Jimmy Graham was finally 6-foot-7, 270-pounds large on Sunday.
How he suddenly became so big on game day could be even larger for the long-term health of the Seahawks’ offense.
The tight end, acquired with much fanfare in March from New Orleans, set his Seattle highs with eight catches, 140 yards and 12 targets in the 27-23 loss to Carolina.
It was Graham’s most yardage in 39 games — since Sept. 15, 2013. He had a career-high 179 yards on 10 catches that day for the Saints at Tampa Bay.
“It was good by Bev (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) and Tom (Cable, the offensive line coach) to figure out to utilize him,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Mostly, it was good by Graham to read what his quarterback needed.
His best catches Sunday came after he broke off his called route and ran to new spots during Russell Wilson’s improvisational scrambles. Graham’s 45-yard catch in the fourth quarter, which set up Steven Hauschka’s field goal for a Seattle 23-14 lead, came after Wilson scrambled right and pointed. Graham dutifully turned his short out route into a long sprint down the right sideline behind the defense.
He made the same in-play adjustment for a 25-yard gain in the second quarter. That got Seattle into the red zone for Marshawn Lynch’s 1-yard touchdown run.
That came after a relapse in the first quarter. Graham was standing at the sideline at the end of his out route while Wilson scrambled in his direction before throwing the ball into Seattle’s bench on third down to avoid a sack.
The improvisational, scramble routes were moves that Graham rarely did in his first five games — and didn’t do in his first five seasons. Quarterback Drew Brees had the ball out from the pocket in three steps or fewer when Graham was in New Orleans.
For the season, Graham leads Seattle with 29 catches and 344 yards. He and Doug Baldwin each have two touchdowns.
“Once we click, I really believe that it’s going to be hard to stop us,” Wilson said. “I’m not going to change my mind on that.”
LEWIS STARTS AT CENTER FOR NOWAK
For the first time this season, former college defensive tackle Drew Nowak didn’t start as the replacement for traded, two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger. Patrick Lewis did.
Seahawks line coach Tom Cable made his first change along an offensive line that’s taken the brunt of a backlash though the first six games of the season — in which Wilson has been sacked 26 times.
Lewis made four starts last season when Unger was hurt. He had last started in the 2014 regular-season finale against St. Louis.
Carroll said Nowak “opened up the door of opportunity” for Lewis.
“Tom thought it was worth the competitive opportunity for Patrick to get a shot,” Carroll said. “We’ll look at the film and figure out what that means for next week.”
BOBBY WAGNER SITS OUT
Kevin Pierre-Louis, the second-year linebacker out of Boston College, was second on the Seahawks with 11 tackles on Sunday.
He made his first career start after Bobby Wagner was declared inactive because of a strained pectoral muscle, and the fact that the Seahawks play again in four days, Thursday at San Francisco.
The usual starting outside linebacker, K.J. Wright, started for Wagner in the middle while Pierre-Louis started outside.
“Absolutely, we miss (Wagner), but that’s not the point for us,” Carroll said. “Next guy steps up. Kevin worked his tail off today.”
Carroll said Wagner, who was questionable, could have played, but he wouldn’t have been 100 percent.
Afterward, Pierre-Louis regretted that he got the fateful coverage call on the sideline on Carolina’s winning touchdown pass with 32 seconds left, but didn’t relay it to the rest of the defense. It sounded as if Pierre-Louis and Richard Sherman were the only ones to get the call for red-zone coverage that Seattle calls “L.A.” The rest of the back seven defenders thought the call was a base, cover-three zone.
Hauschka made all three of his field-goal attempts, including a 30-yard one in the first quarter that clanged off the right upright and through.
Hauschka is 14 for 14 this season, including 4 for 4 from 50 yards and beyond. He’s made 18 straight field goals since missing three and getting a playful sideline head rub of encouragement from teammate Marshawn Lynch in a game last December at Arizona.
The 30-year-old Hauschka moved into fourth place in NFL career field-goal percentage (86.67). Mike Vanderjagt was previously fourth.
An “accidental” fire alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Sunday on the 16th floor of the Seattle hotel where the Panthers staying.
Panthers cornerback Charles Tillman tweeted at 6 a.m.: “Whoever pulled the fire alarm on the 16th floor … not cool.”
Quarterback Cam Newton said he slept right through it — which makes one wonder what would happen to him in the event of a real emergency.
“I didn’t budge, I’ll tell you that,” Newton said. “I stayed in my room. … I figured if it was something important, (offensive coordinator Mike) Shula would call me.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he was up anyway.
“Somehow, there was a malfunction with the fire alarm. We will let the league and the hotel take care of it,” Rivera said. “I was already up. It was 5:30 here, so it was 8:30 back (in North Carolina). … I just kind of laid back down and was reading.”
DE Cliff Avril wrecked two short-yardage runs by Carolina, deflected away a pass, hit QB Cam Newton, and basically was everywhere. Yet he, of course, wasn’t pleased. “I think sometimes things are too easy and it makes you have to play some ball,” Avril said. “We play three quarters and three-fourths of that fourth quarter.” … With the Seahawks’ shuffling LBs in Wagner’s absence, Mike Morgan played on some passing downs and got the first sack of his five-year career. … Former University of Washington Husky Shaq Thompson started again at outside LB for Carolina. The Panthers’ 25th overall choice in May’s draft had three tackles on defense and one on special teams.
Staff writer TJ Cotterill contributed to this report.