2015 Seahawks Re-Watch, Week 6: Lockette’s Great Grab
A tough division loss, followed by an almost impossible task at Lambeau, and a brutal loss at Cincinnati, had book-ended two wins against the Bears and the Lions. Sure, 2-3 was not a death sentence, and plenty of season remained, but no fan could deny the ache of the Cincinnati loss. The Hawks hadn’t suffered a loss like it in recent memory, and they were probably due for a bad beat, yet the suspicion remained that the loss now represented a pattern instead of an aberration.
The Hawks were a team whose heart was broken in the Super Bowl, and who wanted to start breaking hearts. It was time to kick it into gear, but 2015 would grant few free passes. In week six, the Seahawks would face another long-time rival, the Carolina Panthers. Like most of the NFC, the Panthers were on a losing streak to the Seahawks, the last loss in the divisional round of the playoffs. Fortunately for the Panthers, they were red-hot, entering Century Link with a perfect record. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, they would play an undefeated opponent for the third time this season.
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The offense danced to a different beat against the Panthers.
Early in the second quarter, coming off a Carolina touchdown, Russell Wilson and Co. dug in and produced their best drive of the year. Netting 12 plays for 90 yards, Wilson used the Panther’s aggressiveness against itself, as he took off for gains of 24 and 11. The tight-end duo of Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson got involved, the former gaining 25 yards and the latter 16. Even Chris Matthews—last seen recovering an onside kick in the NFC Championship game and catching bombs during the Super Bowl—made a rare in-season appearance. Marshawn Lynch topped it off with his first touchdown of the year.
The offense scored over 20 points, a milestone for 2015, but it would not save them from their bad habits. The fourth quarter began with the Hawks at a 20-14 lead, which they would expand upon, netting three points off kicker Steven Hauschka’s golden foot. The game felt set, and then, like an engine running out of gas, they fell flat. Two short drives afforded the Panthers opportunities to claw back into it. The Hawks finished on the wrong end of another fourth quarter collapse, losing the game 27-23.
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Big plays were a part of any Carroll-era team, and even the inconsistent 2015 Seahawks were an excellent show to watch. Tyler Lockett had had a kickoff and punt return touchdown. Carrie Williams had a strip fumble for a touchdown. Bobby Wagner had a fumble return for a touchdown. Kam had a forced fumble to beat the Lions. Thomas Rawls had a 73 yard run for a touchdown. Against the Panthers, Ricardo Lockette came down with the catch of his career.
Coming off a big pass to Jimmy Graham, one that had burned Carolina in the soft spot between the linebackers and safeties, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell decided to try a trick play. Out of the snap, Wilson tossed it to Lynch for what looked like a run. As the Panther defense closed on Lynch, the tailback pulled up, lateralling it to Wilson. From the fifty-one yard line, Wilson fired a bomb that landed five yards in the end zone. It was a beauty of a throw, but it was also two or three feet short. Lockette located the ball in time to spin, leaping not only into the air but over safety Kurt Coleman, to breadbasket the touchdown from Coleman’s hands. Lockette hit the ground with both feet balanced, securing the ball cleanly before dusting off his forearms for the roaring crowd.
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Answers for a lackluster 2-4 record were hard to muster, but many had taken notice to the litany of penalties on the field. While the Hawks had never been a team to play a clean game—167 penalties in 2013, the most in the league, and 169 in 2014, again the most in the league—the margin between victory and defeat had become so thin that any penalty had the potential to swing a win to a loss. Already the year had seen KJ Wright be ejected from a game, had seen Michael Bennett get two false start penalties against Green Bay and a personal foul that cost all of Earl Thomas’s interception return yardage to the Bengals, had seen the offense get 3 delay of game and 7 false start penalties on the season, and against the Panthers, it saw Jimmy Graham net a personal foul. It was one thing to commit a foul during play, but these pre-snap blunders and after-whistle shoving matches were becoming costly.
The hallmarks of the Hawk’s previous successes were mental and physical dominance. The Hawks won games with more than muscles, they outsmarted opponents. But years had passed since the team had last suffered these types of losses, and even among this ultra-confident group, frustration was whittling away at their swagger. Suddenly, the Hawks were a team who shrieked from the big moment instead of rising to it. That hit back instead of laughing it off, or they hit first. They looked at each other in confusion, instead of celebration. The mental game, the psychological dominance of winning, had abandoned them. Championship football existed in this team, but it appeared like more servings of humble pie were on the menu.
Week 7 will post next Tuesday, April 19th. Stay cool.