If there's a such thing as a do-or-die game in October, this was it. The Seahawks had dropped their previous two games and were in danger of slipping below .500 for the first time since 2011. It wasn't pretty, but the Seahawks scraped out a 13-9 win over the Carolina Panthers on the road in what could prove to be a major turning point in their season.
With 47 seconds left, Russell Wilson hit Luke Wilson for the game-winning 23-yard touchdown pass, the first time either team had reached the end zone all day.
Russell Wilson completed 20-of-32 passes for 199 yards with one touchdown and one "interception." More on that "interception" later. Cam Newton completed 12-of-22 passes for 177 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
Neither side was able to get a rushing game going. Marshawn Lynch led the Seahawks with 62 yards on 14 carries. Nearly half of those yards came on a single rush when Lynch broke free for 25 yards. For the Panthers, Johnathan Stewart carried the ball 16 times for 79 yards.
The Seahawks got off to an incredibly slow start on offense, going 3-and-out on their first two drives. On the first drive, it was Marshawn Lynch getting swallowed up in the backfield that stalled things. On the next, it was Russell Wilson not throwing to the first down marker on 3rd and 5.
On Carolina's second drive, Tharold Simon nearly came up with a pick, but couldn't get his hands on the ball as it hit him in the numbers.
The Panthers completely dominated the first quarter in both time of possession and offense. Anyone remember how the San Diego game ended? Not well.
End of the first. Time of possession: Seahawks 3:50, Panthers 11:10. CAR with 105 yards, SEA just 17.— Liz Mathews 710 ESPN (@Liz_Mathews) October 26, 2014
Despite committing two bonehead penalties (offsides and too many men on the field) inside the 10-yard line, Seattle's defense forced the Panthers to settle for a field goal for the second straight drive. Considering how the game was starting for the Seahawks, being down 6-0 didn't seem so bad.
On the ensuing kickoff, Paul Richardson gave the Seahawks the spark they were looking for, returning the kickoff to midfield. With Richardson taking the spot of the traded Percy Harvin, you knew these jokes were coming.
I'm hearing reports that ever since that kickoff return, Paul Richardson hasn't been getting along with teammates.— ken-drick lamarthur (@KennethArthuRS) October 26, 2014
The Seahawks finally got a first down on a 11-yard pass to Richardson, but Wilson would take a sack for a loss of eight yards on the very next play. Seattle would get points out of the short drive though, thanks to Steven Hauschka and his robotic leg. Hauschka stepped up and drilled a 58-yard field goal, a career long and matching the Seahawks franchise record for longest field goal, a mark set by Josh Brown back in 2003.
After getting torched on defense for essentially the entire first half. the Seahawks defense finally caught a break on a botched zone read by Cam Newton and Johnathan Stewart. The ball came loose as it looked like Newton wanted to hand it off, but Stewart had already gone too far. Cliff Avril was there to scoop up the fumble to give Seattle possession.
On a big 3rd and 1 during the ensuing drive, the Seahawks caught another break as the Panthers were hit with an encroachment penalty, giving the Seahawks a fresh set of downs to work with. Later in the drive, a 14-yard pass to Doug Baldwin finally gave the Seahawks their first third down conversion of the day after going 0-for-3 to start the game.
Carolina's defense then came up with a huge turnover. Wilson zipped a pass to Marshawn Lynch, but the ball deflected off Lynch's hands and ended up in the hands of Josh Norman. Had Lynch hung onto the pass, there's no doubt it would've ended in a touchdown to give Seattle the lead going into the half. Instead, the Panthers would hold onto a 6-3 lead. It was Seattle's first turnover in the red zone this season.
Darrell Bevell flips off Marshawn Lynch— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) October 26, 2014
On Carolina's opening drive of the second half, the Seahawks came up with another big turnover. As Cam Newton was scrambling, he panicked and tried to dump off a shovel pass to Greg Olsen. Marcus Burley was there to make a heads up play and pick off the pass.
Then, on another missed opportunity, Russell Wilson had Cooper Helfet wide open after a perfectly executed zone read, but never got a handle on the ball when throwing it on the run. Wilson essentially tossed a knuckleball to Helfet as the pass fell incomplete. It was another missed touchdown opportunity for the Seahawks inside the red zone. Wilson then redeemed himself with a 15-yard scramble for a first down, but after a holding penalty, Seattle's drive would stall once again and the Hawks would have to settle for a game-tying field goal in a game of missed opportunities.
Way too many missed opportunities for Seattle. This should be a much different ball game, in favor of the Seahawks.— Aleecia Moss (@AleeciaMoss) October 26, 2014
The Seahawks almost came up with another interception thanks to a poor throw from Cam Newton who was rushed after a blitz from Seattle. Newton tossed a wobbling pass that was nearly picked off by a diving KJ Wright. It looked as if Wilson and Newton needed to go back to the Manning Passing Academy.
Uncle Rico would be proud of some the passes in this game.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) October 26, 2014
On Seattle's next drive, the Hawks had a couple big plays, starting with a shovel pass to Robert Turbin that turned into a 21-yard gain. Two plays later, Marshawn Lynch finally broke off his first big gain of the day with a 25-yard run into Carolina territory. Three plays later, a botched snap would give the Panthers the ball back, continuing the theme of "missed opportunities." The snap never even reached Wilson's hands. Come back, Max Unger. We miss you. It was the sixth time the ball was fumbled between the two sides, with each defense coming up with the ball once.
When Sherman said turnovers come in bunches, I don't think he meant this.— Liz Mathews 710 ESPN (@Liz_Mathews) October 26, 2014
After a head-scratching fair catch by Carolina with no defenders in the area, the Panthers were pinned inside their own 10-yard line. Cam Newton was nearly taken down in the end zone for a safety, but was able to shake off Michael Bennett and throw the ball away. Then, on 3rd and 10, Newton delivered a 50-yard bomb to Kelvin Benjamin, slipping the pass right in between Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas who seemingly had the rookie receiver locked down.
Thanks to the Mebane belly roll, the Panthers would have to settle for another field goal, putting them up 9-6 with 4:41 to play.
It was Russell Wilson's turn to drive the Seahawks down the field in order to keep every Hawks fan from officially hitting the panic button. Thanks to three completed passes for 30 yards and finally using his legs to put the Hawks into field goal range.
But Seattle was sick of field goals. Russell Wilson hit Luke Wilson for the go-ahead 23-yard touchdown pass, giving the Seahawks a 13-9 lead with 47 seconds to play.
To make things more difficult for Cam Newton, the Panthers were charged with a timeout after the play when Roman Harper went down. Because the injury came inside two minutes, the Panthers lost a timeout, drawing perfectly logical criticism of Harper from their fans.
I want somebody, anybody to tell me why Roman Harper is still a member of the #Panthers. Thanks for costing us a much needed timeout.— B.J. Davis (@BJ_Davis23) October 26, 2014
Interestingly enough, the Seahawks weren't charged with a timeout in an identical situation inside two minutes when Jeron Johnson had to be helped off the field.
The Seahawks defense finished the job, shutting down the Panthers to seal the victory. Back-to-back sacks from Bruce Irvin sent the fans to the exits.
Seattle returns home next week to face the Oakland Raiders, who are still looking for their first win of the season after seven games. I'd normally bring up the idea of a trap game, but this Raiders team is just....so awful.