In a tough win, no one was tougher than Russell Wilson

Posted Sep 8, 2013

With their season opener on the line, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ defense made the plays they needed to get out of Charlotte with a 12-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – How tough was it for the Seahawks to get out of their season opener with a victory?

As tough as Russell Wilson was on Sunday. The Seahawks’ second-year quarterback was smacked and sack, pressured and pursued, hit and harassed all afternoon by the Carolina Panthers’ defense at Bank of America Stadium.

But in the end, Wilson found a way to make the plays that allowed the Seahawks to escape with a 12-7 victory in a game that was every bit as close as that score would indicate.

“It was a tough battle today,” Wilson said. “They did a great job. Their defense was making a lot of plays. We just had to keep battling, keep making the plays when we needed to.

“That relentlessness, that’s why we need to show up every week.”

Wilson was at the head of the line of those players who showed up when most needed against the Panthers.

It was Wilson’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse with roughly 10 minutes to play on a hot, humid day that gave the Seahawks the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter.

It was the All-Pro duo of free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman teaming up to force Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams to fumble and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel’s recovery at the Seahawks’ 8-yard on the ensuing series that made the Wilson-to-Kearse score standup.

It was Wilson then directing a drive that burned the final 5½ minutes of the game to ice the win.

It was a game the Seahawks had to find a way to win as they now prepare for their home opener next Sunday night against the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field.

“It was hard today, really hard,” coach Pete Carroll said after the Seahawks had opened a season with a victory on the road for the first time since 2006. “The Panthers are a good team, and this was a quality win for us on the road.”

Back to Wilson, the QB who began his college career at North Carolina State completed 25 of 33 passes – to eight different receivers – for 320 yards. It was the first 300-yard passing performance in the regular season for Wilson, and the Seahawks needed every yard, every throw. Doug Baldwin had seven catches for 91 yards.

“Russell played great under the circumstances,” Carroll said.

On the TD pass, Kearse ran an option route that turned into a go-route because of the way Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas was playing him. Wilson read the play and made the throw that led to the catch that was the play of the day.

“I saw Russell looking my way,” Kearse said. “Then I saw him throw the ball, and I knew there was a very good chance I could make that play. Especially in the position I was, so I just tried to go up and get the ball.”

The throw to Kearse capped a 74-yard drive where Wilson also completed an 11-yader to Golden Tate on third-and-5.

But this one was far from over, as the Panthers took the ensuing kickoff and drove from their own 20-yard line to the Seahawks’ 24. On a second-and-2 play, Panthers' runningback Williams had a first down and was getting closer to the goal line when first Sherman and then Thomas impeded his progress and impacted the outcome.

“It’s just our mentality,” Thomas said. “We work all the time in practice just trying to get the ball out. It paid off for us, and it was great to finally get a win on the road starting the season off.”

But there still were 5½ minutes to play, which the Seahawks consumed as Wilson passed for 12 yards to Derrick Coleman, who was playing in his first NFL game as a fullback; 13 yards to Baldwin; 18 yards to Tate; and 11 yards again to Coleman.

The Seahawks and their young QB not only stared adversity in the eye, they stared it down.

“It’s about overcoming adversity,” Sherman said. “We talked about it in our meetings last night, we’re going to see some adversity. Last year, we didn’t really see too much adversity until the playoffs. … So us getting this type of game early is going to help us throughout the season.”