BY Art Thiel 06:10PM 11/25/2018

Thiel: Seahawks’ kids keep finding ways to help

With so much not going to plan, the Seahawks found the workarounds to deliver their biggest win of the season, a dramatic 30-27 win that stunned Carolina.

WR Tyler Lockett had 107 yards on five catches, including the reception that set up the game-winning field goal. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

Sign of a quality NFL team: Winning on the road late against a good team when many things are working against the game plan.

The Seahawks now can consider themselves a quality team.

Carolina had 476 yards of total offense, a season high against Seattle. QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey seemed at times unstoppable. The Panthers defense held the NFL’s top rushing team to half its average. Carolina recovered all five of its fumbles.

Yet the Seahawks are 6-5 and bearing down on a playoff berth because they found ways to work around their own shortcomings while exploiting the same in their hosts, providing a chance to win if the Panthers blinked. They did.

“We finished well last time out,” coach Pete Carroll said of a 27-24 win over Green Bay at home 11 days ago. “We finished really well again today.

“I’m really proud of that.”

The kids are growing up.

The harrowing, 30-27 triumph (box) Sunday in Charlotte was completed only on a final-play, 33-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. But the biggest triumph of the season was created by some familiar Russell Wilson fourth-quarter ballsiness, aided by youngsters on a defense who were nails on the final details.

The injury absence of veteran LB K.J. Wright figured to leave the Seahawks vulnerable, which was often the case. But youngsters CB Tre Flowers, DT Nazair Jones, and Wright’s replacement, LB Austin Calitro, helped keep the Panthers scoreless on four of seven trips into the red zone.

No play was more important than a tackle by Flowers on the Panthers’ final scrimmage play. Preceding it were pass completions of 10, 18 and 11 yards by Newton to reach the Seattle 40-yard line at the two-minute mark of a game tied at 27.

After Newton scrambled for a small gain, he threw incomplete, setting up a third-and-seven. Newton threw short to WR D.J. Moore, who had acres of green in front of him. But Flowers made a sure, open-field tackle that kept the gain to three yards.

“That,” said Carroll, “was a heck of a big play.”

From there, reliable veteran PK Graham Gano, who hadn’t missed a field goal at home in five years, did so from 52 yards. Door opened, Wilson took over, punctuating another masterful fourth quarter.

Well-protected by an improving O-line, Wilson on third down hit a 43-yard completion to WR Tyler Lockett to the Carolina 10. From there, he burned the clock until :04 remained, inviting in Janikowski to stun the Panthers.

A trendy mid-season pick for the playoffs at 6-2, the Panthers have lost three in a row, including Sunday’s first home defeat in 11 games.

“Three weeks ago,” said Newton, “if somebody had said this was going to happen, I would have slapped them.”

Meanwhile, Carroll was using his hands to applaud the Seahawks’ youngsters, who are making fewer mistakes as the season progresses.

“We’ve come a long ways with a lot of young guys,” he said. “We’ve said before, when we get to the midpoint, they’re veterans. We don’t feel like we have young guys playing any more. They’re making better choices because they’ve been there. It does add up.

“Those early games (losses to Chicago and Denver), experience could have made a difference, for sure.”

The upshot is that the Seahawks have expanded their ways to win. The Panthers clearly loaded up to deny Seattle its ground game, which had just 75 yards, led by RB Chris Carson’s 55 in 16 carries, including a spectacular forward flip that became a two-footed landing.

But that left lots of room in the Panthers’ injury-depleted secondary for Wilson. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 339 yards, just two sacks and no turnovers.

“Russ came through throwing the ball,” Carroll said. “He did a wonderful job down the stretch when we had to have them. Guys made catches and the pass protections were there for us.

“It’s not a surprise they played us tough in the running game. If (Carolina) commits (to stopping the run), we can use play-action to get the ball over top of them. It does give us space to throw. (Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) has to balance that out, and I thought he did a great job.”

Beneficiaries were Lockett, who also had a touchdown in his five catches for 107 yards; David Moore, a touchdown and 103 yards on four catches, and Doug Baldwin (39 yards in five carries), who was a game-time decision to play after developing a groin strain during the week.

Back-to-back wins by three points each don’t describe a powerhouse. But it does suggest movement in the right direction. They survived a gauntlet of superior quarterbacks, and  close out the season with four home games in the final five, including next Sunday at the Clink against still-decaying San Francisco.

“This was really a rewarding win, on the road again, out east here,” Carroll said. “We’ve been able to do this well for a long time. Hopefully, it will help us if we get another chance to come back out.”

That would be for a playoff game — as close as Carroll will come publicly to looking ahead. But he knows now that such a hint, following an off-season of controversial upheaval, will draw no further mockery. He is directing a quality team.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Ron

    So who do we want to defeat in wild-card weekend of the playoffs: Cowboys or Bears?

    • art thiel

      Quite the buy-in. Weren’t you among the skeptics of 0-4 August?

      • Ron

        That was before the Raiders traded away their star, tanked, and forfeited their season. And before 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo got injured. Before the Packers went down the drain with injuries. And while we haven’t played the Vikings yet, I expected more from them. I underestimated how bad some in the league would be.

  • Diamond Mask

    Wilson’s post game interview with Pam Oliver practically exploded with his enthusiasm. Great game. It seemed like they were focused on defense to containing Newton and potentially McCaffrey and trying to take the ball away. Mixed success on that but when Russ is playing his A game it’s kind of freakish. Go Hawks.

    • art thiel

      No one expects RW to be Debby Downer. That’s Newton’s job.

      • John M

        And he does it so well. Sweet guy, more full of himself than a Trumpet . . .

  • ll9956

    Thanks for a fine piece, Art. In the early going it looked bad for the Hawks. They got sliced up pretty good and ended up giving up a whopping 476 yards while racking up 397, but Russell pulled out a near-miraculous comeback. Considering that the Hawks had to travel across the country and deal with the time difference, the win is all the more remarkable. The prevailing opinion of the “experts” was wrong on this one.

    One has to hope that the upcoming supposedly easier schedule won’t catch them taking things for granted. That would likely produce some long faces in the locker room afterwards.

    • art thiel

      I thought CAR would win. The 4th and 3 throw by Wilson for the TD to Moore was probably a 10 percent chance for success.

  • Todd Carmichael

    Going for the touchdown on 4th and 3 from the Carolina 35 was COMPLETELY ridiculous.

    • Bruce McDermott

      Yup. Not much sense plus no fear worked this time.

      I believe Wilson said post-game that he went to Moore because “that was the read.” I thought it was a low, low percentage pass. But it was also perfectly thrown and perfectly caught (despite an obvious, uncalled DPI.) .

      • art thiel

        For all commenters regarding the 4th and 3 call, there’s two words: Corn Elder. A second-year CB from Miami who sat out 2017 injured, Elder has been little used and entered this one only because top CB Donte Jackson left in the first quarter with a quad injury.

        Schottenheimer targeted him several times, as a good OC should. He’s 5-10 and Moore can go over him if need be. Additionally, Moore deked him by showing no response to the thrown ball until its arrival.

        Pro call. Pro throw. Pro catch.

        • 1coolguy

          Pro Size Balls

    • Kevin Lynch

      And so was the defense from #35 on Carolina, who never made a play of the ball. Rediculously bad. Good throw from Russell though.

    • 1coolguy

      Totally ballsy – When he threw it I said “oh shxx” and when it was caught I said “OMG, I can’t believe he threw that”. If not completed, it’s game over.
      4th and 3 and he couldn’t find an open receiver, so I expected RW to run for the 1st. I hope games like this shut up the RW dissers – the guy is a solid top 5 QB.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Good win for the Hawks who now hold the wild cards in their hands. If they can take out Minnesota they might be able to get a wild card with only a 9-7 record, much less 10-6. Strange game for Carolina to lose: home team, over 8 yards per carry on offense, defense limiting Seattle to about 2.9. QB is 25 of 30 and the team has only one turnover. And they lose. Norv Turner was very conservative/predictable in the red zone in the first half and also on the Hawks 40 in the last set of downs. A first down would likely have won the game. You’d have thought they would have thrown for it. No dice. Hawks will likely draw dem Bears unless they can do to Cousins what he did to them last year with the Skins.

    • art thiel

      Lots of second-guessing in CAR over a game they should have won. Then again, they had the luck of recovering five of their own fumbles.

      • John M

        They have no excuse in Carolina. “They should have won” is an old saw. The Hawks should have beaten the Rams last time. They didn’t. The Panthers didn’t. Just more coulda-woulda-shoulda-. . .

  • Husky73

    Wilson is playing at a very high level.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    The Hawks seem to be achieving more each outing. I’m hoping that next week they can reestablish their home field win streak while also showing they won’t play down to their competition by dominating the 49ers. GO HAWKS!

    • art thiel

      It’s December. Their month (except for 2017).

  • jafabian

    As soon as the Hawks tied the game their strategy became obvious: keep the ball for the remaining three minutes. It was the same plan they used for the Packers. With QB’s like Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton you can’t let them close out a game. Fortunately for the Hawks the Blair Walsh curse descended upon the Panthers, though a 52 yard FG attempt is not easy. The Hawks could very well win four of their remaining five games. They have the tiebreaker against the Cowboys and Panthers and IMO the Vikings tie will come back to haunt them. Didn’t Richard Sherman say the Seahawks have lost their way? Hmm?

    • art thiel

      Please don’t tell Richard what is happening. He has yet to be wrong.

      • John M

        Big week for local football. I thought when the Panthers shut down the run it was going to be a long morning, but Shotty went to the air much sooner than Bevel would have. All the conjecture about how many more can they win is moot – depends on injuries. So what about Brown? Is he dinged? I saw a lot of Fant out there late in the game . . .

  • Kevin Lynch

    Seattle has played two very competitive games against the Rams, their primary division foe. Carolina still has two games to come against theirs, the Saints. Panthers had to have yesterday’s game.

    • art thiel

      Panthers are circling the drain despite premium play from Newton/McCaffrey.

  • Alan Harrison

    Okay, the team went 2-2 on the QB gauntlet (LA, LA, GB, CA), although, as always, doing it the hard way. At 6-5, there is no letup. Each week is a playoff game. And while the rush defense was AWFUL against the Panthers, 9-7 still looks likely. The Chiefs are still playing for their division and the Vikings are going to be tough as well, (although coming off a road game in NE and travelling across the country for a Monday night game in Seattle won’t be easy for them). Here we go. Enjoying the ride.

    • Diamond Mask

      Who do you expect will be the teams that provide the Seahawks with those other two losses?

      • Alan Harrison

        As I wrote, Chiefs and a desperate Vikings team. But who knows?

        • art thiel

          Chiefs might have clinched by then. If not, they are more efficient than the Panthers offense. Likely L. And the Vikings with Cousins are good, getting better.

          • Diamond Mask

            I guess we’ll see. I don’t see the Vikings coming here for a win.

          • 1coolguy

            The Chiefs have a weak D, so they are vulnerable to a team with a decent D and RW running the offense!!!

  • Guy K. Browne

    There’s no football text in existence that says “Down 7pts, 4th and 3, game on the line, dial up a 35 yard bomb to a rookie receiver”… un-freaking believable.
    On another note, Wazzu coaching staff might want to refer back to this game regarding making adjustments when plan A isn’t working out so well. You know the Hawks wanted to run the ball, Carolina was determined not to be beat by the run, and they weren’t… turns out it was a bit of an Air Raid.

    • art thiel

      That’s what Carroll means about offensive balance. Not that every game has to be 50/50, but that you can turn to one when the other isn’t working.

      Leach’s teams have crossed up defenses on occasion with runs. He refused to do so against UW, except for the one play before halftime to Williams that produced the TD. Why Leach is so stubborn about that, I don’t know.

  • ReebHerb

    It is a good time to trade Doug Baldwin to someone like the Redskins while he still has some value; maybe for a 5th or 6th round pick in 2019. He would be closer to the swamp and could engage more readily in his enlightened social justice warrioring.

    • Diamond Mask

      That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

    • art thiel

      So wrong on so many levels, Reeb.

    • Guy K. Browne

      Yeah, right on! How dare a young educated man have a voice… geesh dude, maybe if you took a second to listen to what the message is, you could leave the prejudice behind and help move it forward. #89Hawkforever

    • It is always better to be thought a fool than to post something on the internet and remove all doubt. (Or something like that.)

      • art thiel

        Well said.

    • 1coolguy

      Wow, talk about a misplaced, uniformed rant. What are you talking about?

      • art thiel

        We have our contrarians, as you know, coolguy.

      • John M

        It’s OK coolguy, Art pays him to keep us active . . .

    • John M

      Really Herb, does Art send you tickets to disseminate this stuff to get our temps up? We of the unwashed wonder about this . . .