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Seahawks vs. Panthers: 3 lessons learned from Seattle’s Divisional Round loss

Ryan King / Associated Press

The Seattle Seahawks’ quest for three straight NFC Championships ended early with a 31-24 road loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon.

Once again, the Seahawks found themselves down early on in a playoff game, a situation which Seattle has managed to navigate through over the past few seasons. However, unlike last week against the Minnesota Vikings or the 2014 NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, Carolina’s massive 31-0 halftime lead proved to be too much to overcome.

Still, the Seahawks would not give up even in the face of a deficit that would have tied the largest playoff comeback in NFL history. Seattle outscored the Panthers 24-0 in the second half while playing well in a number of facets, but just ran out of time to complete the comeback.

The fact that Seattle got it to a situation where an onside kick would have given it a chance to tie says a lot about the team and the coaching ability of Pete Carroll. While the season ended in a disappointing manner, Seattle did a nice job to make it this far and can take some lessons from this game into next year.

Carolina got out to a big lead by playing perfectly

There were a few things going against the Seahawks heading into the game, including poor field conditions and a second consecutive 10 AM start time. However, neither was the reason the Seahawks found themselves with such an insurmountable deficit early on.

The Seahawks came out unprepared to play, but a lot of credit has to go to the Panthers. Carolina played nearly a perfect half of football in every facet, leading to that 31-0 lead.

Seattle was actually fortunate the deficit wasn’t worse given the sheer level of dominance, as Carolina had opened that margin with 6:26 to go in the half. For 30 minuets, the Panthers destroyed the Seahawks on a level that hasn’t been seen since before Carroll took over.

In particular, the Panthers were owning the trenches on both sides of the ball. Seattle’s talented pass rush couldn’t get anywhere near Cam Newton during the entire game, while the offensive line crumpled, leading to two crucial Russell Wilson interceptions – something that will have to be addressed in the offseason.

The same issues continued to haunt the Seahawks all season long

Other than the offensive line issues, the Seahawks continued to be plagued by some of the same issues against Carolina that hurt them in several other games this season.

In particular, a few blown assignments cost the Seahawks during Carolina’s initial surge. The Panthers got multiple big plays from receivers and tight ends being left alone in coverage, making things too easy with little pass rush on Newton.

Covering the tight end was an issue for the entire game, as Greg Olsen turned in another strong contest against the Seahawks after dominating them earlier in the year. Kam Chancellor never looked like himself this season, while Bobby Wagner uncharacteristicly struggled in this game and the past few weeks.

Russell Wilson has lost some accuracy on the deep ball

There’s no denying that this was the best season of Wilson’s career, and the tear he went on down the stretch set both franchise and NFL records. Even if Wilson struggled a bit in both playoff games, it’s exciting to see the Seattle offense centering around the talented quarterback.

However, it wasn’t all great for Wilson in 2015. Wilson didn’t throw the deep ball, one of his biggest strength, particularly accurately at times during the season, including in the playoffs.

That came into play a couple of times on Sunday, as Wilson missed two wide-open deep passes that he would normally convert. If one of those was converted, the Seahawks may not have ran out of time, although Wilson’s solid overall play in the second half was a reason they had a chance in the first place.

It wasn’t all bad on deep passes, as Wilson hit Tyler Lockett on a beautiful long touchdown to the back corner of the end zone. Still, it will be critical that Wilson gets his deep ball accuracy back next year for Seattle’s offense to develop into one of the best in the NFL.

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.
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