Believe it or not, that was exactly the kind of win the Seahawks needed to start the season.
It wasn't expected to be pretty, but it was even grittier than we thought it would be because the Hawks' offensive line was dominated by the Carolina Panthers' defensive front.
But Seattle's defense, which failed late in nearly every 10 a.m. game in 2012, came up with a big turnover in the fourth quarter this time to help preserve a 12-7 win over Carolina in which Russell Wilson somehow overcame constant harassment and Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Jon Ryan came up with a bunch of big plays.
Despite being sacked twice and constantly hurried and hassled, Wilson somehow completed 25 of 33 passes for 320 yards -- his first regular-season 300-yard game. That made up for the nonexistent running game, which garnered just 70 yards on 26 carries. Marshawn Lynch was a nonfactor, running for a mere 43 yards on 17 attempts.
“We did not feel good at all about the way we ran the football today,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters. “And we need to go back and take a look and see what happened here. We thought we would be better than that. We had a really nice array of things that we wanted to do, and we tried them all; we tried everything we wanted to try in the plan.
“And we weren’t getting much movement. I thought they played very active up front and were very difficult. And we’re just real disappointed in that.”
You can't be disappointed in Wilson, though. Under duress for most of the game against Carolina's top front led by Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, Wilson put together consecutive scoring drives late in the game. His 43-yard touchdown pass to Kearse put the Hawks ahead with 10:13 left.
“I think Russell played great under the circumstances,” Carroll said. “And he came through for us in great fashion. But we don’t need him under pressure that much.”
The defense then let Carolina move the ball downfield, committing two personal fouls in a row to give the Panthers 30 yards. But then Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas forced DeAngelo Williams to fumble at the end of a 16-yard run, and the defense averted the kind of meltdown that cost the Seahawks at the end of games in Detroit, Miami and Atlanta last season.
It was largely a game of missed opportunities for the Seahawks, who went 0 for 3 in the red zone and failed to take advantage of some big miscues -- a personal foul and a muffed punt -- by Carolina. They also had nine penalties for 109 yards: pass interference, illegal shift, holding, false start, holding, taunting, grounding, two personal fouls on defense. The O-line committed three penalties -- two by Mike Person.
Wilson and the offense finally found a bit of a rhythm late in the third quarter. After amassing just 150 yards on their first six drives, they tallied 184 on their final three.
They drove 64 yards for a field goal late in the third quarter, one they got only after a third-down Houdini play by Wilson and Baldwin. The QB retreated from the pass rush about 15 yards and launched a seeming desperation pass 30 yards to Baldwin, who made a spectacular toe-dragging catch before falling out of bounds.
Baldwin led the Hawks with seven catches for 91 yards -- four of his catches converting third downs into first downs. He converted another on the last drive of the game as the Hawks ran out the final five minutes.
As the Hawks struggled to move the ball in the first quarter -- they had just one yard -- Ryan kept them in the game by flipping field position on the Panthers. His first punt went 69 yards, moving the ball from the Seattle 6 to the Carolina 35. His second punt, from the Seattle 25, went 55 yards and put the Panthers at their 20. He averaged 49.5 yards (net 47) on four kicks, including one that pinned Carolina at its 10. If not for him, the Panthers would have had much better chances of scoring.
The Seahawks have plenty of things to fix heading into their huge Sunday night game against San Francisco, which outlasted Green Bay 34-28.
The Hawks' offensive line needs to get it in gear. The pass rush, which got one sack from O'Brien Schofield and not much else, needs to improve -- Cliff Avril's possible return could help there.
But even with those problems, the Hawks managed to escape with their first win in a road opener since 2006 (four games).
It wasn't pretty; it was just gritty.