BY Art Thiel 07:01PM 10/26/2014

Thiel: Seahawks’ final drive quells the chatter

As long as the Seahawks don’t offer more explanation for the Harvin trade, the storyline will nag for the season. Sunday they took a critical step in marginalizing it with a road win.

Seahawks TE Luke Willson celebrates his game-winning touchdown reception with 46 seconds left Sunday at Carolina. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The great thing about sports is that deeds always trump words. But after an unusual number of crappy deeds though the first six games, words about Seahawks’ disarray started to sound credible. Which is why the importance of the Seahawks’ 13-9 win Sunday at Carolina transcended its impact on the NFL standings.

It was the chance to tell the sports world to shut the hell up without having to say it.

The result was hardly a rout; it never is against the Panthers, who have the capacity (or flux capacitor?) to force games to travel back in time to the NFL of the 1940s. But it was the way the Seahawks did it —  a defense that was ruthless all day in the red zone, and an offense that was good enough when needed — that allowed them to travel back to 2013, when they won numerous games the same way.

“It was a huge win because of the fashion we won it,” said QB Russell Wilson, who overcame multiple mistakes to be flawless in the final 80-yard drive that won the game with 46 seconds left, its only touchdown. “The game on the line with three, two, one minute left — that’s all I can ask for.”

The drive was a breakthrough not only against the Panthers’ stout defense, but against the seasonal pattern of losing despite having the ball and a chance to win in the final chance. The trademark of the Super Bowl champions had mutated into a blemish.

The success also let a football deed validate the urgent contention from Wilson and Pete Carroll that, in the wake of the Percy Harvin debacle, little was amiss.

“People were trying to distract us with stories that we’re not together,” Wilson said. “We’re probably the closest we’ve been. There’s been no distraction at all. People keep finding ways to knock us down. But we keep believing in each other.

“Not black enough? I don’t even know what that means. I’m an educated male who’s not perfect. I’m just trying to lead us to win football games. We’ve lost some tough games against good football teams. We could have been 6-0.”

Carroll was similarly strident in his desire to put controversy behind the team.

“If you think there’s distractions, you’re wrong — you’re just wrong,” he said. “There are things said on the outside . . . we have no problems with that. It’s the job of media to figure things out, but it’s not a problem in here. We don’t care what’s being said.

“Stuff like controversies and storylines . . .  that’s not adversity. Adversity is 3-3.”

True enough. But things are never as yippee-skippee as Carroll likes to portray. Even after the win, some skeptics will remain because the fall of defending NFL champions is familiar annual ground, and the Seahawks’ shocking trade of Harvin is an open invitation to scrutiny. As long as the Seahawks don’t resolve it with a credible explanation, the storyline will remain for the season.

The trick is to marginalize it. The Seahawks took a step toward that Sunday.

The defense was at the core of that progress, starting with the Panthers’ first two possessions. Two long, yard-eating drives ended not in touchdowns but field goals. Allowing six instead of three either time might have turned the game.

By the second half, the Seahawks’ front seven was in command of the line of scrimmage, holding the Panthers to four first downs. They even picked up two turnovers, a pick by CB Marcus Burley and recovered fumble from Panthers QB Cam Newton. And after futilely chasing Newton all day, including missing a sure sack for a safety by DE Michael Bennett, they sacked him three times in the final seven minutes.

“We don’t have problems playing a game like that with our defense,” Carroll said. “We stayed with the game plan and slugged it out.

“The finish was a surge. They sensed opportunity to win. It was a beautiful thing to see.”

On offense, it was almost as if the Seahawks were breaking in a partially new team. Besides TE Luke Willson’s game-deciding touchdown reception, Seattle gained significant contributions from Willson’s fellow TE Cooper Helfet, rookie WRs Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, OLs Alvin Bailey and Garry Gilliam, and increased roles for RB Robert Turbin and Christine Michael.

Part of the shuffle was from the absence of Harvin, the rest were from numerous injuries to front-liners. A slog was inevitable, even against a weakened Panthers defense that allowed at least 37 points in four of its past five games.

As Wilson began the final drive trailing 9-6 with 4:37 remaining, he said he entered the huddle joking and smiling.

“We’ve been here two years in row,” he said. “Let’s go do it.

“We believed we were going to go down the field and make the plays and win the game. There was no doubt.”

That referred to the previous games in Charlotte, won by last-minute TD passes to Golden Tate and Jermaine Kearse. Again, as Wilson likes to say, he was the calm in the storm.

He completed all four of his passes, for 53 yards, and ran twice for 11 yards. For all the misplays that preceded it, the Seahawks were flawless except for a five-yard procedure penalty. The 80-yard, nine-play drive closed with the throw to Willson, his first touchdown of the season.

“Man, I’m telling you, it’s just the Achilles’ heel, man,” Panthers cornerback Josh Norman told reporters. “They keep nagging us. They end up making one more play than us, every single time.”

In losses to the Chargers, Cowboys and Rams, that dagger was missing. And while one win against the Panthers proves a little something, much with the offense remains unresolved.

But no one can say they weren’t together for a grueling day on the road.



  • Obi-jonKenobi

    God, it’s getting hard to watch the Seahawks – this game especially – with the mistakes, missed opportunities, and . . . (wait for it) . . . PENALTIES!!

    It’s bad enough that they were playing a good team on the road but they still keep insisting on committing dumb penalties that make it even harder.

    • Geronimo

      It was hell ,man, yet there were some good plays by the usual people . . .

    • 1coolguy

      See my post above – given their injuries it is remarkable they have performed as well as they have. When they are all back and healthy (2-3 games) they will be challenging for the title. if only Arizona had lost today.

      • art thiel

        Cards got a legit win Sunday. I’m beginning to be impressed.

    • art thiel

      Actually, the Seahawks won several games last year like Sunday’s. They led the NFL in penalties too.

      • Obi-jonKenobi

        Well, the Carolina game was a combination of all their weaknesses thrown in to one game along with a new development: a number of missed opportunities such as a pass into the dirt at the feet of a wide open receiver on the goal line, a pass – again on the goal line – that not only goes right through Lynch’s hands but right into the hands of a defender, several almost-turnovers that, again, when right through some Seahawk’s hands on it’s way to a Carolina player, that kind of stuff not usually part of the mix.

        And, yes, the Seahawks committed a lot of penalties last year and that’s part of my point: when’s it going to stop? All these penalties aren’t the kind of penalties that come from just being a little too aggressive, there’s a lot of stupid false start and encroachment penalties or delay of game kinds of things happening over and over that you’d think would decrease . . . but they don’t. Seattle (I think I heard this right) is tied for the most holding penalties of any team in the league.

        What was Luke Wilson thinking, for instance, when he grabbed a guy with both hands by the jersey and picked him up and moved him out of the way, a holding penalty that happened right in front of an official when Seattle was in the red zone fighting for it’s life in a close game?

  • Jamo57

    Just win baby!

    • 1coolguy

      Good sentiment but I don’t think anyone want the Hawks to be associated with the Raiders.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Marshawn Lynch openly admitted in an interview to a California TV crew last off season that he occasionally wears silver and black around the house and the Raiders is his fav team after the Hawks having grown up there. I believe that interview is on youtube. I am guessing this upcoming game holds the usual simmering emotions for Beast and I personally would take a 17~16 win. It beats the alternative of losing on trick plays 28~26 to an inferior team. No need for brownie points. Just win is prudent.

  • Diamond Mask

    Great win. It won’t silence the naysayers but nothing ever will. Go Hawks!

  • Matt712

    Had the Hawks come up short Sunday, we would all be lamenting yet another miraculous late game back breaker – this time, the 50 yard reception to Benjamin after an equally miraculous escape from a safety just a couple of snaps prior by Newton. It has just seemed to be the cruel fate bestowed on Seattle this year by the football Gods.

    But whether or not you buy into hard luck, TMZ level negative press, or league wide conspiracy theories, oh what a difference it makes when you keep the other team out of your end zone!

    This game has “turning point” written all over it. In blood.

    • art thiel

      Unless they lose to Oakland, then it’s meaningless.

      • I don’t see them losing to Oakland…but the next three games before Arizona are critical. It’s not likely they’ll run the table against remaining divisional foes, so getting 10-11 wins to be in the playoff conversation probably hinges on taking care of business in the next two home games and taking one at KC. After that, it’s all about who is healthy at that point and time.

  • 1coolguy

    Schilling, Bailey,Gilliam, Britt and Helfet ALL played OL in this game. When one considers this line-up it is remarkable Wilson is even alive!
    Add in Okung being hurt and all told it’s normally a formula for disaster.
    Considering the above, hats off to Tom Cable for coaching these guys up and for this crew coming together as they have.
    As for the D, Wagner and Maxwell are out and Chancellor is obviously still hurt yet they kept Carolina from scoring a TD! That is remarkable.
    All I can say is when the Hawks are healthy, Unger and Miller are back on the O-line, Wagner and Maxwell are back, the Hawks will truly be a team to reckon with.
    The next 2 games are AT HOME against Oakland and the Giants, so what I see is we will have all of the players mentioned above back in the next 3 weeks and the Hawks will be in great shape.
    This will set us up well for the last 7 games of the schedule, which is BRUTAL.

    • art thiel

      Even a return to full health, which no NFL team ever reaches, leaves them with a talent shortfall from a year ago. That will cost them home field in the playoffs.

      • Obi-jonKenobi

        I think it’s realistic to lay the talent shortfall problem at the feet of the Percy Harvin gamble, don’t you?

        It not only cost the Seahawks three valuable draft picks but the money to pay Harvin meant releasing some solid players from the team to make room under the cap.

        Golden Tate, for instance, would probably still be a Seahawk and possibly a few of the missing D-line, especially pass rusher Red Bryant, as well as defensive backs Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond and lineman Breno Giacomini.

        Seattle lost a lot of good players in free agency.

  • jafabian

    The team should be getting players back next week including Maxwell and Lane. Hopefully the worst is over for them and they can rediscover that confidence they had early in the season. Today’s game was a step in that direction.

    • art thiel

      Lane can’t come back until Giants game. Maxwell maybe Sunday. The secondary really has been absent quality depth. Losing Browner, Thurmond Maxwell from the same position was a deep gash.

  • ll9956

    I hadn’t been aware that Willson would be back for this game, but he sure proved his worth–in spades!

    • art thiel

      He’s a solid pass catcher, but they really miss Miller in pass pro and leading for Lynch.

  • Big

    I’m happy with the win. As the coach says, lot’s to improve on and we’ll get to work correcting our mistakes. At times during the game expected a MASH unit to show up and attend to the injured SeaHawks.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Our team has had to claw for literally every win. After dismantling a good Packer team in the opener there was false assurance we would sail through this season. That sure has been put to rest. A gritty win like this bubbles perseverance…good building block indeed. Now its time to protect home field with an eye toward winning ALL of our NFC match ups from here on out. Its looking like two gritty wins like this against AZ might be the tonic to save this season. We dont want to be in a situation like New Orleans was a few years back in defending their SB trophy as a wild card and forced to go to Seattle where an upstart home team layed a beastquake on them and doomed their repeat dreams.

    Art didnt mention Bruce Irvin specifically by name but what a way to slam the door on victory for the Panthers. Two consecutive plays with sacks. That’s what we drafted him for. I hope there is lots more to come. We are going to need the D to play like that to defend the division championship with such a brutal schedule ending the season. Go Hawks.

    • art thiel

      I didn’t mention Irvin because it was first-and-80 for Newton and Seahawks were in prevent. Sacks are easy then.

      A win’s a win, but running the table with their injuries and weak O-line is not realistic.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Yup… I realize that more falls in line with the dream til we cant category. Those days when they were called the NFC weak are over.

  • Scott Crosser

    Any scoop on the Marshawn rumors?

    • art thiel

      No trades. I don’t see any falloff in his play.

      Teams not only load to stop him, they know to emphasize ball control to cut Seahawks possessions. So he’s pissed off a lot.