For the second straight week, the Seahawks rallied in the fourth quarter for a big NFC win, beating Carolina 30-27 on the final play to retain control of their playoff destiny.
“We’re alive. We have a long ways to go,” Pete Carroll said. “We’re already in the playoffs as far as we’re concerned (i.e., every game matters).”
This unexpectedly turned into a Rams-style shootout, with red zone stops the only thing that slowed Carolina for most of the day.
The Seahawks let the Panthers run up and down the field, using misdirection, zone reads and play action to average a ridiculous 8.4 yards per play — which trumped the 7.5 by the Chargers and Packers and the 7.4 by the Rams as the most Seattle has allowed this season.
Christian McCaffrey did his best Todd Gurley imitation, going over 100 yards in both rushing and receiving– 237 total yards, two TDs. With Cam Newton adding 63 yards, the Panthers ran for 220 — just the eighth time Pete Carroll’s Seattle defenses have surrendered 200. The Hawks actually have won four of the past five of those though.
The Seattle run defense continues to be unexpectedly horrendous. Shamar Stephen obviously was not a good signing. Jarran Reed did not win one-on-ones vs. Carolina, and the linebackers were all blocked on most of the plays. The Hawks have to add a good run stuffer in the offseason — in the mode of Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, et al.
The one area where the defense stood up was the red zone. Seattle held Carolina to 3 of 7 in the scoring area.
“The defense had a hard time today,” Carroll said. “McCaffrey was awesome. Cam was awesome. But when we got them in the red zone we stopped them. We had four big stops. They were all crucial. The turnover (end zone interception by Bradley McDougald) was huge down there.”
The Panthers fumbled five times, but the Hawks could not pick up any of them, including a drop by McCaffrey inside the 1-yard line — McCaffrey scored a TD two plays later.
In the end, the Hawks held the Panthers on their final drive — and Graham Gano missed a 52-yarder that gave Russell Wilson and company the chance to win it.
Wilson and the offense played very well. Wilson had a couple of early mistakes — overthrowing Doug Baldwin on a sure TD in the first half and taking a bad sack deep in his own field that set up Carolina for its first touchdown. But Wilson played one of his best games of the season, hitting 22 of 31 throws for 339 yards and two touchdowns — to Tyler Lockett and David Moore, who both went over 100 yards.
Wilson and his receivers picked up the slack on a day the Seahawks’ streak of 150-yard rushing games ended. Chris Carson ran hard and strong (and acrobatically), but he ran for just 55 yards on 16 carries as Seattle tallied just 75 ground yards (a mere 2.7 per carry thanks to a couple of minus runs by Lockett).
“On a day when we couldn’t run the ball like we had been, Russ came through and had a great day throwing the ball,” Carroll said. “We love to run the football, but balance is what’s really the essence of this thing.”
In the end, the Hawks pulled out a second straight comeback win in a key NFC game, and now they head home for four of their final five — with a great shot at the playoffs.
It will continue to be a wild ride.
Smooth execution pic.twitter.com/uBD5NxpQ1T
— Jac Collinsworth (@JacCollinsworth) November 25, 2018