg Olsen, meaning Newton finished with only 125 passing yards (and a touchdown) on 16-of-23. Newton was hard to get to (sacked only once), but he didn’t manage to go off running too much, ending up running for 38 yards on 5 carries. The 163 yards total for him were a career low, and the Panthers can’t win with him being so unproductive.
Maybe it does come down to DeAngelo Williams fumbling the ball or not, but that is what great defenses do. It’s not only about the numbers, as the Panthers enjoyed a strong day on the ground through Williams and Newton, but it’s about making the play. Wilson had a strong passing day, but his big clutch play came only with 10 minutes left in the game. The same goes for their big defensive stop in the fourth quarter, keeping the Seahawks on track for a season that’s going to be just as good as the last, only a lot less surprising this time.