On a hot, humid late-summer day in Charlotte, North Carolina, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks ground out a 12-7 victory.
I'd rather have seen Marshawn Lynch go beast for a hundred-plus, leaving a wake of crushed Panther helmets. I'd be happier if Russell threw a touchdown each to Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Zach Miller. I'd be ecstatic with a shutout and a couple of defensive scores.
But what I got was a sweaty, nasty win that took a whole team to create.
I thought on the first week of the season, traveling way back east and playing at 10am wouldn't be a big deal. Yet the Seahawks did come out sluggish and unfocussed. Luke Wilson had a first-possession false start, pushing Seattle back into their own end-zone where Russell was nearly sacked for a safety. On the next possession, Marshawn dropped a pass and they went three-and-out. Carolina's pass rush came out wicked and the Seahawks couldn't get in a rhythm.
And the muggy, sticky southern weather was no joke.
When all else fails, go deep. If that fails, go deep again.
Down 7-6 with ten minutes left in the game, Russell let one fly down the right sideline to Stephen Williams, who stretched out and nearly caught it. Would have made my Creeper of the Week call look really good. On the next play, he sailed another down the same sideline to Jermaine Kearse, who jumped over two defenders to grab the ball in the end-zone.
After the Seahawks failed to convert the two-pointer, Carolina went on the attack. They drove the ball into the Seattle red-zone before Earl Thomas punched the ball away from DeAngelo Williams at the ten. The Seahawks recovered and snuffed the clock.
It wasn't pretty. It wasn't decisive. I wanted to confirm all the Superbowl hype by stomping a mud-hole in Carolina. But it was the type of win that brings a team together.
Week Seventeen of last year, Seattle beat Saint Louis with a brilliant Russell Wilson two minute drill. Following blowouts of the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers, the close victory over the Rams grounded the team and reminded them winning any NFL game is hard. I feel the Rams game put the Seahawks in the proper playoff mindset to beat the Redskins and almost defeat the Falcons.
If all the “Seahawks to the Superbowl” talk has made any Seattle player think a deep playoff run is inevitable, the Panthers game should bring them back to Earth. This road is going to be tough, with more 10am games back east against the Texans (9/29), Colts (10/6), Falcons (11/10) and Giants (12/15). Seattle has the #11 toughest schedule overall and the #2 most difficult road schedule. Denver has the easiest schedule.
The Broncos are a popular choice to represent the AFC in the Superbowl. Chalking up a bunch of blowout wins should be easy, with the Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers in the division, plus games against the Jaguars and Eagles. Peyton Manning could throw seven touchdowns a lot.
But ask the 2007 Patriots if going 18-0 prepares you for a trench fight in the Superbowl.
Give me and my Seahawks the dirty, potholed, ugly road and we'll slog through the ditch all the way to the Superbowl. On offense and defense, I know we have guys who'll make plays when they count in the fourth quarter. Even if it feels good all year, I don't want the high-scoring easy wins. Give me the nasty ones with a couple tough losses to keep everyone humble.
Well, I will take another 42-13 punishing of San Francisco next week without complaint.