It was far from the prettiest game the Seahawks have ever played but that doesn't at all lessen its significance.
Sebastian Janikowski converted a 31-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Seahawks to a 30-27 win in Charlotte over the Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks withstood 476 yards of offense from the Panthers and managed only 75 rushing yards themselves, but managed to do enough offensively to keep up and steal a key victory on the road.
The win over the Panthers moves Seattle to 6-5 and gives them a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Carolina in the playoff chase. The Panthers are one of a handful of teams Seattle is battling with for two Wild Card berths out of the NFC.
The game itself had plenty to digest as well. Here are the takeaways from the Seahawks victory over the Panthers:
1. Seahawks needed Russell Wilson to come up huge and he answered.
The defense was being gashed. The run game was being smothered. The Panthers were flying up and down the field.
Sunday could have easily been a blow out win for the Panthers if not for the standout play of Russell Wilson.
Outside of an overthrow of Doug Baldwin in the first quarter for a would-be touchdown, Wilson was outstanding against the Panthers.
Wilson completed 22 of 31 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns. The Seahawks scored on each of their final five possessions of the game with key conversions on third and fourth downs being of paramount importance.
- A 27-yard pass to Tyler Lockett on third-and-4 in the second quarter kept a touchdown drive alive.
- A 54-yard pass to David Moore on third-and-12 in the third quarter moved Seattle into the Panthers red zone before an 11-yard touchdown pass to Lockett on third-and-9 allowed the Seahawks to take their first lead.
- A 35-yard touchdown pass to Moore on fourth-and-3 tied the game at 27-27 with 3:33 remaining when a failed conversion may have allowed the Panthers to run the clock out.
- A 43-yard strike to Lockett on third-and-5 on the final possession allowed Seattle to drain the clock and set up the game-winning field goal.
The Seahawks were only 6 of 14 on third down overall in the game but were 2 for 2 on fourth down. Four of Seattle's five longest plays of the game came on third or fourth down. That's Wilson producing in the most critical moments.
Wilson also needed pass protection for some of those key throws and he was protected incredibly well despite some blitzes brought by the Panthers.
With the running game held to its lowest output since Week Two, Wilson had to step to the plate and carry Seattle's offense. They lose on Sunday if Wilson wasn't exceptional. He deserves every bit of recognition for this performance.
2. Panthers did far more to stop themselves than Seattle's defense did.
Bradley McDougald's stellar interception of Cam Newton aside, the Seahawks defense did very little to stop the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Christian McCaffrey racked up 237 yards from scrimmage as he sliced through the defense mostly unimpeded.
McCaffrey is the first player this season in the NFL to gain 100 yards both rushing (125) and receiving (112). Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams last year is the only other player to accomplish the feat in the last seven seasons.
It's only the second time in franchise history a player has gone for 100 yards rushing and receiving against Seattle, per Pro-Football-Reference. Priest Holmes of the Kansas City Chiefs gained 197 yards rushing and 110 yards receiving in a 39-32 loss in Seattle on Nov. 24 2002. Almost 16 years to the day later, McCaffrey went for 100 and 100 and lost as well.
McCaffrey fumbled three times but the Panthers managed to recover all three. In fact, the Panthers fumbled five times in total and Seattle didn't manage to recover any of the loose balls. That's tremendously poor fumble luck.
"The defense had a hard time today," head coach Pete Carroll said. "McCaffrey was awesome. Cam (Newton) was awesome. But when they got into the red zone we were able to stop them."
Graham Gano missed a 52-yard go-ahead field goal try with 1:45 remaining that gave Seattle favorable field position for their game-winning drive. The Panthers failed to convert a fourth-and-1 in the first quarter, which kept an additional three points off the board. The Panthers also had to settle for two field goals on drives that moved inside the Seattle 10-yard line as well.
Tre Flowers also came up with a vital tackle on third-and-7 pass to D.J. Moore that forced the Panthers to kick the 52-yard field goal.
The defense came up with a couple key stops in key situations. However, the Panthers did plenty on their own to stifle their own progress. It's a big reason why Seattle escaped with the win.
3. Tyler Lockett, David Moore continue to step up with Doug Baldwin hobbled.
Baldwin was questionable to play Sunday against the Panthers due to a groin strain that surfaced on Tuesday. It's the third injury this season that has kept Baldwin from being at full strength along with a pair of knee issues.
However, Lockett and Moore continue to pick up the slack with Baldwin not producing as consistently as in years past.
Lockett caught his eighth touchdown of the year as part of his five catches for 107 yards overall. He caught all five passes thrown his way on Sunday with three of the five catches leading to conversions on third down.
Moore came up with the crucial fourth down touchdown, fending off Panthers cornerback Corn Elder that tied the game in the fourth quarter. Moore caught four passes for 103 yards and his fifth touchdown of the season.
Baldwin fought his way through the game as well, catching four passes for 39 yards. However, Lockett and Moore stepped up to give the explosive production the offense needed on Sunday.
4. The defense was almost entirely ineffective against the Panthers.
This point goes in tandem with No. 2 above, but Seattle's defense was abysmal in many ways on Sunday.
The Seahawks did not sack Cam Newton once all game. In fact, they didn't even register a quarterback hit all game long.
The Panthers averaged 8.4 yards per play and 8.1 yards per rush as McCaffrey slashed through their defense.
It's the third time in four games an opposing running back has averaged over seven yards per carry against them (Gurley, Melvin Gordon).
Cam Newton did not thrown an incompletion in the first half, going 14 for 14 for 159 yards and a touchdown.
The weak-side linebacker position continued to be a revolving door as Barkevious Mingo started and Austin Calitro mixed in as well. Additionally, the Seahawks played some more dime defense as well with a sixth defensive back - Delano Hill - on the field to leave Bobby Wagner as the only linebacker on the field at times.
McDougald's interception was critical. It was also the first turnover Seattle had forced since Justin Coleman intercepted Matthew Stafford in the fourth quarter of the win over the Detroit Lions last month. The situational stops inside the 10-yard line were also important in their own way, but it was a struggle all around for the Seahawks on Sunday.
Well, unless you're Bobby Wagner, who finished with 11 tackles to lead the team.
Photo Credit: CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 25: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks throws under pressure from Mario Addison #97 of the Carolina Panthers during the first half of their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)