Did Seattle know they were playing Carolina today? For a chance to advance to the NFC Conference Championship game and the hope of redeeming themselves after a pitiful showing against the New England Patriots at last year’s Super Bowl? It surely didn’t seem like it during the first half.
In fact, the situation for the Seahawks was so dire, I went ahead and started writing this article as a Seattle loss at halftime. You could call it “jumping the gun,” or a sign of how common it is for a team winning 31-0 at the half to win the whole thing in the end.
Such an outcome is so common that I hadn’t counted on the Seahawks to reverse the trend they’d set from the first quarter on. Seattle had not shown anything offensively or defensively by the end of the first half to suggest a surprise victory was remotely possible. I’d already suspected they’d given up the ghost.
Allow me to demonstrate what I mean. At the top of the second quarter, the Seattle defense had their backs against the wall. This was perhaps the most important play of the game, with the Panthers just one yard away from scoring their third touchdown. I said to myself that if the defense could make a stand right then and there, it would, perhaps, give the Seahawks the momentum needed to close what was then a 14-0 gap.
Instead, it was Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart straight up the middle for a touchdown. It was quickly a 21-0 game, and almost three full quarters left to play. Ten points later and calling the outlook grim for the Seattle Seahawks is something of an understatement.
The collective level of execution from the Panthers in that first half is unfathomable, really. 31-0 against the 2-time NFC champs? Amazing.
— Max Henson (@PanthersMax) January 17, 2016
The Seattle Seahawks were beaten by the Carolina Panthers in the eyes of everyone at this point, except the commentators who did everything in their power to convince those still watching at home that this was still very much a competitive game. They were determined to adhere to the saying, “It’s not over until it’s over.”
The morbidly curious who returned for the second half just wanted to know if Wilson and the Seahawks would do their devastated fans the kindness of not letting it be a shutout. For it to be a 31-0 game at halftime was already humiliating. To let it escalate further with no unanswered points would be absolutely unforgivable.
Fortunately, the Seahawks woke up from their stupor a couple of minutes into the third quarter and put seven points on the board. It’s hard to really let out a sigh of relief when the score is 31-7. At the very least, irredeemable embarrassment has been avoided by this point.
— SkySportsNFL (@SkySportsNFL) January 17, 2016
The Seattle Seahawks slowly began to build momentum throughout the third quarter, but few believed it would be enough. It was noted by ESPN that the Seahawks had failed to score in the first quarter of their last four playoff games. Despite those issues, it didn’t affect their ability to advance.
Slow starts can be fatal if the opposition refuses to fully yield momentum. The only hope to be had would be if the Carolina Panthers ran out of steam and wouldn’t be able to score again to keep themselves from falling victim to a massive upset.
— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2016
The Panthers showed the Seahawks far more respect in the third quarter than they did throughout the first half, and before anyone knew it, the score was 31-14 and we had a proper football game. Seahawks fans had their fingers crossed all across social media, hoping the miracle comeback was really happening. Along with the sudden optimism came the palpable fear that Seattle might regret not going for the field goal when they had the chance.
It was a brilliant third quarter for the Seahawks, but it was still 31-14 going into the fourth quarter. Even a field goal from the Carolina Panthers would be enough to possibly put the home team out of reach at this point. The situation wasn’t as abysmal as it was at the half, but the Panthers were still enjoying a 17-point advantage with just one quarter left to play.
In the end, Seattle could not get up the hill. They tried to fool Carolina with a weak onside kick that ultimately was caught by a savvy Panthers player. It didn’t help that Seattle’s opponents were on “high alert,” following similar trickery one quarter earlier.
The game ended 24-31, with Carolina taking advantage of the final minute of the game to run down the clock. There was nothing the Seahawks could do but regret the wasted first half that made a comeback ultimately impossible.
— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) January 17, 2016
It was an intense affair, and perhaps the Seattle Seahawks should be given credit for teaching us that a game shouldn’t be declared “over” with a whole half remaining. As for the Carolina Panthers, they will head to the NFC Conference Championship game to face the Arizona Cardinals. It will be their first NFC title game since 2005.
[Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images]