CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Pete Carroll is known for gutsy calls, but this one will go down right near the top of the list.
With the Seahawks down 7 and facing fourth-and-3 with time winding down in the game, Carroll decided to shoot the moon.
He hit it squarely.
Rather than settle for a first down, Russell Wilson connected with second-year receiver David Moore in the end zone, tying the game at 27 and setting up a 30-27 victory Sunday at Bank of America Stadium that lifted the Seahawks to a 6-5 record heading into a favorable slate of games over the final stretch of the season.
The actual game winner came 3:31 later, after the Panthers had missed a potential go-ahead field goal. Wilson set it up with another beautiful pass, this time a 37-yarder to Tyler Lockett, and Sebastian Janikowski sealed it with the 33-yard field goal.
The Seahawks have four out of their final five games at home.
“We’re already in the playoffs as far as we’re concerned,” coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “We’ve got to win every game, and we’ve got to do it one at a time.”
It came on a day when the Seahawks struggled mightily on defense, allowing a season-high 478 yards including 125 rushing and 114 receiving for running back Christian McCaffrey. But tight defense in the red zone and some very big plays at very big times gave them hope for a big finish to an at-times difficult year.
Wilson’s big day – make that his big second half – helped him surpass Dave Krieg to become the winning-est regular season quarterback in franchise history. It was his 26th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, the second-most in the NFL since 2012 behind Matt Stafford. He ended up completing 22-of-31 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Five of those completions went to Lockett, for 107 yards, and four more went to Moore, who had 103 yards. Chris Carson had 16 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown.
The Seahawks earned themselves some early breathing room early in the game with a strong defensive stand deep in their own territory. Facing a 4th and 2 on the Seahawks’ 5-yard line early in the first quarter, the Panthers opted to go for it. Seattle stuffed them, and got the ball back on its own 4-yard line. Carolina challenged the call, but the officials upheld the ruling and kept the Seahawks’ feet out of the early fire.
The Panthers didn’t make the same mistake on their next series after Seattle’s goal-line defense again held strong. After a 3-yard loss on 3rd and 2, Carolina opted to kick a 26-yard field goal and end a six-play, 58-yard drive with a 26-yard field goal and 3-0 lead with 2:11 to play in the first quarter.
The Seahawks evened it up early in the second quarter, after a 60-yard drive fell a little bit short. Wilson couldn’t quite land a 15-yard pass to Doug Baldwin in the end zone, so they settled for a 33-yard Janikowski field goal that made it 3-3.
The teams traded touchdowns late in the first half.
Carolina started things off with a quick and devastating drive, travelling 53 yards in four plays and ending it up with a 7-yard pass from Cam Newton to Curtis Samuel that put the Panthers up 10-3 with 6:15 left in the half.
It took Seattle seven plays to travel 75 yards and tie it right back up. The drive was highlighted by a 27-yard pass to Lockett and a 28-yarder to Tre Madden, capped by a 1-yard Chris Carson touchdown run that made it 10-10 with 2:24 left in the half.
The Panthers took the lead back as time ran out in the first half, driving 60 yards and settling for a 25-yard field goal as the clock ticked to zero.
The Seahawks took their first lead of the game midway through the third quarter with one of their wildest drives of the season.
It all started when Bradley McDougald picked off Cam Newton in the end zone, the Seahawks’ first turnover in three games.
Then, on the ensuing play from scrimmage, Carson sparked things off with a 15-yard run highlighted by a flip over a defender – and Carson stuck the landing and kept running.
The go-ahead touchdown came on a beautiful 11-yard pass from Wilson to Lockett that Lockett just managed to haul into the end zone from his knees. The officials originally ruled it just short, but after a review the Seahawks were up 17-13.
Carolina again answered quickly, going 75 yards in eight plays on the ensuing drive to go ahead 20-17 on a 1-yard Christian McCaffrey with 1:41 left in the third quarter.
Seattle answered with another field goal to tie it at 20, but McCaffrey took it upon himself to put the Panthers back in the lead. The second-year running back had runs of 59 yards, 15 yards and finally a 1-yard touchdown run to give Carolina a 27-20 lead with 6:57 to play.
Seattle plays host to the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday at 1:25 p.m. on the home of the Seahawks, Q13 FOX.