Turnovers. Drive-extending penalties. A complete lack of a running game. A fourth-quarter deficit. The Seattle Seahawks overcame all of these adversities in Sunday’s season-opening 12-7 win over the Carolina Panthers, showing their mettle under tough circumstances and creating a template on how to to do it again over the course of the NFL’s grueling season.
“It was hard today. It was really hard,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters after the game. “The thing I love about it is our guys hung tough. We made the plays when we needed to make them, we finished the game with the ball in our hands which we always like, and we get out of the first game on the road with a win.”
There was certainly was a feeling of escaping with a win instead of seizing it. Much of the credit goes to Carolina, who played fantastic against the run and moved the ball effectively with DeAngelo Williams, the best running back for either team with a tally of 90 total yards.
“We thought we would be better than that,” Carroll said of the team’s running game, which was held to 70 yards, their lowest total in over a season. “We thought we had a really nice array of things that we wanted to do and we tried them all. And we weren’t getting much movement.”
Penalties were another issue for the Seahawks, as they handed over 109 yards on 9 penalties.
“We did have some substantial penalties in the game at crucial times,” Carroll said at his press conference. “We stopped them on their last drive and...the facemask penalty they called, that was as frustrating as you can get. And on that same drive you get a late hit. We gave them a little too much. We helped them too much. So we gotta keep working on that.”
Seattle’s players and coaches repeatedly asserted to the media during the preseason that they will never dwell on the past or look ahead of the next play. That mindset clearly helped them keep their cool as they held off the Panthers once they took a fourth quarter lead.
“We just kept it alive,” quarterback Russell Wilson said at his press conference after the game. “I think that attitude, that mentality that coach Carroll instills in us really gives us a chance to keep battling; no matter what the circumstances are, just play one play at a time.”
“You’ve got 5 minutes and 25 seconds left and we’re just trying to finish the game,” said Wilson. “The biggest thing is, can we make the plays to keep the drives alive and cut off the clock?”
Seattle obviously showed that they can. This belief surely stems, at least in part, from the team’s playoff performance last year, when they handed the Redskins a loss in Washington and nearly beat the NFC’s number one seed, the Atlanta Falcons, in the divisional round.
“This is a different team than the first game from a year ago,” said Carroll. “We were in a similar situation in the first game a year ago and we couldn’t find a way to get it done and we did today. I think it’s a world of difference.”
Indeed. Seattle pulled out a gritty road win against what should be an improved Panthers team in 2013 without the help of defensive stars Chris Clemons, Brandon Browner or Cliff Avril, all of whom missed the game with injuries. It might not have been pretty, but there’s much to be gained from ugly.
“This is a quality win for us on the road and it showed that we needed all of that maturity and that togetherness that kept us going,” Carroll said.