Gutty is the correct sports cliche, but I also would’ve accepted gritty. Or if you said the ‘Hawks ground one out or won ugly that would’ve been okay too. However you describe it, it’s a road win against a (probably) good team. Sure, some more points would’ve livened things up a bit, but, all things considered, it was a fine opener.
Down Brandon Browner, who was out with a hamstring injury (Thurston Howell III started in his place), and half their line, the D was staid. They were the best part of the game for the ‘Hawks — very reminiscent of last year’s performance against the Panthers. They even gave up a long drive at the end before forcing a huge turnover, just like they did last season. The run defense was a bit soft, giving up over 5 yards-per-carry, but a decent chunk of that was Cam Newton (5-38), who a) is a brute, b) only averaged 5.4 yards-per-pass. That’s the type of Cam Newton run-pass tradeoff Seahawks fans can live with.
The offense sputtered because the ground game was nonexistent save for two key runs. Beastmode salted the game away with a 14-yarder on the final drive, and Turbinmode (“The Wind Turbin-e”? I’ll keep thinking about it.) went for 15 on a draw play on the touchdown drive. Russell Wilson didn’t look like he was having much of a game while I was watching it, but in retrospect, with the boxscore and highlights at hand, I think he played pretty well. His 13-yard completion to Doug Baldwin (huge game) on third-and-eight was beyond absurd. And it got even better when he hustled the team to the line, forcing Carolina to challenge without getting a good look at the play and waste a timeout — a timeout the Panthers would’ve found very helpful at the end of the game. I do believe this is one of those “little things” coach–turned-talking-head-types like to rave about. Wilson’s touchdown ball was a fantastic catch by Jermaine Kearse (not just a preseason hero!), and it came on the heels of a tough drop by Stephen Williams. Wilson later said about the non-catch, “I was surprised we’d missed on that one. Maybe I threw it a little too far”. Which translates from QBspeak to, “Yeah, the receiver has gotta make that catch.”
My favorite drive of the game was the final clock-killer. I thought the play calling was really smart. Instead of just plowing into the line twice and bringing up third and long, Carroll & Co. kept dialing up those little play-action flare passes into the flat (Feed it to Derrick Coleman in the post!). Carolina didn’t get the ball back, and there was 5:25 on the clock when the Seahawks took over. Gutty drive. Gutty, indeed.