Panthers 27, Seahawks 23, another fourth-quarter debacle

TALKING POINTS

No, that wasn’t a case of deja vu you just experienced. That was, indeed, another big fourth-quarter lead blown by the Seattle Seahawks.

All week long the talk around Seahawks camp was about finishing, and with good reason. Seattle led in the fourth quarter in each of its first five games this season, but won just twice. Last week saw the Seahawks suffer through a disastrous fourth quarter, blowing a 17-point lead before eventually losing in overtime at Cincinnati. The Seahawks were determined to solve that issue this week.

Instead, it was more of the same for Seattle. Steven Hauschka’s field goal with 11:46 remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Seahawks a 23-14 lead, and it seemed that Seattle was going to overcome its demons. But in the final 10 minutes the Seahawks went three-and-out, allowed an 80-yard touchdown drive, went four-and-out, then gave up another 80-yard touchdown drive, culminating in Greg Olsen’s game-winning 26-yard touchdown catch with 32 seconds remaining.

And the game-winning play was inexplicable. Olsen is far and away Carolina’s biggest receiving threat. However, the tight end was set free completely as he just ran a seam route right up the numbers and was left wide open for the winning score, leaving All-Pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas pointing at one another. After the game it was revealed that there was a mix up in defenses, with different parts of the defense getting the call from the sidelines from different places. Talk about a terrible time to get the defensive call tangled.

These are dire straits the Seahawks are in. Seattle is 2-4, and the Seahawks have never made the playoffs when starting the season 2-4. Only 14 of the 168 teams that started 2-4 since 1990 have reached the postseason. And not only have the Seahawks failed to solve their finishing problem, they saw it happen at CenturyLink Field, which is supposed to be Seattle’s impenetrable fortress.

The Seahawks have little time to dwell upon the loss, however, as they get right back at it Thursday night at San Francisco.

Also worth noting:

– Seattle’s defense again showed signs of being dominant. Yet the Seahawks allowed four 80-yard drives to the Panthers in all kinds of different ways — the first one was almost completely on the ground, the last one was all in the air. So the issues on defense aren’t particular to just one aspect of the game.

– Seattle finally found a way to make tight end Jimmy Graham the focal point of the passing game. Graham has his largest involvement yet as a Seahawk, catching eight of his team-high 12 targets for 140 yards. Notably, Graham caught a couple passes after changing his route to adjust to quarterback Russell Wilson scrambling, something that had been an issue in the past. So perhaps progress was made there.

– Marshawn Lynch’s return from injury didn’t spark Seattle’s run game. Lynch was limited to 54 yards on 17 carries, though he seemed to be his usual physical self and he did score a touchdown.

– Seattle received an unbelievable circus catch from an unlikely source: Ricardo Lockette. Lockette, used mostly on special teams rather than in the receiving game, was the target on a trick play, when Lynch took a pitch, passed back to Wilson, then Wilson heaved the ball downfield. Carolina cornerback Kurt Coleman seemed to be in perfect position to defend the play. But Lockette reached over the top of Coleman and snatched the ball out of the air above Coleman’s head for a 40-yard touchdown, giving The Seahawks a 17-7 lead in the third quarter.

– Patrick Lewis got the start at center ahead of Drew Nowak. There had been talk of a possible move on the offensive line, with Lewis getting time with the first unit in practice during the week. We’ll see if Lewis did enough to keep the starting job.

TURNING POINT

Seattle had a nine-point lead and got the ball back with 10:06 remaining in the game. With it being a two-score game, the Seahawks could have essentially seen out the game just by eating some clock. But Seattle had a toothless three-and-out, and that started the Seahawks’ latest edition of the foruth-quarter woes.

QUOTABLE

“I know you guys don’t want to hear it, but we have six games we should have won, and we know that.”

— Seahawks coach Pete Carroll

“Right now, bro, I want to say a lot of things, but I can’t. I’m lost for words, bro. This game is so beautiful, but it’s so ugly.”

— Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas

BOX SCORE

Carolina 27, Seattle 23

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