September 8, 2013
Seahawks 12, Panthers 7
What a strange week for the Seattle Seahawks and their fans. The Hawks became a "sexy" Super Bowl pick amongst the national media, and Russell Wilson's handsome visage was splashed across the covers of The USA Today, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and (I assume) British Vogue and Art Doll Quarterly. But then, as if the national bobbleheads had come to their senses after an ether binge, it became trendy to pick the Panthers as an "upset special" over the favored Seattleites. Hey! Seattle has trouble in season openers! Hey! They suck at winning on the east coast, particularly with kickoff at 10 a.m. pacific time! Hey! They're the Seahawks! History tells us we won't have to pay attention to them much longer. They'll inevitably disappoint. Pick Carolina!
To be fair, that history is there. Even in the greatest season in franchise history (2005), the Hawks dropped the opener: A 10 a.m. dust-up in sweltering late-summer Southern heat at Jacksonville. If you were a Seahawks skeptic, you had plenty of evidence to cite for projections of Seattle doom. For a goodly spell of today's game, the skeptics were probably feeling quite smug. The Seahawks looked sluggish, they committed a stunning number of penalties, and they couldn't seem to gain a clear advantage over the Panthers. It felt like the kind of game Seahawks teams of years past would have allowed to slip away.
Those teams didn't have Russell Wilson, though. The WolfBadger looked skittish early on, and most of his passes were sailing high. His lack of awareness in the pocket led to a drive-killing fumble late in the 2nd quarter, and he seemed indecisive when faced with a furious Carolina pass rush. Wilson settled down in the 2nd half and relied on some spectacular athletic feats from Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin to find his rhythm. His laser-beam game-winning touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse was a thing of beauty (as was the catch in traffic by the former Washington Husky), and Wilson finished an inconsistent day with a pretty (and victorious) statline: 25-32 for 320 yards and a touchdown. Before too long, that'll be considered a fairly average performance for Wilson.
The Seahawks offense didn't dominate the game on the ground, but they snuffed out any lingering hope for Carolina with a 12-play, 5-and-a-half minute drive that ended the game in the victory formation. By the end it was clear that Seattle broke the will of the enemy, and they surrendered. Carolina won't be the last of Seattle's opponents to meet that fate this season.
Seattle's defense only recorded one sack of Cam Newton, but they held "Superman" to a meager 125 yards passing. With multiple starters on the sidelines, the Seahawks defense still held Charlotte's boys to 7 points, made a handful of key stops on 3rd down, and helped secure the victory with a takeaway on Carolina's final offensive possession. Earl Thomas III's veteran savvy may have very well saved the day for Seattle. The Hawks also dominated on special teams, forcing a second Carolina turnover and winning the field position battle thanks to Jon Ryan's stratospheric punts.
The Seahawks are 1-0, and that's all that REALLY matters about today's game. Much more difficult tests lay ahead for Seattle (starting next Sunday Night with possibly the most anticipated regular season game in franchise history), but the fact that the Hawks won on the road while playing nowhere close to the peak of their capabilities should make the Blue, Bright Green, and Wolf Grey bandwagon just a bit more crowded this week. Make room, everyone!
What do you think, sirs?