Seattle Seahawks rout Carolina Panthers on 'Sunday Night Football'
Pete Carroll sounded no alarms after last Sunday's desultory loss at Tampa Bay.
Instead, from almost the second the game ended, Carroll promised it was just a blip on the radar, just one of those days.
He was proved right with a vengeance that even he might not have foreseen, with the Seahawks scoring a season high in a 40-7 demolition of Carolina in what was also a rematch of a divisional playoff loss to the Panthers last January -- and the seventh game between the two in the last five years.
It was the most points the Seahawks had scored since beating Minnesota 41-20 on Nov. 17, 2013.
Seattle also gained a season-high 534 yards a week after being held to a season-low 245 against the Bucs.
An evening of largely good cheer, though, was marred significantly by a likely season-ending injury to free safety Earl Thomas, who suffered what was termed by the team as a fracture of his lower leg when he collided with teammate Kam Chancellor in the second quarter.
Thomas has been named to the Pro Bowl the last five seasons and had started 106 straight games until missing the loss at Tampa Bay with a hamstring injury. Thomas and Chancellor collided while each was trying to Cam Newton pass to Greg Olsen.
While the potential loss of Thomas for the rest of the year will be hard to overcome, the Seattle offense on this night at least proved that it may have some staying power.
With quarterback Russell Wilson gradually getting healthy, Seattle had scored 88 points in the three games prior to the trip to Tampa Bay.
The 14-5 faceplant against the Bucs, though, raised concerns whether that three-game outburst was just a mirage and if the Seattle offensive line had been exposed as too much for the team to overcome.
But Seattle doubled the point total of the week before by the time 10 minutes had elapsed against the Panthers, and scored on six of their first eight possessions in turning the game into a rout.
The Seahawks, buoyed by the return of Justin Britt at center, led 23-7 at halftime, gaining 309 yards -- most in any half this season.
Thomas Rawls had 103 yards on 11 carries in the first half despite leaving late in the second quarter to be examined for a concussion. Rawls returned for the second half.
Seattle then broke the game open when receiver Tyler Lockett took a handoff on a reverse and sped 75 yards down the sideline to make it 30-7 12 seconds into the second half.
That put Seattle over the 200-yard mark in rushing after the Seahawks had not gained more than 152 yards rushing in any game this season.
It also came against a Carolina defense that was second in the NFL against the run (at 79.4 per game) coming in.
The game started as rousingly as possible for Seattle as linebacker Mike Morgan picked off a tipped pass on Carolina's first play, returning it to the 8.
To the surprise of everyone, the pass was thrown by Carolina backup quarterback Derek Anderson, with starter Cam Newton benched for what was reported as a dress code violation (Newton, the NFL's MVP in 2015, sat out just the one play).
Seattle got only a field goal out of that, but then drove 92 yards on nine plays the second time it had the ball, the score coming on a 10-yard run by Rawls to make it 10-0.
The score stayed there until Thomas' injury.
On the next play, Carolina attacked a stunned Seattle defense and Newton hit Ted Ginn Jr. for a 55-yard touchdown behind a Thomas-less secondary.
But the Seahawks quickly steadied things with a 45-yard touchdown run by Rawls on the second play of their next drive to make it 17-7.
Two more Steven Hauschka field goals made it 23-7 at half, and Lockett's run then ended all suspense.
The Seahawks, who had not rushed for more than 152 yards all season, had 138 at halftime and 224 by the end of the third quarter.
The win improved Seattle's record to 8-3-1 and kept them three games ahead of the rest of the NFC West.
It also kept Seattle a half-game ahead of Detroit for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
AP | syracuse.com | December 5, 2016