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Wilson’s pass to Lockett sets up Janikowski’s game-winner as Seahawks beat Panthers 30-27

Russell Wilson's long pass to Tyler Lockett set up the Seahawks' game-winning field goal. (AP)

Hang around long enough, and you just might find yourself in the position to do something should a break go your way late in a game.

That was the story of the Seahawks’ 30-27 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, which made both teams 6-5 and further boosted Seattle’s postseason hopes out of the NFC.

O’Neil: Seahawks survived Panthers Takeaways | 710 Reacts | Photos

The break that Seattle got late was a missed 52-yard field goal attempt by Carolina’s Graham Gano, which opened the door for Russell Wilson to set up Seahawks kicker Sebastian Janikowski for a game-winning 31-yard field goal as time expired.

It was the first loss all season at home for the Panthers, who led at the end of every quarter against Seattle except the final one.

Here’s a quarter-by-quarter look at the Seahawks’ huge win.

First quarter

Panthers 3, Seahawks 0

Credit the Seahawks’ defense for the biggest play of the opening frame.

After Seattle started the game with a three-and-out, Carolina’s offense chewed up 70 yards over nine plays to create a fourth-and-2 situation at the Seahawks’ 5-yard line. Rather than settle for a field goal attempt, the Panthers opted to have quarterback Cam Newton try to run for the first down, but linebackers Bobby Wagner and Austin Calitro met him before the marker for a huge stop that was confirmed after an official’s review.

The Seahawks again prevented the Panthers from turning their next red zone trip into a touchdown, taking down Christian McCaffrey for a 3-yard loss on third-and-2 from the 4, and Carolina decided to let kicker Graham Gano put it through the uprights to give Carolina a 3-0 lead.

Seattle’s offense had just one first down over its first two series, with starting running back Chris Carson picking up 16 yards on the opening play of the Seahawks’ second drive.

After Gano’s field goal, the Seahawks were picking up some momentum thanks to a 16-yard pass from Russell Wilson to wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who Seattle general manager John Schneider said on the 710 ESPN Seattle pregame show would be on a “pitch count” Sunday due to a groin injury that kept him from practicing Wednesday and Friday.

CAR – Graham Gano 26 FG, 2:15

Second quarter

Panthers 13, Seahawks 10

The Seahawks were this close to taking the lead early in the second quarter, but Wilson’s third-and-8 pass from the Carolina 15 to an open Baldwin in the end zone was overthrown, and Seattle had to turn to kicker Sebastian Janikowski to tie the score with a 33-yard field goal.

Third down was an issue for much of the first half for the Seahawks, who punted three times out of their first four offensive series.

Carolina moved back into the lead with 6:15 before the half thanks to two big plays by wide receiver Curtis Samuel. First up was a 25-yard gain on a reverse run, and two plays later Cam Newton found him in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown pass on a play Samuel shook Shaquill Griffin, causing the second-year Seahawks cornerback to fall to the ground.

That was when Seattle responded with its first truly good series of the day, a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a game-tying 1-yard touchdown run by Carson. That TD plunge was set up a play earlier by fullback Tre Madden’s 28-yard reception from Wilson. The Seahawks also put their third down issues aside along the way, as Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a 27-yard pass on third-and-4 that moved Seattle into Carolina territory.

The Seahawks’ defense couldn’t hold the lead inside the two-minute warning against Newton and the Panthers, however, as kicker Graham Gano hit a 25-yard field goal at the end of the half to put Carolina back ahead, 13-10.

SEA – Sebastian Janikowski 33 FG, 12:45
CAR – Curtis Samuel 7 pass from Cam Newton (Gano kick), 6:15
SEA – Chris Carson 1 run (Janikowski kick), 2:24
CAR – Gano 25 FG, :00

Third quarter

Panthers 20, Seahawks 17

Early in the third quarter, the Seahawks finally forced Newton into throwing an incompletion. And they didn’t stop there.

After Newton’s 15th attempt pass attempt of the game was his first of the day to fall to the ground incomplete, he of course used his feet to beat the Seahawks’ defense, scrambling for a 26-yard gain on third-and-long to keep Carolina’s first drive of the second half going. But on a first down from the Seattle 18, safety Bradley McDougald tipped up a Newton pass attempt in the end zone and came down with the ball, giving the Seahawks a much-needed interception that prevented the Panthers from adding to their lead to open the third quarter.

It was the Seahawks who moved into the lead next. A remarkably athletic 15-yard run by Chris Carson where he literally flipped and landed on his feet certainly helped.

That Carson run was one of the bigger plays of a scoring drive that included a 54-yard pass from Wilson to David Moore and ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Lockett that was originally deemed short of the goal line but reversed after a replay review.

The Seahawks’ advantage didn’t last long.

Carolina responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that saw McCaffrey score from a yard out to put the Panthers back ahead 20-17, which is where it stood as the game moved into the final quarter.

SEA – Tyler Lockett 11 pass (Janikowski kick), 6:45
CAR – Christian McCaffrey 1 run (Gano kick), 1:41

Fourth quarter

Seahawks 30, Panthers 27

Fourth-and-3 at the 35 – is there a better time to take a shot at the end zone?

There isn’t for the Seahawks, apparently.

Inside the final four minutes and with the game in the balance, Wilson put it all on the line trying to connect with a streaking Moore down the sideline. The pass was exactly where it needed to be, and Seattle moved into a 27-27 tie following Janikowski’s point after.

To begin the fourth quarter, the Seahawks had moved into a 20-20 tie as Janikowski hit a 30-yard field goal with 9:32 to go, but that scoring drive nearly ended in disastrous fashion. On a first down at Carolina’s 22, Carson was ruled to have fumbled away to the Panthers. That was a result Seattle couldn’t afford, and luckily for Pete Carroll’s team a replay review found that Carson was already down before the ball became loose, allowing the Seahawks to keep moving towards the field goal.

The Panthers were quickly threatening to take the lead back not long after, as McCaffrey broke out for a 59-yard run then rushed for 15 yards on the very next play, putting Carolina on the doorstep of a touchdown just two plays after Seattle tied the game. On third-and-goal from the 2, the Panthers found that touchdown, as Newton hit McCaffrey with a short TD pass that put Carolina back ahead 27-20 with 6:57 remaining.

Following Moore’s touchdown catch, the Panthers got back into Seattle territory, but rookie cornerback Tre Flowers came up with maybe the biggest play of the game. Newton connected with wide receiver D.J. Moore on third-and-7 from the 37 with just 1:40 to go, but Flowers tripped him up for a tackle to stop him after just a 3-yard gain. That forced Carolina to try to take the lead on a Gano field goal attempt from 52 yards, and Gano was wide right to open the door for Seattle to pull off the upset on the road.

Seattle needed a big play from its quarterback to get into position for the winning score, and Wilson came through with a huge 43-yard pass to Lockett. That put the Seahawks in field goal territory, where Janikowski delivered a game-winning kick for the second time this year (the first being at Arizona in Week 4) as time expired.

SEA – Janikowski 30 FG, 9:32
CAR – McCaffrey 2 pass from Newton (Gano kick), 6:57
SEA – David Moore 35 pass from Russell Wilson (Janikowski kick), 3:26
SEA – Janikowski 31 FG, :00