CHARLOTTE — Admit it, you were turning into The Legion of Gloom out there, weren’t you?
You’d watched the Seahawks make a nice play against the Carolina Panthers only to muck it up with a penalty or mistake or a missed block or faulty tackle.
They couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t follow the rules, and they certainly couldn’t consistently block a Carolina front-7 that might be as good as they’ll face all season.
All that Super Bowl talk? Well, never mind.
But, following the Seahawks’ 12-7 triumph Sunday over the Panthers – and their own competitive procrastination – two revelations stick out.
One, the guys on the field never doubted for a second that one of their cronies would come up with the big play at some point late in the game that would put a shiny score on what had been an ugly endeavor.
And the second thing? Getting their nose bloodied by a tough team on the road might be exactly what the Seahawks needed to get in the proper frame of mind for next week’s NFC West duel with San Francisco at CenturyLink Field – especially after spending the past six months getting nothing but Valentines and blown-kisses from the media and fans.
“I think this is one of those games that we needed as a team … some adversity,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “I think us getting this kind of game early is going to help propel us throughout the season.”
So while they came through with their hubris unscathed, they were reminded of an NFL truism: Opponents love to knock off hot-shot teams.
“That’s how it is in the NFL,” defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said. “You get put in situations where you’ve got to fight. I think it’s a real good thing for us. Every team is going to come at us like this. No win is going to be easy.”
No, nothing’s easy when you commit nine penalties for 109 yards, especially two on a crucial late drive. Or when you score no touchdowns on three Red Zone possessions. Or when you’re a team that likes to line up and run the ball but you can only generate 2.7 yards per carry in 26 tries.
But the Seahawks managed to stay close, and in the fourth quarter, they got a touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse and a forced fumble by Earl Thomas that stalled the Panthers, who seemed on the verge of punching in the go-ahead touchdown.
Of the inconsistencies, Carroll said: “We had to wait it out. We had substantial penalties at crucial times … that’s as frustrating as it gets … we gave up too much and helped them too much.”
Even amid the flaws and belated heroics, the Seahawks got another brilliant performance from quarterback Russell Wilson, who started his second season much as he ended his rookie season – passing for more than 300 yards.
No one literally embodied the notion of coming up with big plays despite getting hit in the mouth better than Wilson. In the third quarter, on a third-and-8, Wilson was forced to skitter about under heavy pressure, and appeared to throw the ball away downfield.
But it wasn’t thrown away, it was lofted to the sidelines where Doug Baldwin made an absurdly athletic catch. Wilson probably shouldn’t have risked it. Baldwin certainly shouldn’t have been able to gain control and still stay in-bounds.
But it worked.
“I knew I was about to get blown up,” Wilson said. “So I tried to throw it where nobody could get it, and somehow he raced to it and made a great play.”
And he very definitely did get blown up by Panthers end Greg Hardy the second he released the ball.
“Staying alive and finding Doug on the sidelines was a ridiculous play,” Carroll said.
It was totally ridiculous. And when he talks about Wilson “staying alive,” it’s not really just a dramatic metaphor, as Hardy outweighs Wilson by nearly 90 pounds.
Wilson bounced up without impairment or amazement, as if to suggest the play was designed that way all along.
Heck, the way these guys play, maybe it was.
Carroll called the outcome a “quality win on the road.” But any win on the road is a quality win, even if you occasionally forget how to block or follow the rules.
“We can play better, though,” Carroll said. “And we will.”