12th Man: Week 13 vs. Panthers Recap
The Seahawks managed to bounce back from an amazingly disappointing loss with the most crippling victory of the season. Free safety Earl Thomas broke a bone in his leg going for an interception on a dreadful throw from Cam Newton and won’t be back before next season. Period. What helps the Seahawks going forward is that the role of the deep safety in Pete Carroll’s defense is pretty simple – defend the seam and the post, and flow with your instincts (provided they’re good ones). Steven Terrell looked respectable filling in for Earl. He’s going to need to get acclimated quickly or this season just got that much more stressful.
Tragedy aside, this team really got firing on all cylinders Sunday night, immolating the lackluster Panthers 40-7. It looks like I can finally stop talking about Russell Wilson’s health now, and that’s great. With that said, there were some areas that really stood out for me:
MAN, WHAT? Panthers coach Ron Rivera elected to punish his star QB, reigning MVP Cam Newton, for not wearing a tie while traveling with the team. The punishment? Sitting Cam for a series. Because the universe doesn’t like bad jokes, backup QB Derek Anderson opened the game by throwing an interception to linebacker Mike Morgan. If Cam Newton can dress like an old Black lady’s church hat for years without facing consequences, the tie is the least of his problems. He’s the reigning MVP, the face of the franchise, and one of the best quarterbacks in the league. A tie is a tie; priorities, Ron! Priorities.
If it weren’t for that terrible three-man rush dialed up on third and long, giving Cam Newton time to find Ted Ginn for a deep touchdown, this game could’ve been a shutout. But I’m splitting hairs. (I’m not splitting hairs; three-man rush is useless unless you can get pressure with three or the opposing QB really stinks. Ban it.)
Jermaine Kearse caught more than half of his targets.
EFFORT: The Seahawks played like a team mad that they lost a game they should’ve won; rightfully so! A week after getting their teeth kicked in by the Bucs, this team really showed up. Right guard Germain Ifedi had one of his best games of the season, doing serious battle with the Panthers’ talented and nasty defensive interior. The offensive line gave up three sacks, but only five hits on the quarterback, and much improved effort. I don’t feel like I can overstate that. Because of this, Russell Wilson was able to get settled in (despite an unpleasant interception), and Thomas Rawls was really able to get it going. The defensive line went without a sack for the second straight week, but that was more due to strategy and deployment than poor effort. They didn’t struggle to get pressure on Cam Newton at all.
The Panthers played like they were ready for Netflix and nightcaps.
LOCKETT, RAWLS, AND THE POPE: The Seahawks’ skill players had a great night; though to be honest, I can’t remember the last time this group has had their number called without answering. The tight ends were pretty impressive, whether blocking or catching. Rookie Nick Vannett had a nice grab down the seam off of play action. If this group can legitimately make plays in the pass game, it makes heavy sets (formations with 3 TEs or an extra offensive lineman, etc.) a real threat going forward. Anyway, Thomas Rawls was amazing. He showed solid vision and patience, utilized his freakish lateral abilities, and even laid some nasty hits en route to a 16-touch, 118-yard, 2TD performance. It was sensational. Not to be outdone, Tyler Lockett would turn seven touches into 184 yards and a touchdown, taking a 75-yard carry off of a jet sweep to the house, and a kickoff return for 46 yards. It’s great watching him evolve into an all-around threat as a playmaker. Rookie back Troymaine Pope got some carries in relief of Thomas Rawls, and showed why the coaching staff was so high on him. He’s a fun player to watch.
The Panthers have some talent at receiver, but those players are also inconsistent, and nothing screams inconsistency like Ted Ginn bringing in five of his six targets for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Kelvin Benjamin managed to catch just two of his nine for 18 yards and an offensive pass interference call.
Ultimately, it was a good win. Michael Bennett played, but didn’t show much. He’ll likely need some time to get his legs back. What sucks right now is being without Earl, as Green Bay is next. But these guys don’t quit, and I won’t quit on them either. That loss in Tampa Bay was a serious wake up call, and I look forward to watching this team answer every time.
8-3-1. On to the Packers.