Seahawks vs Panthers: 5 takeaways from a dominant win

The Seattle Seahawks looked like a true Super Bowl contender tonight, but the win over the Carolina Panthers was costly.

The Seattle Seahawks demolished the defending NFC champions 40-7 in a game that never felt competitive. The Seahawks were clearly the better team from start to finish, and look poised to make another run at a championship.

The Seahawks absolutely dominated, but the mood for the fans after the game wasn’t nearly as jovial as you might think.

And that is because of the 1st of my five takeaways from tonight’s win:

Dec 4, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas (29) is carted to the locker room during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Earl Thomas will be missed

The Seahawks won, but they lost a number of guys to injuries. None of the injuries matter like the loss of Earl Thomas for the season with a broken leg.

Officially Earl has a cracked tibia. Typically that mean a rod will be placed into his leg, and recovery from that surgery will take 6 months.

Luckily, there should be no loss of speed or athleticism from this particular injury. Thomas will be back and better than ever for the 2017 season.

For now, Steven Terrell becomes the starter at FS. He’s been a reliable fill-in, but he’s not an All-Pro like Earl Thomas. The Seahawks’ chance at another championship just took a major hit.

Dec 4, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls (34) rushes against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Carolina, 40-7. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

2. The offense bounced back in a big way

After an absolutely pathetic showing by the offense last week, the Seahawks offense looked championship-ready against Carolina this week. The 37 points scored before the Seahawks pulled their starters are only part of the story of just how well Seattle played.

Russell Wilson finished 26 of 36 for 277 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He also added 29 yards on three runs.

The Seahawks had 4 different receivers with over 60 yards. Baldwin (7, 65), Graham (6, 63), Lockett (5, 63) and Kearse (5,68) all played huge roles in Seattle’s offense. Tyler Lockett also added a huge 75 yard touchdown run.

Perhaps the biggest news though was the return of Seattle’s running game. After struggling to do anything on the ground all season, Seattle rushed for 240 yards, including 106 yards and two touchdown from Thomas Rawls on only 15 carries.

It is difficult to oversell this. The Seahawks had 534 yards of offense tonight. That’s the 2nd most of the Pete Carroll era.

Dec 4, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws a pass under pressure during the third quarter in a game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks won 40-7. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The statistics of what the Seahawks defense was able to do against Cam Newton and the Carolina offense are astounding. As a team, the Panthers rushed for only 89 yards. If you think that was just because Seattle had the lead, check out the passing numbers.

Cam Newton completed just 14 of 32 passes for 182 yards. 55 of those came on the 55 yard- TD strike that came on the 1st play after Earl Thomas was injured. Even with that big play, Carolina overaged only 5.5 yard per pass attempt.

The Seahawks typically have difficulty covering TEs, so at least Greg Olsen was productive, right? You’d think that, but no. Olsen had only 3 receptions for 32 yards. He had a very quiet night while matchup up against Kam Chancellor.

Perhaps the weirdest stat to come out of this game for Seattle’s defense was zero sacks. They completely shut down the Panthers even without being able to get the QB to the ground. Against a QB that’s less mobile and easier to tackle than Newton, this game would have been a complete bloodbath for Seattle’s defense.

Dec 4, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) looks for a receiver during the fourth quarter in a game against the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks won 40-7. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line looked… good?

We like to say around here that Russell Wilson doesn’t need a great offensive line. He’s so good, that as long as he gets average protection Seattle’s offense will be tough to stop. We just needs the guys up front to not crap the bed like they did a week a ago.

This… this was something we’re completely unfamiliar with seeing. Seattle’s offense line actually looked good, not good enough, but legitimately good for much of this game. It is almost like this week they decided not to play like one of the worse offensive lines ever assembled.

Well, maybe good is overstating it a bit. Wilson was still sacked 3 times, though one of those was given up by a backup LT who was only out there because the starter was injured.

The pass protections were decent, but the run blocking was easily the best it has been all season.

When Seattle’s offensive line plays this well, the Seahawks look virtually unbeatable.

Dec 4, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (88) celebrates with running back Thomas Rawls (34) after scoring a touchdown in a game against the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks won 40-7. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Playoffs?

Tonight’s win pushed the Seahawks’ record to 8-3-1. It guarantees that they’ll finish over .500 for the 5th season in a row.

A Seattle win next week, coupled with a loss or tie by Arizona, and Seattle would clinch their ticket the postseason. Even if the Seahawks don’t get the help they need from Miami next week, they will still clinch the NFC the week after as long as the Seahawks keep winning.

More importantly though is that the Seahawks kept pace for playoff seeding. Detroit also won, so Seattle’s win was necessary to stop the Lions for passing them for a 1st round bye.

Kansas City topped the Falcons this morning, dropping them to 7-5. They are now a game and a half behind Seattle for No. 2 seed in the NFC. It seems unlikely they’ll be able to challenge for that all-important No. 2 seed.

On the other side of things, Dallas also won. At 11-1, they’re two and a half games up on Seattle in the race for home field advantage. The Seahawks aren’t likely to catch them, and should focus on he No. 2 seed and getting that 1st round bye.

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