DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks blow out Panthers 40-7 despite losing Earl Thomas

Dec 4, 2016, 8:51 PM | Updated: 10:05 pm
Jimmy Graham hauled in one of the Seahawks' four touchdowns in their 40-7 win over the Panthers. (A...
Jimmy Graham hauled in one of the Seahawks' four touchdowns in their 40-7 win over the Panthers. (AP)
(AP)

Seattle hadn’t even reached the halfway point of its most dominant victory this season when the Seahawks’ All-Pro safety was pondering retirement via Twitter.

That happened in the second quarter on Sunday night against Carolina, about the same time that Seattle’s starting running back was being evaluated for a concussion.

The fact that the Seahawks were leading the defending NFC champions by double digits was threatening to get lost in the shuffle, and while Thomas Rawls returned to Sunday’s game, free safety Earl Thomas did not, having suffered a broken tibia that will knock him out of the rest of this season.

That was the footnote not just to Seattle’s 40-7 victory at CenturyLink Field, but to the rest of this season as Seattle will lose one of its most irreplaceable members.

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Not that it mattered on Sunday night. Not against a Carolina Panthers’ team that is last in its division and had spent the last 10 days on a two-game road trip to the West Coast.

Sunday’s game wasn’t much more than a parade for Seattle. The Seahawks had their longest drive of the season, a 92-yard touchdown march in the first half. They had their longest run of the season, too, a 75-yard sweep by receiver Tyler Lockett on the first play of the second half.

One week after Seattle failed to score a touchdown in Tampa Bay, the Seahawks produced points on six of their first eight possessions. More impressively: Seattle rushed for 210 yards in the first three quarters alone, which was noteworthy for two reasons:

First, the Panthers entered the game with the league’s second-best rushing defense, having allowed 79.5 yards per game. Second, the Seahawks hadn’t rushed for more than 152 yards in any game this season.

Rawls rushed for 103 yards in the first half alone, scoring first on an 8-yard run in the first quarter and then on a 45-yard run in the second. By the time Seattle tacked on its fourth touchdown with a 1-yard pass from Russell Wilson to tight end Jimmy Graham to match Seattle’s most points in any game this season, the outcome was already decided.

What remains to be seen is how much the loss of Thomas will affect the Seahawks.

FIRST QUARTER

Cam Newton didn’t start Sunday’s game, which resulted in the Panthers beginning the game in a three-point hole. And honestly, the Panthers were lucky it was only a field goal.

Derek Anderson started at quarterback for Carolina as Newton was benched to begin the game, reportedly for a violation of a minor team rule. Anderson rolled out to his right on first down and threw a pass that bounced off the hands of running back Mike Tolbert and to linebacker Mike Morgan, who returned the ball to the Carolina 8. Three plays gained three yards before Seattle settled for a field goal.

Newton entered the game for the second series, and while the Panthers didn’t score, they did pin Seattle at its own 8. The Seahawks then staged their longest drive of this season, going 92 yards in nine plays.

Sea – Steven Hauschka 23 field goal at 13:23 (Drive: 3 plays, 3 yards, 1:23). Score: Seahawks 3, Panthers 0.
Sea – Thomas Rawls 8 run (Steven Hauschka kick) at 6:42 (Drive: 9 plays, 92 yards, 3:55). Score: Seahawks 10, Panthers 0.

SECOND QUARTER

First, the Seahawks nearly picked off Newton, safety Earl Thomas dropping the ball after a nasty collision with Kam Chancellor. Thomas left the game with an injury to his left leg.

Then, the Seahawks got picked on as Newton threw deep the very next play, throwing a 55-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. It was the longest pass allowed by Seattle this season.

That’s when something most unexpected happened. Seattle, which has struggled to run the ball all season, got traction against a Panthers’ defense that came into the game ranked No. 2 in rush defense. Rawls ran for 12 yards on the first play of the drive and then rushed 45 yards for a touchdown on the next play.

Car – Ted Ginn Jr. 55 pass from Cam Newton (Graham Gano kick) at 10:32 (Drive: 3 plays, 48 yards, 1:26). Score: Seahawks 10, Panthers 7.
Sea – Rawls 45 run (Hauschka kick) at 9:44 (Drive: 2 plays, 57 yards, 0:48). Score: Seahawks 17, Panthers 7.
Sea – Hauschka 37 field goal at 1:45 (Drive: 11 plays, 56 yards, 5:43). Score: Seahawks 20, Panthers 7.
Sea – Hauschka 31 field goal at 0:07 (Drive: 9 plays, 72 yards, 1:12). Score: Seahawks 23, Panthers 7.

THIRD QUARTER

All eyes were on Rawls as he returned to the field after halftime. He had left the game in the second quarter, going to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion, but he was on the field to start the third quarter.

And while Carolina was watching him, Lockett took the opening handoff on a jet sweep and ran 75 yards for a touchdown. It was Seattle’s longest play from scrimmage this season.

Sea – Tyler Lockett 75 run (Hauschka kick) at 14:48. (Drive: 1 play, 75 yards, 0:12). Score: Seahawks 30, Panthers 7.

FOURTH QUARTER

The Seahawks consumed more than two-thirds of the fourth quarter with a pair of scoring drives that brought Seattle’s total offense to 534 yards in the game. It was the highest single-game total for Seattle since the Seahawks rang up 596 yards in Arizona in December 2014.

Sea – Jimmy Graham 1 pass from Russell Wilson (Hauschka kick) at 11:09 (Drive: 10 plays, 84 yards, 5:15). Score: Seahawks 37, Panthers 7.
Sea – Hauschka 28 field goal at 3:28 (Drive: 11 plays, 70 yards, 6:00). Score: Seahawks 40, Panthers 7.

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