Another week, another massively disappointing fourth quarter collapse for the Seattle defense. This time, it was Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to take advantage of a Seahawks team that became inexplicably soft as time ran down, by a final of 27-23.
The Seahawks were in control for most of this game, although it was never quite comfortable (the largest lead was just 13 points). Although the Panthers were able to put a touchdown on the board in the first half, the Seattle defense was stifling for the majority of the first 30 minutes. A 90 yard drive punctuated by a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run gave the Hawks a glimpse of what the offense is supposed to look like. Then, halftime happened.
After the break, the Seahawks were able to rush out to a 20-7 lead, midway through the third quarter, and they would add a field goal in the fourth quarter. Sandwiched around that field goal, however, were THREE more Carolina 80 yard touchdown drives, including the knife in Seattle's back, plunged by Cam Newton and Greg Olsen.
The Hawks would get the ball back with about 30 seconds to go, but weren't able to do anything meaningful with it, as Cam Newton finally got the Seamonkey off his back.
1. Greg Olsen does his thing.
Not much to say about this one aside from everyone on the planet knew it was coming. Busted coverage. One of the top two tight ends in the league. No chance. Goodnight.
2. Ricardo Lockette transforms into Randy Moss.
This game was fun in the beginning, and this was a big reason why. It was a bold play call that almost ended in disaster. But then, Lockette the Rocket pulled off some straight up Hogwarts magic.
3. Marshawn returns.
It wasn't all fun and games for Lynch on Sunday, as he never really got going. He did find the end zone, though. It may not have made a difference today, but it will make a difference in the future. In order to get back to their winning ways, the Hawks need him to get back to being Beast Mode.
Jimmy Graham- 8 catches, 140 receiving yards
Jimmy Graham can pretty much start paying rent for this spot each week. For as long as he is a member of the Seahawk, his stat line is usually going to be pretty indicative of how the game went for the Hawks. Today, we got to see how Russell and Jimmy are adapting to each other, as Jimmy got open for Wilson on a multitude of broken plays.
Russell Wilson rushing yards- 46
The offense is different when Wilson runs the ball. That doesn't necessarily mean runs off of broken plays, but designed runs, as well. There seems to be a pattern with Bevel's play calling, that whenever Russell breaks off a big run on a scramble, there's a designed run called within the next few plays. It's worth questioning why such plays aren't called for with at least some regularity.
Greg Olsen- 7 catches, 131 receiving yards, 1 TD
The Seahawks continue to get burned by tight ends. One week after Tyler Eifert ravaged the Seattle defense to help the Bengals come back against the Hawks, one of the best tight ends in the NFL did the same. Olsen was consistently open for most of the day, including when it mattered most.
-Four touchdown drives of 80 yards is unacceptable for any defense, let alone one with the Seahawks' reputation. No defense that employs Mebane, Avril, Bennett, Wright, Irvin, Sherman, Chancellor and Thomas should fall victim to an offense that features exactly two weapons worth fearing, in Newton and Olsen. The question needs to start being asked about Kris Richard's defensive schemes if the same deficiencies continue.
-On a positive note, Bruce Irvin continued to terrorize the Panthers. The outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid had 2 sacks and added another tackle for loss on top of it. He also provided his typical steady play from the linebacker spot. He'l be missed next year if he heads elsewhere.
-From the sound of it on Twitter, there was mass confusion on the final touchdown pass to Greg Olsen. According to Pete Carroll, only Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman were playing the correct coverage, allowing Greg Olsen to walk to the end zone. Think they missed having Wagner calling plays?
-Doug Baldwin only had 2 catches in this game. He's not the Hawks' most important offensive player, but things usually don't go well when he's not involved at all.
What it Means
Every week, it gets more and more necessary for the Seahawks to start finding some wins. Thanks to the Cardinals' loss at the hands of the Steelers, they didn't lose any ground in the NFC West race, but the division title is still their clearest path to the playoffs in 2015. Taking down the Cardinals at least once will go a long way to helping Seattle keep their NFC crown, but they would still need some other things to break their way.
The wild card picture is murky as well. The Falcons and Panthers will both make the playoffs barring a disaster, leaving only one wild card spot up for grabs. Luckily for Seattle, the NFC East and NFC North are in just as much disarray as the NFC West. If they can turn things around and go on a run, the Seahawks will be in good shape to return to the playoffs.
Up next, a chance to pick up a win against the depleted, but coming off of a win, San Francisco 49ers on Thursday Night Football.