CHARLOTTE -- On a day when the Seattle Seahawks did a lot of things wrong, they found a way to do just enough things right to win.
Isn’t that what championship teams are all about?
The Seahawks hope to become a championship team this season. Many experts are predicting they will.
Sunday’s 12-7 road victory over the Carolina Panthers in the season opener was about a team overcoming adversity and willing itself to win.
“This is one of those types of games that we needed," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We needed some adversity. We talked about it [Saturday night]. We’re going to see some adversity this season.
“We did today. Carolina played well, but our offense got going at the end and the defense stood up when we needed it. I think us getting this kind of game early will help propel us throughout the season."
Big plays at big moments down the stretch were the difference: A game-winning throw by Russell Wilson -- 43 yards down the sideline to Jermaine Kearse -- for Seattle’s only touchdown with 10:21 to go and then the defense forcing a DeAngelo Williams fumble on Carolina’s next possession when he ran inside the Seattle 10.
Those type of plays win close games when you don’t play your best.
“That was a great test,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We made the plays when we needed to make them. It was a very tough day. Carolina made it hard on us, but we hung in there. This is a really good team we beat today with a very dangerous quarterback [Cam Newton]. It’s a quality win for us.”
Most teams in a road opener would have lost this game. The Seahawks had two field goals through the first three quarters. And penalties were an issue once again with nine flags for 109 yards.
Add in the fact Seattle practically was devoid of any running game. Marshawn Lynch had no Beast Mode. It was more like Least Mode. The man who rushed for 1,590 yards last season was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, ending the game with 43 yards on 17 carries, a 2.5-yard average.
Seattle also was missing four key players on its defense. Defensive ends Chris Clemons (rehabbing from knee surgery) and Bruce Irvin (suspended for four games), the top two pass rushers on the team a season ago, did not play. Neither did starting cornerback Brandon Browner or newly acquired pass-rush specialist Cliff Avril, both out with hamstring injuries.
It didn’t matter. The depth on the defense came through. Newton and his offense would score only once. They almost scored again with the game on the line when free safety Earl Thomas stripped the ball from Williams at the Seattle 8.
Sherman made the initial hit before Thomas stripped it.
“I think I should get half a [forced] fumble on that one, like a sack,” Sherman said smiling at Thomas. “Williams was on a great run, but I tried to put my helmet and shoulder pads on [the ball] and then Earl got his fist on it. That’s what we practice every day.”
The Seahawks took over with 5:25 remaining. Carolina never got it back. It’s was the longest drive (time-wise) of the second half for Seattle, moving all the way to the Carolina 24 to run out the clock.
Wilson was 4-for-4 for 53 yards on the final drive. After going 1-for-5 to start the game, Wilson competed 24 of his last 28 passes.
“After the first five or six passes, he was on fire," Carroll said of Wilson. “He came through for us in great fashion, but we don’t need him to be under the kind of pressure he was today.”
Wilson often was running for his life and he took some big hits, but it didn’t slow him down.
Carroll said the team that won Sunday has little resemblance to the one that lost 20-16 at Arizona in the 2012 opener.
“This a difference team than that first game a year ago,” Carroll said. “We had a lot of new guys and we couldn’t find a way to get it done. But I think this game showed our maturity.”
The game showed a lot of things. It showed the Seahawks have a young quarterback that continues to improve and exceed expectations, a young man who takes what the defense gives him and makes good things happen.
It showed the defense has exceptional depth and should be even better when some of its top performers return. It showed those old problems of failing to win in East Coast road games may be a thing of the past.
Seattle was 19-34 the previous 12 season in games that start at 1 p.m. ET. Maybe that was more about a lack of talent than it was about the time change.
Most importantly, Sunday showed that this Seahawks team can win on an underperforming day when most teams would lose.
“We just kept it alive,” Wilson said. “I think it’s an attitude and mentality that Coach Carroll instills in us. We keep battling no matter what the circumstances are. Everybody believes that we can make a play, and every guy believes he is the man who will make it.”
The Seahawks did a lot of things wrong Sunday, and they won anyway, because they did just enough things right.