The Seahawks capitalized on a key late-game turnover by DeAngelo Williams, drove down the field and ran the final 5:25 off the clock to beat the Carolina Panthers 12-7. Let's go down the checklist:
Opening win in the most highly anticipated season in Seahawk history? Check. Win on the road? Check. Win with 10 am start on the east coast? Check. Win against in-conference opponent? Check.
I don't care how it all went down, but in many ways, this was a huge victory, not only for the Hawks' own confidence and position in the standings, but for making my life better overall, because we won't have to listen to people bitch about all these talking points all week long.
The Seahawks survived the Carolina Panthers' front seven in a manner I had pretty much expected, by going away from the run game for stretches (finishing with 70 yards on 26 attempts), getting Russell Wilson out of the pocket on roll outs and bootlegs, and letting their playmakers pick up yards. Derrick Coleman, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, and Zach Miller all had huge, huge plays for Seattle late in the game by taking Carolina's strength - their defensive line - out of the play quickly, putting Russell Wilson on the move, and utilizing short passes with high chances for some YAC.
Wilson ended up passing for 320 yards (more than he had in any regular season game last year) on 25 of 33 passing (76%!!), one touchdown and no picks. Despite a sluggish, ugly start to the game in which Wilson seemed to try to make things happen a little bit too much and took some costly sacks, #3 finished with 9.69 YPA and hit Jermaine Kearse downfield for 43 yards on a brilliant redline throw-and-catch touchdown. Kearse went up, highpointed the ball at the goalline, and tumbled in, holding on for the score. That play ended up being the difference in the game as Seattle took the lead 12-7.
While Wilson's statline was great to see, the real star of this game was the defense, sans three of their top pass rushers in Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin. The D limited Cam Newton and Carolina's high-octane offense to 243 net yards - 124 rushing and 119 through the air - and Newton finished 16-of-23 for 116 yards passing with one touchdown to Steve Smith. I'll take that any day, especially on the road.
As Brian McIntyre points out, "in two games in Carolina in 2012/2013, the Seahawks defense has limited the Panthers offense to 19 points on 433 yards of offense. 216.5 per game." Wow. As Danny O'Neil adds, "Cam Newton finished with a career-low 125 yards passing. Sound familiar? Previous career-low of 141 was in 2012 vs. Seahawks."
A great start for Dan Quinn and Seattle's defense, especially considering the offense could only spot them 12 points on the afternoon. The big play, of course, was a big hit on DeAngelo Williams with just over five minutes remaining, and Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, forcing the ball out, which allowed Seattle to recover.
At that point, with a lead and with the football, Seattle stayed true to their identity and ran the clock out with a 12-play drive.