The Seahawks earn C or lower in all three phases of the game in their 31-24 playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Seahawks coach Pete Carroll famously likes to say that a game can’t be won in the first, second or third quarters, but that it can be won in the fourth.
When it comes to road playoff games, though, his Seattle teams really put that theory to the test.
The 31-24 defeat Sunday at Carolina was the fifth road playoff game for Seattle under Carroll. Seattle now has fallen behind by at least 9-0 in all five, and three times by 20 or more points.
Credit the Seahawks for rallying each time — they came back from a 14-0 deficit at Washington in 2013 to win, from a 20-0 deficit at Atlanta in 2013 to take the lead before losing 30-28, and even from a 28-0 deficit at Chicago in 2011 to close to 35-24 at the final gun. And, of course, there was a 9-0 deficit made up last week at Minnesota.
Sunday was their toughest task yet — a 31-0 halftime deficit that proved too much.
Should the Seahawks have to go on the road in the playoffs at some point next season, though, it’s a trend they might want to kick.
On to some grades:
As with the entire team, it was a story of two incredibly divergent halves. Quarterback Russell Wilson threw his first pick-six since 2012 on his first pass and was 10 of 17 for 111 yards and two interceptions in the first half, a passer rating of just 38.7. But he was 21 of 31 for 255 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to climb to a passer rating of 91.1 for the game.
Surely, some of that might be due to Carolina playing more conservatively. Still, it was an impressive turnabout by the offense.
Jermaine Kearse had one of his best games, with 11 receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns to lead a receiving corps that in the second half found lots of open holes in zones and made tough catches while being hit. Rookie Tyler Lockett ended a solid first year with three catches for 75 yards and Doug Baldwin had eight for 82.
The early deficit meant the much-ballyhooed return of Marshawn Lynch hardly mattered. He had 12 yards on five carries in the first half and then was barely used in the second with the Seahawks basically forced to pass on every down, often out of their hurry-up offense. Lynch finished with 20 yards on six carries, the second-lowest playoff total of his career.
The offensive line struggled early and Wilson was sacked five times — his most since Oct. 22 at San Francisco. Wilson was slow to get the ball off on one sack. The line picked it up in the second half even after the loss of left tackle Russell Okung, who was replaced by Alvin Bailey.
Early, this hardly looked like the Seattle defense as the Panthers went on touchdown marches of 75, 86 and 54 yards on three of the first four times they had the ball.
Seattle was either blocked or out of position more than usual in the first half, and never seemed to be able to get a handle on Carolina’s tight ends, Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson, who combined for eight catches for 99 yards.
The Panthers had 220 yards at halftime. But the Seahawks then settled down, holding Carolina to 82 yards on its last 32 plays (and just 75 in the second half).
The Seahawks did a similar job on Jonathan Stewart, who after a 59-yard run on his first carry had just 47 yards on 18 carries the rest of the way. It was the first time they allowed a 100-yard rusher since Nov. 16, 2014, when Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles ran for 159 yards.
But the damage had been done, and the upshot was a Seattle team allowing the most points it had in a playoff game since the aforementioned defeat against the Bears in 2011. That came before the team added players such as Bobby Wagner and Richard Sherman.
It also was the fourth time this season the Seahawks allowed 30 or more points.
Had the Seahawks pulled this game out, the fake punt that resulted in a 17-yard gain by DeShawn Shead in the third quarter would have been one of the most written-about plays. The ball was snapped from Seattle’s 23.
Instead, special teams proved the same mixed bag as the offense and defense.
Steven Hauschka’s 55-yard field-goal attempt on the last play of the first half, toward the end of the field where the wind was blowing in, was wide and short. That miss proved pivotal later and was a fitting end to the first half.
Lockett, though, started the second half with a 50-yard kickoff return that helped kick-start Seattle’s comeback attempt.
But the final failed onside kick felt symbolic of the season.
|Rough playoff road|
|The Seahawks have had to overcome nine-point deficits or more in every playoff road game under Pete Carroll:|
|Jan. 17, 2016||Carolina||31-0||L, 31-24|
|Jan. 10, 2016||Minnesota||9-0||W, 10-9|
|Jan. 13, 2013||Atlanta||20-0||L, 30-28|
|Jan. 6, 2013||Washington||14-0||W, 24-14|
|Jan. 16, 2011||Chicago||28-0||L, 35-24|