ReFo: Seahawks @ Panthers, Week 8
Reminiscent of last year’s low scoring contest between these two teams, the 2014 edition didn’t quite live up to the dominant defensive performance that the score would indicate. Both offenses committed unforced turnovers in the red zone and mental miscues aplenty.
The Panthers made it into the redzone on each of their first three drives, but that they came away with just six points in this game should tell you everything about how self-destructive their offense was. Kelvin Benjamin let a touchdown pass sail through his outstretched hands on Carolina’s second drive, and Cam Newton lost the ball on a zone-read keeper that ended up being the Panthers’ third and final trip inside the Seattle 20. As it were, the difference between that almost touchdown and the actual field goal they did score on that drive ended up being the margin of defeat.
Not to be outdone, Seattle imploded completely unprovoked on several of their own drives, including a Russell Wilson fumble on his own zone-read attempt and a Marshawn Lynch drop that became a pick in the end zone. In a play that summed up this game almost to a tee, Seahawks center Steve Schilling rolled the ball into Wilson’s shins late in the third quarter despite his signal caller being under center, resulting in the Seahawks’ last turnover. But a win is a win, so let’s look at some takeaways from this fumble-filled outing.
Seattle Seahawks –Performances of Note
Cliff Avril, DE, +4.7
Breakdown: His teammate on the other side may have come away with the two sacks, but Avril’s six pressures were equally impactful in this game. Four of those came against the overmatched Nate Chandler (with one more nullified by penalty), and with a fumble recovery that took sure points off the board, Avril put up his highest graded game of the season.
Signature Play: With 13:38 to go in the final quarter, Avril tossed Chandler aside, forcing a hurried throw and an incompletion from Newton, bringing up third and long.
Russell Wilson, QB, -1.5
Breakdown: He’ll likely be remembered for his excellent touchdown throw on the Seahawks’ game-winning drive, but what Wilson did in the 59 minutes prior was rather underwhelming. His grade is skewed by a fumble on one of what seemed like several hundred zone reads in this game, but all too often his throws were a bit off the mark, none more painfully obvious than a missed touchdown toss to a wide open Cooper Helfet midway through the third quarter.
Signature Stat: Graded at +1.0 against four or fewer rushers versus -1.4 against the blitz.
Bruce Irvin, OLB, +2.8 pass rushing
Breakdown: A relatively quiet day until the final minute, Irvin made his impact felt with a couple of clutch sacks to close out the Panthers’ last minute disaster of a drive. A couple of offsides penalties earlier on are all that kept Irvin from a grade in the green.
Signature Play: Irvin earned his first sack against Byron Bell with a strong head fake inside before jetting back outside nearly untouched.
Carolina Panthers –Performances of Note
Byron Bell, LT, -5.4
Breakdown: I can only assume that the recently retired Jordan Gross has had to change his phone number to stop a barrage calls from the Panthers’ front office, so bad has been Bell’s play this year. Not allowing a ton of pressure as far as quantity goes, only a few quick throws from Newton prevented Bell from surrendering more than just a sack and a hurry.
Signature Play: On the near safety at 9:33 in the fourth quarter, Bell allows Michael Bennett inside with such speed that Newton barely reaches the top of his drop before having to shrug him off and throw the ball away.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, 0.1 receiving
Breakdown: Tasked with the unenviable job of getting open against Richard Sherman, Benjamin can claim to have won the battle, even though he dropped a much-needed touchdown. Using every inch of his 6’5” frame to high point balls against tight coverage, the rookie racked up 94 yards against the All-Pro. That’s Sherman’s highest yardage total since Week 4 of 2012.
Signature Play: With 8:39 to go and the score tied, Benjamin split the coverage of Sherman and Earl Thomas on a deep post, reeling in a 51 yard reception which would set up a Carolina field goal.
Thomas Davis, LB, +2.2
Breakdown: Leading the Panthers in tackles and defensive stops, the 31-year old linebacker showed that both age and ACL surgeries are just a number, recording his fourth consecutive game with four or more stops.
Signature Play: 1:31, Q2. Tracking Robert Turbin as Seattle set up a screen, Davis exploded forward to plant him into the turf for a short gain.
PFF Game Ball
An excellent day rushing the passer, some solid work against the run, and a fumble recovery to boot? All in a day’s work for Cliff Avril.