The game started with the backup QB of the Panthers trying to throw a screen pass to a fullback. It would be tipped and intercepted by Mike Morgan, and the Hawks had a turnover less than 2:00 into the game. The bizarre antics continued, as Russell Wilson tried to shovel a pass to Jermaine Kearse in the end zone, but a near interception ensued. The Hawks would settle for a Field Goad and begin their scoring onslaught.
Michael Bennett, Mike Morgan, Earl Thomas and DeShawn Shead all returned from injury this week, and Bennett welcomed himself back by getting an offside penalty on Carolina’s second drive.
Thomas Rawls returned to form, looking every bit like a runaway train as he rushed for two TDs (at 6:42 in the 1st and 9:44 in the 2nd), and 106 yards. On Rawls 1st TD run, he leapt over a defender, and on the second one he broke free for 45 yards and looked every bit of the bruising ‘back we’ve come to expect.
Rawls wasn’t the only offensive star in this game. Tyler Lockett absolutely worked over an injury riddled Carolina defense, notching a 75-yd sweep handoff for a TD, getting loose for a 40-yd reception, and a 46-yd kick return. The Panthers (sans arguably their best linebacker Luke Kuechly) did not have many defensive answers for Seattle as the game wore on. The final score (40-7) readily demonstrated that, even if the total yards (543, Seattle, 271 Carolina) didn’t immediately tell you.
Steven Haushcka booted four FGs, and Jimmy Graham grabbed a 1-yd TD in the 4th quarter that totally put the game out of reach. Graham would tally 60+ receiving yards, being one of four different Seahawks players totaling 60+ yards a piece: Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, and Doug Baldwin. Trevone Boykin would relieve Wilson and toss 3 pass attempts, connecting on two for 38 yds.
Russell Wilson would finish the night with 1 TD, 1 INT, for 277 Passing Yards. He would also add 30 Rushing Yards on the ground. He looked a lot better this week than last, especially when he converted a 3rd and 7 with his legs in the first half, or successfully stiff armed a Carolina defender on the way to the sideline.
The only points for Carolina in this game came after Seattle paid a heavy price. Kam Chancellor collided with Earl Thomas on a would be interception of Cam Newton. Thomas had to be lifted off of the field, and it was confirmed later on that he broke a bone in his leg. Newton and company attacked Thomas’s replacement, Steven Terrell, immediately for a 55-yd bomb that Ted Ginn Jr. caught and slid into the endzone on the very next play. It would be the only points that Carolina would score all night.
In relief of Thomas, Terrell made some key tackles after giving up the TD. The defense did not notch a sack again in this game, but K.J. Wright forced a Jonathan Stewart fumble, which Cassius Marsh recovered. Wilson would throw his lone interception on the ensuing drive. Seattle’s zone defense allowed the Panthers to move around the field, but never deep enough to get close enough to field goal range. For a squad that didn’t record a sack at all, that is a monumental accomplishment.
Thomas is now on IR, so his season is done no matter how far the Hawks make it in the playoffs. The severity of this cannot be understated, but look for Seattle to bring as much pressure as possible now that Michael Bennett is healthy and back alongside Cliff Avril and Cassius Marsh. That should leave Bobby Wagner, K.J.Wright and Mike Morgan plenty of sidelines to cover while Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and DeShawn Shead do what they do best – keep the deep thirds of the feel out of play.
Up next, the Hawks travel to Wisconsin and face a resurgent Green Bay Packers team that desperately needs a signature win to get above .500, and prove to the NFC and the rest of the NFL that they deserve to be in post season contention. The Pack has turned on their explosive plays as of late, and also has cut Seattle running back Christine Michael Sr. on their roster as a starter. In the last three games, the Pack defense has given up 1,107 yards (515 yards to the Redskins, 292 to the Eagles, and 300 to the Texans), while Seattle’s defense has given up 909 total yards (300 yards to the Eagles, 338 to the Bucs, and 271 to the Panthers).
This game sneakily feels like it could be a shootout, but also has the chance to be a low scoring affair. Maybe there will be a fake FG attempt thrown for a TD, or maybe it will be one sided. The #2 seed in the NFC is up for grabs as few teams look like they will catch the Dallas Cowboys (currently at 11-1), and this is a critical ‘win’ game for the Hawks. The forecast for Green Bay on Sunday afternoon calls for snow and low 30’s, so it may come down to clock management, field goals, and winning in the trenches. The game is on FOX at 4:25.