The Seahawks dominated Carolina in every single aspect but the scoreline today. A 16-12 finish doesn’t fairly represent just how comprehensive this victory was, but the team ensured everyone had the usual Sunday headache with a series of errors and penalties. The first half brought back memories of the Green Bay game in week three – a completely one sided affair with the defense shutting down the opposition. Yet somehow the score was 6-3 at half time and it was all down to the teams greatest enemy right now – indiscipline.
A huge downfield pass play for around 56 yards was called back for a hold by Bren Giacomini. The same player had yet another personal foul flag. Chris Clemons’ suplex on Cam Newton prevented Seattle getting great field position late in the second quarter and instead Carolina drove for their first points of the day. A 17-0 half turned into a 6-3 half, and thankfully it didn’t prove costly.
Compounding the issue was a sluggish start to the third quarter with two turnovers including a pick-six by Russell Wilson. A third turnover followed shortly, with the juggling skills of Marshawn Lynch decidedly worse than his rushing skills. But while the first two were basic errors, the third was a freak event.
But just as it seemed another close game was going to be flushed down the toilet, both sides of the ball stepped up to the plate. Brandon Browner stole the ball for a turnover leading to a smart Wilson-to-Golden Tate touchdown. Another drive led to three more points and when Cam Newton finally drove the Panthers into scoring range – Browner made a vital play on third down to prevent Louis Murphy scoring a touchdown. Carolina went for it on fourth and strangely had Newton throw the ball – and he somehow missed a wide-open receiver throwing into the turf.
Even then the Seahawks had to close it out and thanks to a typical first down run from Lynch and a clever decision to take a safety (making life easy for Jon Ryan) the win was secured. Seattle’s three high profile rookies all had a big day:
– Bruce Irvin finished with two sacks and two QB hits. The first sack was a superb closing burst to tackle Newton by the ankle. The second won the game, forcing a fumble in the process. He’s an impact player, taking his sack total to 4.5 in five games. The Seahawks drafted him to make a big contribution at a crucial time and he did that today. There’s going to be times this year where he doesn’t feature and people will get frustrated, but he wasn’t drafted to be an every down playmaker. This is what he was brought here to do – make key plays with the game on the line.
– Bobby Wagner was immense for the second week in a row. He played the option brilliantly, showed excellent speed on one play to get to Newton on a QB keeper and looks every bit the established NFL starter. He entered the draft a borderline first round pick and went in the second because linebacker is a bit of a luxury pick. The Seahawks made a wise move taking him in round two and found a starter for many years to come. The secondary gets a lot of attention and rightly so, but the Seahawks also have one of the best linebacker groups for a 4-3 scheme.
– Russell Wilson showed tangible progress today and deserves a ton of praise. He’s a rookie starter in his fifth game – and not the typical rookie starter either who was a top-five or even #1 overall pick. Wilson is 3-2 as a starter having beaten Dallas, Green Bay and Carolina – his only two defeats coming on the road in the newly crowned toughest division in football. Sure – the pick-six was ugly. Guess what? Veteran quarterbacks with playoff appearances still throw passes like that. The second interception has no place among his stat line. He completed 76% of his passes and didn’t let the two interceptions get into his head. Is he the finished article? Absolutely not. Is he showing progress as a starter? Definitely. This regime doesn’t need five starting quarterbacks in two and a half years on the résumé. Wilson shouldn’t have to beat the Patriots next week to avoid question marks about his validity to stat. The Seahawks offense is still growing and they made their choice in pre-season. Wilson deserves a chance to show further progress over the next few weeks.
This is the type of performance we expected before the season began. If the mental mistakes and penalties can be ironed out, this is a forceful team who will be tough to beat at home or on the road. It’s up to the coaches now to make sure no more wins are jeopardised by indiscipline. And if they continue to play this way minus the mental mistakes, it’ll help us concentrate on a ‘best player available’ scenario for the draft. Which is a good thing, given the clear strength for 2013 is at positions like defensive tackle.
And oh yeah – not a fan of the blue-on-grey uniforms. My choice would be blue-on-blue and white-on-blue. Not that you care.