1. Short-handed up front, the Seahawks couldn't stop the run when they needed it most.
The Seahawks were without starting defensive end Shelby Harris, who was a surprise inactive due to illness, then they lost nose tackle Al Woods to a heel injury during the game. And while run defense falls on all three levels of the defense, not just the line, it was clear the Seahawks missed the presence of two of its starting linemen, particularly Woods, who has a huge role when it comes to stopping the run.
And though the Seahawks defense played good in stretches, holding Carolina to a single field goal on its four possessions after the Panthers jumped ahead 17-0 early on, Seattle couldn't stop the run and get off the field when it needed it most. After a Seahawks punt early in the fourth quarter, Carolina took over up by 3 points looking to burn some clock and add to the lead, and on a 10-play, 74-yard drive that took 5:26 off the clock, the Panthers ran the ball seven times for 68 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown run by Raheem Blackshear that gave the Panthers a 10-point lead.
For the game, the Panthers were able to rush for 223 yards, the fourth straight opponent to rush for at least 161 yards, and the second to go over 200 yards on the ground.
2. An impressive streak for Geno Smith came to an end.
Geno Smith has played at a Pro-Bowl level all season and been incredibly consistent throughout the year, and because of that consistency, it was all the more surprising to see him play below the high standard he has set this year.
Make no mistake about it, Smith did a lot of good things in Sunday's game, hitting some big throws to Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and Marquise Goodwin, including touchdown passes to all three, giving him multiple touchdown passes in 11 of 13 games this season. But on Sunday, Smith wasn't quite as sharp as he has been while posting the best completion percentage in the NFL this season. Smith threw an interception on his first pass of the game, a turnover that set up a Panthers touchdown, then was intercepted again later in the first half, though on that play he thought he had a free play after the Panthers appeared to jump offsides, and took a shot downfield into traffic as a result, so it's hard to fault him for that turnover.
By finishing the game 21 for 36 for 264 yards with a 85.9 passer rating, Smith just missed extending a season-long streak of completing at least 60 percent of his passes and posting a passer rating of 80 or better, tied for the longest such streak to start a season in NFL history with Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, both of whom did it in MVP-winning seasons.
3. The short-handed running game couldn't get on track.
Facing a tough Carolina defense without Kenneth Walker III and DeeJay Dallas, the Seahawks knew it would be a challenge to run the ball, but they were still hoping for more production on the ground that they were able to get on Sunday. Travis Homer, starting a week after being out with a knee injury, gained 26 yards on nine carries, 16 of which came on one run, while the rest of Seattle's rushing production came on Geno Smith scrambles, which gained 20 yards, 13 of them on one play.
4. Tyler Lockett just keeps scoring touchdowns.
With the Seahawks facing third-and-goal early in the game, it's no surprise that Geno Smith looked to Tyler Lockett, and it's even less of a surprise that Lockett came through with a ridiculously good, toe-tapping catch in the back of the end zone.
With that grab, Lockett secured a touchdown reception in a sixth straight game, setting a franchise record.
5. Marquise Goodwin has been a very good addition.
While Lockett and Metcalf get most of the headlines when it comes to Seahawks receivers, veteran Marquise Goodwin has been a very nice addition to the offense this season.
On Sunday, Goodwin helped spark Seattle's offense early with a 38-yard catch, and he finished his day with a season-high and team-leading 96 yards on four catches, including a 24-yard touchdown. That score gave him four for the season, matching a career-high he set in 2018 with the 49ers.
6. The Seahawks might have found a new kick returner.
The Seahawks elevated Godwin Igwebuike from the practice squad seemingly to provide running depth with Kenneth Walker III and DeeJay Dallas both out with ankle injuries, but it turns out he had a bigger role than that.
Taking over kick return duties—Dallas had been in that role since Dee Eskridge went on injured reserve—Igwebuike helped set up a score late in the first half when he returned a kick 50-yards, giving the offense a short field for a 2-minute drive that ended with a Metcalf touchdown grab. Then to open the second half, Igwebuike returned the kickoff 35 yards, giving the offense good field position once again for a drive that ended with a Jason Myers field goal.
Check out some of the best action shots from Week 14 vs. the Carolina Panthers at Lumen Field on December 11, 2022. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.