By David Rogers. December 15, 2019. CHARLOTTE, NC — After digging themselves a deep gridiron hole early in the first half, the Carolina Panthers came up with too little, too late in losing to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, 30-24.
COVER IMAGE: Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) catches a Russell Wilson pass short of the goal line, just before turning into the end zone for a TD. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
Seattle scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions before the Panthers defense figured out some things and forced two consecutive punts. Even though Panther quarterback Kyle Allen threw the first of three interceptions on the day with just 22 seconds remaining in the first half, the Carolina defense dug in and prevented any more Seahawk scoring before intermission.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to win.
In a battle of opposing league MVP candidates, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson completed 20 of 26 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. For the Panthers, running back Christian McCaffrey rushed for 87 yards on 19 carries, including two TDs, while matching that performance in pass receptions, accounting for 88 yards on eight catches.
McCaffrey’s performance was history-making, to be sure. The third-year “Energizer Bunny” out of Stanford became the first Panthers player to surpass 2,000 all-purpose yards in one season and just the 11th NFL player in the last ten years. His 175 scrimmage yards (rushing and receiving) against Seattle marked his eighth consecutive game with more than 100 scrimmage yards and his 12th of the season — the most of any player in the NFL. Now with 2,121 scrimmage yards, still with two games left McCaffrey surpassed his own franshise record of 1,965 set last season. His 2,121 also eclipses probable Hall of Famer Steve Smith, Sr.’s all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, punt returns, kick returns) record of 1,994, set in 2001.
So, we had a lot of different things we were trying to do (to defend McCaffrey) and I don’t think any of them looked very good.”During his post-game press conference, Blowing Rock News asked Seattle head coach Pete Carroll about any kind of special preparations the Seahawks made for a player like McCaffrey.
“Well, it was hard to tell,” the veteran head coach smiled faintly, “(because) it didn’t look like we did. He is such a fantastic player. I just marvel at his toughness and he’s so consistently tough.
“I don’t know if you guys talk about him here (in Carolina) that way,” Carroll added, “but he is a great competitor and he battles every week. We hit the heck out of him today and we kept bringing it — and he kept fighting and getting up. And then I kept wondering: is he going to hang on the ground a little bit.
“He didn’t,” the Seattle head mentor said, shaking his head just a bit. “He’s just a magnificent player. The best play of the game was the one he knocks the ball out of Ugo’s (Amadi) hands. Amadi’s got a touchdown play, but somehow (McCaffrey) figured out how to get the ball out of his hands. It was the one after the interception that we ran back. Phenomenal play. He even figured that out, too, so he’s an amazing player. So, we had a lot of different things we were trying to do (to defend McCaffrey) and I don’t think any of them looked very good.”
After the final whistle had been blown, McCaffrey admitted to reporters that the individual accomplishment of going over 2,000 yards in the season was “cool,” but then grew philosophical about coming to terms with individual success even after a loss.
“I don’t leave that up to me,” he noted. “I just try to keep my mindset simple and control what I can control — and do whatever I can to help the team win. It is a constant process. Obviously, we want some (of those) plays back there, but at the end of the day everyone wants to win. Football is (about) winning and losing. All the stats and other stuff…it doesn’t really matter unless you win.”
Completing 25-of-41 passes for 277 yards and a TD, the Panthers’ Allen almost matched Wilson’s 20-of-26 passing for 286 yards and two TDs. But what is missing in those stat lines are Allen’s three INTs. At times the second-year pro made some good, even outstanding decisions in tucking the ball and scrambling for first downs when receivers were covered. But other times, he threw into or didn’t see pass coverage, to which his three INTs attest.
In his post-game remarks, Carolina’s interim head coach Perry Fewell sounded optimistic about Allen’s development as a starting QB.
“He (Allen) tried to manage the game and he tried to do the things we ask him to do,” said Fewell. “Obviously, we don’t want him to turn the football over. He was competing and trying to win a football game out there. I thought he stayed poised in the second half and came back (to lead) us to several scores. I’ll evaluate the tape when I look (at it) tonight or tomorrow. Then I can share more with you, later.”
Wilson may be the Seahawks’ leader, but on this day certainly wasn’t the only star. A tip of the proverbial cap must also go to Seattle’s offensive line, which only gave up two quarterback sacks to a Panther defense that is tied for first (with Pittsburgh) in the NFL with 49 defensive sacks and had an average of 3.36 sacks per game coming into Sunday’s tilt with the Seahawks.
All the stats and other stuff…it doesn’t really matter unless you win.
Seattle’s O-line also was effective in opening holes for running back Chris Carson, now in his third NFL year after two solid, but some would say unspectacular collegiate seasons at Oklahoma State (Carson was drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft, 249th overall).
After a promising start to his rookie season in 2017, Carson suffered a season-ending broken ankle. But in 2018, he immediately established himsel as the Seahawks primary rushing threat, finishing his second campaign by starting 14 games and rolling up 1,151 yards running the football. Already in 2019, Carson has played in 14 games and amassed 1,190 yards rushing (7 TDs) and 246 yards receiving (2 TDs).
Of significance for the Seahawks has been the resurgence of wide receiver Tyler Lockett after battling injuries or illness the last few weeks. After being virtually shut out in the previous four Seattle games at the Los Angeles Rams (4 catches-43 yards), vs. the Minnesota Vikings (0-0), at the Philadelphia Eagles (1-38), and at the San Francisco 49ers (3-26), Lockett exploded for 120 yards receiving on eight catches (a 15.0 yards per catch average), and one TD in Bank of America Stadium against the Panthers.
Against Carolina, Wilson also found valuable passing targets in rookie D.K. Metcalf (2-36, 1 TD), and a mid-season acquisition in veteran Josh Gordon (1-58).
Now at 11-3 on the season and tied atop the NFC West with the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle is in the hunt for a top seed in NFL playoffs and home field advantage. No team in the NFC sports a record better than 11-3, and only the Baltimore Ravens (at 12-2) is better in all of the NFL. The NFC South’s New Orleans Saints would join the Seahawks and 49ers at 11-3 with a win Monday night against Indianapolis.
At 5-9, the Carolina Panthers are tied with the Atlanta Falcons at the bottom of the NFC South. The Falcons pulled off a surprise win over the 49ers on Sunday, 29-22, to pull themselves out of sole possession of the cellar with the Panthers’ loss.