Wilson directs game-winning drive as Seahawks end skid
Russell Wilson walked into the huddle with his team down a field goal and less than five minutes remaining. He started laughing, sensing the familiarity of the situation.
Then he looked around at his teammates and said, "We’ve been here two years in row — let’s go do it."
And the Seahawks did it.
Wilson connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Luke Willson with 47 seconds left to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive, lifting Seattle to a 13-9 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
It’s the third straight year Wilson has brought the Seahawks (4-3) back from a second-half deficit to beat the Panthers on this same field. In the previous two seasons, Wilson threw TD passes to Jermaine Kearse and Golden Tate to win tight defensive games.
"Man, I’m telling you, it’s just the Achilles’ heel, man," Panthers cornerback Josh Norman said. "They keep nagging us. They end up making one more play than us, every single time."
Carolina’s defense came into the game having allowed at least 37 points in four of its last five games. But it held Wilson and the Seahawks to a pair of field goals before he took the field with 4:47 left on the clock.
Wilson methodically marched the Seahawks down the field, going 4 of 4 for 53 yards and running twice for 11 yards. He completed short, precise tosses to unheralded receivers Cooper Helfet, Kevin Norwood and Paul Richardson before connecting with Wilson on a seam route for the winning touchdown.
"We believed we were going to go down the field and make the plays and win the game," Wilson said. "There was no doubt."
Wilson finished 20 of 32 for 199 yards and had one interception.
"He truly is an extraordinary player in the fourth quarter," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He finds a way to make the play that we need to make."
The victory snapped Seattle’s two-game losing streak and Carroll hopes it eliminated any talk of the Seahawks lacking focus following the Percy Harvin trade.
"If you think there are distractions, you are wrong," Carroll said.
It was another struggle for Cam Newton.
Newton was 12 of 27 for 121 yards with an interception and a fumble for the Panthers (3-4-1). In three games against the Seahawks, Newton has only thrown for 437 yards and one touchdown while being sacked eight times. It ended when Newton bounced a pass in front of running back Jonathan Stewart on fourth-and-25.
"Sometimes with a team like this you get pressure," Newton said. "Being pressured you have to be willing to take chances. When you make plays you know you’re labeled a genius. When you don’t (make plays) — and a lot of times we didn’t today — it looks bad. It looks real bad."
Carolina had a chance after the touchdown, but Seattle’s pass rush turned up the heat and the Panthers couldn’t manage a first down.
Marshawn Lynch ran for 62 yards and Doug Baldwin had six catches for 61 yards for the Seahawks.
It was a game of missed opportunities for both teams.
The Panthers led 6-3 at halftime despite reaching inside the Seattle 20 on their first three drives.
A dropped pass in the end zone by rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and a turnover off a fumbled exchange between Newton and Stewart on a read option play were costly. The Panthers were settled for Graham Gano’s two field goals.
"It’s tough when you don’t score touchdowns and miss opportunities," coach Ron Rivera said. "You have to make hay down in the red zone."
The Seahawks had their share of botched plays, too.
With a chance to take the lead just before halftime, Lynch let Wilson’s pass slip through his hands at the goal line and cornerback Josh Norman came up with the interception. In the third quarter, Wilson got the Panthers to bite on a fake handoff and had Cooper Helfet wide open down along the left sideline for a potential touchdown but underthrew him. The Seahawks also turned over the ball when center Stephen Schilling botched a snap to Wilson that Mario Addison recovered at the Carolina 30.
Seattle’s only points in the first half came when Stephen Hauschka drilled a low-lining 58-yard field goal which would have been good from at least another 10 yards.
NOTES: Rivera said Benjamin was benched to start the game because he was "sending him a message" to the rookie. Rivera said "he’s accountable just like everybody else," but wouldn’t elaborate on why he sat down the rookie who finished with four catches for 94 yards. … Panthers safety Thomas DeCoud left in the second half with a hamstring injury. His backup Tre Boston gave up Wilson’s winning touchdown pass.