CHARLOTTE—After losing consecutive games to the Chargers and Rams in which late comeback efforts came up short, the Seahawks have won two in a row using strong fourth-quarter finishes to secure those victories.
On Sunday, Russell Wilson and Seattle's offense produced a 70-yard touchdown drive to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, then after a defensive stop forced Carolina to try a 52-yard field goal, the Panthers missed the kick, Seattle's offense took over and quickly moved down the field for a field goal that gave the Seahawks a 30-27 victory.
That win, along with a Week 11 win over Green Bay that also featured a fourth-quarter comeback, has the Seahawks at 6-5 and in pretty good position to go after one of the NFC's two wild-card berths. And in a league where games so often come down to final possessions, Seattle's ability to finish strong these last couple of weeks bodes very well for its chances going forward.
"It was just a fantastic finish for our guys, and we needed all of it," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I'm really fired up for the whole group, and to see us finish like that, again. Last week we finished really well; we finished really well again today, and a beautiful job with the clock and the timing and all the things exactly how we wanted to do it, so I'm really proud of that."
While Wilson and the offense will deservedly get a lot of credit for the comeback win, the defense also played a big role even on a day when it gave up far more yards than it would have liked. Most notably, rookie cornerback Tre Flowers made a huge tackle on third down to limit D.J. Moore to a 3-yard gain when it looked like the rookie receiver had a lot of room to run had Flowers not tripped him up. That short gain meant a long field goal attempt, and Graham Gano's 52-yarder was no good, giving the Seahawks good field position with 1:40 left on the clock.
"That was a big," Carroll said of Flowers' tackle. "(Moore had) wide-open space, it was a heck of a big play for us."
That a rookie who has been a starter since Week 1 came up with one of the game's crucial plays is somewhat fitting, because one reason the Seahawks feel like they're finishing better has been the growth of young players who are being asked to step up in big roles this season.
"We have come a long ways, we've had a lot of young guys playing, and like we've said in the past, if we play them a lot early, by the midpoint, these guys start to become veterans for you," Carroll said. "We don't feel like we have any young guys playing anymore, so we should make better decisions, better choices, better reactions just because we've been there. So that does add up. The margin early the first couple of games, those games we gave away, the margin of experience, the right choice at the right time, could have made a difference for sure, but we had to struggle through it a little bit."
After Gano's miss, Seattle's offense wasted little time getting into field goal range, with Wilson hitting Tyler Lockett for a 43-yard gain on third-and-5. From there, the Seahawks took a knee to run down the clock, then brought Sebastian Janikowski on for the game-winner.
Wilson's pass to Lockett was one of many big plays he and his receivers made in the second half as the Seahawks and Panthers traded leads, the most notable of which was a 35-yard touchdown pass to David Moore on fourth-and-3 to tie the game with 3:26 left in the game. From there, the defense made its stop, and the offense set up the game winner players were confident was coming.
"It's about who's got the attitude, the finish, who's going to strain and do the right thing," center Justin Britt said. "When they went out here for the field goal, I told Mike Solari, 'They're going to miss this and we're going to go down and win.' That's just how we think, that's what we expect to happen. And if he had made it, then we would have went down and scored a touchdown, no doubt about it."
And it's not just members of the offense who are confident that unit will come through.
"It's amazing," linebacker Bobby Wagner said of Wilson's ability to come back. "He's always very, very clutch. We know he's going to do it in the fourth quarter. Every time he gets the ball, we know something special is going to happen, and it's fun to watch."
As one of the veteran leaders on the Seahawks, Wagner, who finished with a game-high 11 tackles, has seen the team around him mature and grow with experience, and that growth is showing late in games the past couple of weeks.
"Early in the year, we kind of struggled with (finishing games)," Wagner said. "There were a lot of close games that we should have pulled out, and I think that's just us being young, and us having to figure out how to win, and I definitely feel like we're doing that.
"I definitely feel like a lot of it is learning, and lot of it is belief. We've got a young group. The older guys have been, we've seen some very, very crazy things happen, and it's one thing to try to tell young guys that, it's another thing for them to experience it. They've experienced it, they've grown from it, and now we've got our knowledge mixed with their experience, and you see us pulling games out."
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 30-27 win against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12 of the 2018 NFL season.