By Cedric Williams
There may still be four weeks to go until the start of the NFL playoffs, but on Sunday of Week 13 of the 2016 season, no team looked more playoff ready than the Seattle Seahawks did in their 40-7 whoopin’ over the Carolina Panthers.
Seattle was coming off one of its most disappointing performances of the season, a 14-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. But there were no signs of anybody in blue and green even remembering how they played last week, as the Seahawks laid an absolute beatdown on the Panthers.
Every aspect of the Seattle lineup seemed to shine on Sunday, which is why we’ve got nothing but high marks for just about every Seahawk who played even the smallest part in Sunday’s win.
Last week in Tampa, the Seattle offense delivered one of its worst performances of the season. This week, the Seahawks responded with their best offensive output of the year. They managed 29 first downs and 534 total yards gained—a huge chunk of which came from Seattle’s much-maligned run game, which gashed Carolina’s No. 2-ranked rushing defense for 240 yards.
Tailback Thomas Rawls had what was easily his best game of the season, as he put up 106 yards and two touchdowns to lead the way for the Seahawks. Quarterback Russell Wilson also had a fine day, with 26 completions on 36 attempts for 277 yards and touchdown of his own.
If the Seahawks can move the ball like that against one of the league’s better defenses, then the sky really is the limit on how good this group could be as the January playoff season nears.
The Legion of Boom was just sensational against a Carolina offense that was the highest scoring team in the league during its 2015 dream season.
This year though, has been a nightmare for the Panthers, which continued on Sunday night as the Seahawks held the visitors to just 14 first downs and 271 total yards.
The LOB was especially good at harassing reigning league MVP Cam Newton, who didn’t start the game because of a team violation, and never really found his rhythm as he finished the night 14-of-32 passing for 182 yards and just one touchdown.
In fact, the Seattle defense was just one brilliant Newton pass—one play after star safety Earl Thomas left the game due to injury—away from handing the Panthers a shutout.
Special Teams: B-
The Seahawks weren’t spectacular on special teams Sunday night, but they didn’t have to be. The offensive and defensive units took care of that. All Seattle needed was solid performances from their kick coverage and kick return units on Sunday, and that’s what they got.
It was clear from the outset that the Seahawks were looking to wash away the taste of last week’s terrible loss in Tampa Bay. And for 60 full minutes, head coach Pete Carroll’s club did just that, as they pummeled the Panthers from the first play of the game to the last.
Last week’s loss may have been a step back for the Seahawks. This week’s win—which put 8-3-1 Seattle three games up with just four to play in the NFC West—felt like two steps forward as teams around the rest of the NFC jockey for position the conference playoff standings.
If the season ended today, Seattle would be the No. 2 seed in the NFC, with a bye over a wild-card weekend and a home game against the wild-card winners in the divisional round.
Next Up: The Seahawks will be back on the road, with a game against another club battling to hang on in the NFC playoff race: The Green Bay Packers. Green Bay knocked off the AFC South-leading Houston Texans on Sunday and will be looking to move out of its current second-place tie in the NFC North.