It was a tale of two halves for the Hawks. After deferring the opening kick, it took just one drive by each offense to put the Panthers up by 14, after a Luke Kuechly pick-six immediately followed a quick and easy touchdown drive that took place completely on the ground for Carolina. Russell Wilson played as poor of a half of football as we've seen from him, throwing two interceptions and taking bad sacks, while the offensive line failed to form any semblance of a wall in front of him. The defense was once again haunted by Greg Olsen, whose touchdown grab at the end of the half would be the eventual difference-maker. Steven Hauschka also missed a field goal at the end of the half, a field goal that could have made things very interesting at the end of the game.
When the second half began, both teams looked completely different. The run game for the Panthers was non-existent, and the Seattle offense came alive. Sparked by a big Tyler Lockett kickoff return, the Seahawks would find the end zone on three of their next four drives (Kearse, Lockett, Kearse), with the Panthers burning off plenty of the clock in-between.
With 2:49 remaining in the game, Seattle finally got the ball back. They marched down the field, but a delay of game penalty complicated things on 2nd-and-10 from the Panthers 13-yard line. They settled for the field goal to cut the deficit to seven, and, for the second year in a row, were set to rely on an onside kick to determine their playoff hopes. This time, Brandon Bostick was nowhere to be found, and Thomas Davis made a remarkable catch (for a linebacker) to seal the game for Carolina.
Most teams would have keeled over and died after a first half similar to what Seattle endured. However, as we have seen time and time again from this squad, there was no quit in them. Although they were unable to come away with the victory, it was an inspired second half performance. And you can bet that they will have this game in mind all off-season as they prepare for the 2016 season.
1. Luke Kuechly brings home the easiest pick-six you'll ever see.
Poor decision from Wilson to try and make this throw to Lynch, who had only turned around seconds earlier. Wilson struggled to throw the ball away instead of taking sacks on Sunday, but on this occasion, a sack would have been far superior.
2. Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett hook up to give the Seahawks further signs of life.
Russell Wilson drops a dime into Tyler Lockett’s hands for the touchdown pic.twitter.com/jkkBYqeXGu— The Sports Daily (@SportsDailyBlog) January 17, 2016
This touchdown came quickly after Wilson found Kearse for the first score of the game for Seattle, and it showed the the Seahawks were not going to go down quietly in this one. Phenomenal job by Wilson of staying in the pocket to deliver the beautiful pass, and outstanding job by Lockett for doing Tyler Lockett things.
3. Thomas Davis recovers the onside kick to seal the victory.
Unlike last season, there was no magic in this onside kick. Still was a great effort from Hauschka, however. It took an outstanding play from Davis to recover, and an outstanding play, he did make.
Greg Olsen- 6 receptions, 77 yards, 1 TD
Once again, Greg Olsen was a thorn in Seattle's side. Granted, Olsen is considered to be possibly the best tight end in the game outside of Rob Gronkowski, but most of his damage today came from plays that any tight end could make. He consistently was open on third down, with nothing but green in front of him. His nose for the first down marker was the key to Carolina's ability to burn down the clock throughout the second half.
Jermaine Kearse- 11 receptions, 110 yards, 2 TD
Aside from an early play in which he slipped before a possible third down conversion, Kearse was great on Sunday. He was able to make tough catches over the middle, contested catches in the end zone, and was generally a reliable target. Great final game of the season for the often-criticized receiver.
Carolina rushing yards after Stewart's 59-yard run- 85 yards
Seattle's run defense clamped down after Stewart's big run to open the game (which was only made possible by both Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner slipping in the difficult field conditions). For a team that was up 31-0 at one point, you would expect the run game to benefit. The Seahawks' ability to keep Stewart, Tolbert and Newton from doing anything of note on the ground was the key to this comeback.
-The Seahawks could not have looked worse in the first half. Sure, there were plenty of things working against them, but you can't expect to play like that against a 15-1 squad for an entire half, and be in a position to win.
-Conversely, this was an entirely different team in the second half. Where were those guys during the first 30 minutes?
-Tyler Lockett is unbelievable. That is all.
-The biggest difference, in my eyes, between the first and second half, was the play calling. The first half seemed to be full of slow-to-develop, time-consuming plays that forced the offensive line to try and do something they're not particularly skilled at- block for an extended period of time. In the second half, however, Wilson's throws were coming out much quicker and with much more rhythm to them.
-If that was Marshawn Lynch's final game as a Seahawk, I hope we can all just agree to move on and forget it ever happened. It's possible that his day could have improved, but the huge deficit early-on handcuffed Seattle's ability to feed the beast in his first game back.
-While we're on the subject of final games as a Seahawk, there's a pretty decent chance that this was the last game in a Seattle uniform for either Bruce Irvin or Kam Chancellor. If given the choice, which one would you choose to keep around?
What it Means
It means that the 2015 Seattle Seahawks have seen their season come to a close. It was a trying season for the Hawks, but they turned things around when it mattered most to get back to the playoffs. In that struggle, however, they uncovered a new identity.
Gone is the team that feeds Marshawn Lynch and hits deep play-action passes as their total offensive output. Gone is the team that relies on Beast Mode to do it all. This is officially Russell Wilson's team now, and there is no looking back. Next season will bring a full dose of the Wilson-centered offense that helped give this year's Seahawks a chance.
So watch out, NFL, because when this team gets back onto the field later in 2016, they're going to be angry. And we've seen what happens when this team is playing angry.
Thanks to everyone who has followed along with all of the game recaps this year. It's been a lot of fun writing these for Field Gulls, and I'm looking forward to doing it again next season. Here's to writing a Super Bowl-winning recap in 2017.