The Seahawks apparently don’t think so. They made big play after big play down the stretch Sunday at Bank of America Stadium and escaped with a 30-27 triumph that bolstered their NFC playoff chances and damaged those of the reeling Carolina Panthers.
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said. “We’re alive. … We’re already in the playoffs as far as we’re concerned. We’ve got to win every game.”
The Seahawks tied the game on a fourth-down touchdown pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver David Moore with a little less than three and a half minutes to play and won it on a 31-yard field goal by kicker Sebastian Janikowski as time expired. In between, Panthers kicker Graham Gano sent a would-be go-ahead field goal try, from 52 yards, wide right with 1:40 left.
“I don’t know that we could be any more evenly matched than we were,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks won their second straight game and improved to 6-5. They won’t overtake the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West, although they prevented the Rams from clinching the division while on their bye week. But the Seahawks are right in the thick of the NFC wild-card chase, alongside fellow 6-5 teams such as the Panthers and Washington Redskins. The Minnesota Vikings are 6-4-1 after beating the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.
The Seahawks also hold a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over the Panthers, should it come down to that. They are feeling quite a bit better than the Panthers, who suffered their third straight loss after a 6-2 first half of the season.
“We fell short today,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. “We’ve just got to look ourselves in the mirror, understand what we aren’t, and fix it . . . We can’t fool ourselves. This is our third loss. … We’ve got to seize the moment better than we are.”
It was a very good day for Newton, who completed 25 of 30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns. It was an even better day for Christian McCaffrey, Carolina’s second-year running back. He had 125 rushing yards and 112 receiving yards and scored two touchdowns, one as a runner and one as a receiver. He became the first Panthers player to have 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game. The feat was accomplished last season by Rams running back Todd Gurley. Before that, it hadn’t been done by any NFL player since 2011.
“McCaffrey was awesome today,” Carroll said. “Cam was awesome.”
But the Panthers allowed a few too many opportunities to slip away. They failed on a fourth-and-two gamble from the Seattle 5-yard line on their opening drive. Newton threw an end zone interception in the third quarter. Gano missed his crucial field goal attempt.
“I take it personally,” Newton said. “If somebody had said three weeks ago this would happen, I’d have slapped them. … We need one win.”
This was a compelling game between two playoff hopefuls on an NFL Sunday that included no games between two teams with winning records when the day began.
Newton completed all 14 of his first-half passing attempts and the Panthers led 13-10 at the intermission. Newton was 16 for 17 until forcing a throw into heavy traffic for that end zone interception by Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald, just when the Panthers might have taken control of the game early in the third quarter.
The Seahawks responded with a touchdown pass from Wilson to wide receiver Tyler Lockett, capping a drive that featured a remarkable run by Seattle tailback Chris Carson on which he attempted to hurdle Carolina safety Eric Reid, was hit and performed a flip in the air, then landed on his feet and kept running.
Back and forth it went. McCaffrey’s rushing touchdown put the Panthers back in front. A Janikowski field goal for Seattle tied the game at 20. Newton’s touchdown pass to McCaffrey put Carolina back in front with less than seven minutes remaining. Wilson’s fourth-and-three connection to Moore for a 35-yard touchdown tied the game again.
The Panthers held Seattle’s usually productive running game mostly in check. So it was left to Wilson, who threw for 339 yards on 22-for-31 passing, and his receivers to do the heavy lifting on offense for the Seahawks.
“Just knowing that the running backs were going to do their job and they were going to get their stuff, we just had to capitalize every opportunity that we had,” Moore said.
Janikowski’s game-winning kick was set up by a 43-yard completion from Wilson to Lockett on a third-and-five play.
“We knew at some point we were gonna have a chance to be able to win,” Lockett said. “We just had to keep on fighting and we ended up getting it.”
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