A recap of the Seahawks’ 31-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Qwest Field:
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
The entire Seahawks team. They lost as a team the previous two weeks, to the tune of 76-43. Today, the Seahawks won as a team.
This game turned during a 10-minute stretch that began with Olindo Mare’s 24-yard field goal on their final play of the first half and ended with Marshawn Lynch’s 1-yard TD run with six minutes to play in the third quarter. In between, the Seahawks drove 96 yards on the opening possession of the second half to another 1-yard run by Lynch, got a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown by middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu and an 84-yard punt return by Leon Washington to setup Lynch’s second score.
From down 14-0 to up – way up – 24-14.
Say what? Say 161 rushing yards from an offense that had run for 78 yards the past two weeks, and three rushing touchdowns from a team that had four from its running backs in its first 11 games. Say Matt Hasselbeck passing for 229 yards, despite losing leading receiver Mike Williams – again – on their third play of the game and starter Ben Obomanu in the second quarter. Say a defense that yielded 187 yards and two touchdowns on the Panthers’ first four possessions giving up 76 yards and pitching a shutout the rest of the game. Say the Seahawks’ special teams continuing to make special plays.
Say enough is enough.
“The difference between the first half and the second half was so starkly different, it was totally attitude ad getting right,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I’m so happy that it happened for us so that we can feel what that feels like so that we could regain kind of a sense of what we’re capable of doing.”
As an entire team.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: Lynch had three touchdown runs for the first time in his four-season NFL career. The first was huge, because it capped that 96-yard drive to open the second half. The last one covered 22 yards, the Seahawks’ longest scoring run of the season.
“Before you guys start,” Lynch told the reporters crowded around his cubicle in the locker room, “I just want to let you know that I had nothing to do with what went on today. It was all my brother (Forsett) and those five guys up front, and those guys that helped us on the outside in the receiver spots.”
Those “five guys up front” would be the offensive line of Russell Okung, Mike Gibson, Chris Spencer, Stacy Andrews and Sean Locklear.
“It has nothing to do with me,” Lynch reiterated. “I just played a small part in what was going on and I want to say big ups to my teammates for getting the running game going. … They did a wonderful job. I’m proud of them.”
And Carroll should be proud of Lynch for leaning so heavily on the first of his three team rules: Always protect the team. Or, in this case, praise it.
Defense: On the third play after the Seahawks’ touchdown to open the second half, Tatupu got a second score by intercepting rookie QB Jimmy Clausen’s pass that was intended for fullback Tony Fiammetta and returning it 26 yards.
“It was kind of like a pick-route, which usually allows the fullback to get over out into the flat – usually by himself or with a man trailing,” Tatupu offered while explaining the second touchdown of his career, and first since his rookie season in 2005.
“I just got over clean enough where I said, ‘If the quarterback throws this ball and I turn around, I’m going. And I’m just going to take my shot.’ And so I did.”
Special teams: Washington’s 84-yard punt return – which should have been an 86-yarder for a score, to hear Washington lament the return in the locker room.
“You know, that was dumb by me,” he said of celebrating the score before it was a score – as punter Jason Baker barely clipped his foot, which caused Washington to trip himself and go down at the 2-yard line. “I am really mad about that – that was selfish by me. Even though we scored, but you can’t do that. You’ve got to finish the play and that was selfish by me.”
Washington shouldn’t be so hard on himself. He should leave that to his mates on the special teams, who will undoubtedly have something to say in the video of the return about Washington getting tripped up by the punter.
Pregame: On the day when Walter Jones’ retired No. 71 was unveiled in the rafter at Qwest Field – next to those of Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent (No. 80) and the fans (No. 12) – Howard Mudd raised the 12th Man Flag in the south end just before kickoff.
Mudd had two stints as the Seahawks’ offensive line coach and coached Jones during his rookie season (1997).
“He’s a great coach, man,” Jones said of Mudd. “He was one of those guys that when I came in here, he said, ‘You’re going to be the guy.’ I think as an offensive lineman, that’s what you need – this is your job to lose, and we’re not going to put anybody else in there. I think that was the approach that he took when I came in, and he was hard on me.
“I remember times when we would go out and practice, and I would have to do one-on-one blocking with every lineman, the entire practice. That stuff that he taught me was something I feel is still in myself now.”
In-game: The unveiling of Jones’ jersey. It came at the two-minute warning in the first half, and the nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle basked in the moment.
“The ref was trying to get the game going, it wasn’t a TV timeout,” Hasselbeck said. “But Walt was talking, which doesn’t happen often. So we all took our time and listened.”
Post-game: The look of satisfaction – and yes, even pride – on Carroll’s face after his team responded so well to start the second half.
“I don’t know, it’s a little bit mystical there,” he said of the abrupt about-face. “I don’t know what it was, other than it just happened.”
The Seahawks pulled themselves back to .500, at 6-6, entering their final four games of the season. They’re still tied for the NFC West lead with the St. Louis Rams, who beat the defending division champion Cardinals today. But the Rams have the tiebreaker because of their win over the Seahawks earlier this season. The Seahawks host the Rams in their Jan. 2 regular-season finale.
Linebacker David Hawthorne led the defense with a game-high 14 tackles – also a season high for Hawthorne, who now has 14-, 13-, 12- and 12-tackle efforts in the past five games.
Defensive end Chris Clemons had one of the Seahawks’ three sacks, giving him a career-high 8½ for the season. Clemons’ also tipped Clausen’s final fourth-down pass incomplete.
The Seahawks’ 161 rushing yards were a season high. Lynch had 83 on 21 carries and Forsett 60 on six carries.
Tight end Cameron Morrah had three receptions for 69 yards, including a 36-yarder – all career highs.
Williams sprained his left ankle, very near where he previously had strained the foot – an injury that forced him to sit out last week’s game.
“Mike turned his ankle – a totally different thing than he went into the game with – and wasn’t able to get right,” Carroll said. “Mike’s got to get back. It’s not a severe ankle, but it was right next to where his foot was injured. So it was kind of compounded there.”
Obomanu got a laceration on his right hand that needed stitches. He said after that game that he will be able to play in next week’s game against the 49ers in San Francisco.
“He didn’t have any broken bones, but he had a really, really nasty laceration there that was more than just a couple of stitches,” Carroll said. “I really don’t know what to tell you about the future of that one.”
Special teams captain Roy Lewis injured a knee in the third quarter and did not return, either.
“His knee’s sore,” Carroll said. “It doesn’t look like a typical knee sprain. He has some soreness in the back of his knee. We don’t know. We’ll have to go check him out.”
The played without tight end John Carlson (hip flexor), left guard Chester Pitts (sprained ankle) and nose tackle Colin Cole (sprained ankle), who were named inactive before the game.
FREE FOR ALL
Because the Seahawks reached several milestone statistics, it means the following free or discounted items for fans:
- The Seahawks’ three sacks earned everyone in attendance a free Jumbo Jack from Jack in the Box by showing a ticket stub.
- The Seahawks’ 31 points earns everyone in Seattle free buttermilk pancakes this week with a ticket stub or printable coupon from Seahawks.com.
- Scoring in red zone earned everyone with a ticket stub a free bag of Oberto Beef Jerky and a Slurpee from 7-Eleven.
- With four touchdowns and a win, all fans can purchase a large cheese pizza for $9 and receive eight free toppings from Papa John’s on Monday. No ticket is required.
- Tatupu’s defensive TD earned everyone at Qwest Field a free haircut at Great Clips. Show your ticket to get your free cut.
YOU DON’T SAY
“I guarantee the next time I’m in that position I might do a ‘Forrest Gump,’ and run all the way through the stadium.” – Washington, on his punt return