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SEATTLE -- Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was confident that last week’s loss in Tampa Bay was simply a bad day at the office and not a sign of any bigger issues with his team, which had won three in a row prior to that loss.
“I don’t think this is a trend or a turn in the wrong direction or any of that kind of stuff,” Carroll said a day after his team’s 14-5 loss at Tampa. “I think we had a bad day, a bad outing but we’re going to get right this week and get back at it.”
On Sunday night, the Seahawks got back at it in a big way and made it clear that Carroll was right about his team, dominating the Carolina Panthers in a 40-7 victory at CenturyLink Field.
Here are five rapid reactions to the win, which improved Seattle’s record to 8-3-1:
1. The offense bounced back in a big way.
The Seahawks were held to a season-low 245 yards last week in what was their third game this season without a touchdown. That performance came on the heels of a solid three-game stretch for Seattle’s offense, and it didn’t take long Sunday for the Seahawks to show that those three wins were more indicative of what this offense can be than was last week’s loss. After Seattle’s first possession, which began at the Carolina 8-yard line thanks to Mike Morgan’s first career interception, the Seahawks got the ball next at their own 8-yard line and went 92 yards on 9 plays for a touchdown, never facing third down on the drive.
Facing a Carolina run defense that ranked second in the league heading in this game, the Seahawks rushed for 240 yards, their most since gaining 255 in a win over San Francisco last season. The Seahawks also finished with a season-high 534 yards, and their 40 points were also a season high.
This performance also showed what Carroll had been saying all week about Thomas Rawls, which was that the running back had looked a lot better in practice than a week earlier when he was beat up following his first game back from a seven-game absence. Rawls rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns, including 11 carries for 103 yards in the first half alone.
Russell Wilson, and later Trevone Boykin who came in for mop-up duty, completed passes to eight different players, including Jermaine Kearse, who had five catches for a team-high 68 yards, Doug Baldwin, who had seven catches for 65 yards, Tyler Lockett, who had five catches for 63 yards, and Jimmy Graham, who had six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
If there’s any negative in Sunday’s game for the offense, it was that the Seahawks were only 2 for 6 in the red zone.
2. Tyler Lockett was spectacular.
Coming off of a game in which he went without a catch, receiver Tyler Lockett provided a reminder of how dynamic of a playmaker he can be both on offense and special teams. In addition to his 63 receiving yards, Lockett also scored on a 75-yard run on the first play of the second half, and had a 46-yard kick return to give the offense good field position that it turned into a touchdown.
Lockett battled a knee injury early in the season and at times hasn’t looked quite like the playmaker he was as a rookie, but on Sunday he looked to be as fast and shifty as ever.
3. The defense was dominant at full strength.
The Seahawks gave up two early touchdowns last week, then settled down and didn’t allow a point the rest of the way. They were even better on Sunday, holding the Panthers to 7 points and 271 yards. It should come as no surprise that the defense played one of its best games of the season considering that it got four starters back from injury: defensive end Michael Bennett, linebacker Mike Morgan, cornerback DeShawn Shead and safety Earl Thomas, who later left the game with a fractured lower leg.
Morgan, playing his first game since undergoing sports hernia surgery in October, had an interception on the first play from scrimmage, a nice welcome-back moment that set the tone for a dominant day of defense.
And it’s worth noting that the Panthers’ only score came on a deep touchdown pass in the middle of the field on the first play after Thomas left the game—the kind of pass that almost never gets completed against Seattle with Thomas on the field.
4. K.J. Wright continues to play at a Pro Bowl level.
K.J. Wright finished the game with only three tackles, but that total doesn’t begin to show the impact he had in the game. Wright opened up another strong performance by breaking up a pass intended for tight end Greg Olsen, who came into the game with 790 receiving yards, the most by a tight end in the NFL. In addition to being part of the team effort that held Olsen to just 30 yards on three catches, Wright also had a forced fumble, and a tackle for loss on a Cam Newton run, continuing a strong season that has teammates campaigning for the sixth-year linebacker to earn Pro Bowl honors for the first time.
5. It was a costly victory.
As well as the Seahawks played on both sides of the ball, there was one significant piece of bad news that game out of Sunday’s victory. All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, who before last week had never missed a game in his NFL career, went down with a serious injury, suffering a fracture in his lower leg when he collided with teammate Kam Chancellor while attempting to intercept a pass. Steven Terrell, who started for Thomas last week when Thomas was out with a hamstring injury, took over for Thomas at free safety after the injury.