Undermanned Seahawks Make ‘Great Statement’ in Carolina
Prior to kickoff at Bank of America Stadium, Seahawks general manager John Schneider knew the Seahawks would be challenged in a tough road environment with numerous starters sidelined by injury.
“Our depth will be tested,” Schneider bluntly said during his weekly pre-game interview with ESPN 710.
Turns out, Schneider’s words proved to be far more prophetic than he would’ve liked, as the Seahawks withstood additional injuries to linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Quandre Diggs to hold on for a 30-24 victory against the Panthers.
Seattle flew to Charlotte without star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who coach Pete Carroll indicated was “violently sick” at practice on Friday and was subsequently ruled out. The team also didn’t have linebacker Mychal Kendricks and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who each missed practice time this week with hamstring injuries, as well as defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who is still recovering from a stinger.
With Wagner and Diggs exiting in the second half and not returning to play, the Seahawks had at least five backups on the field for a good chunk of the fourth quarter. Undermanned, they allowed the Panthers to score two late touchdowns and cut the lead to six points with under four minutes to play.
However, despite the defensive struggles to close out the game, Carroll was proud of the effort given by young reserves after being thrust into action and believes that experience will prove invaluable down the road.
“I think that’s a great statement for us to go out and win a football game with the other guys playing for us. Really proud of those guys. And it’s great for us, again. It gets them closer to helping us when we need it down the stretch. They’re all going to have to contribute. Everybody plays on our team, so they’re going to have to, so hopefully we’ll get better.”
As always, Carroll emphasized the positives, starting with the play of rookie linebacker Cody Barton.
Making his second NFL start in place of Kendricks, Barton finished with a team-leading 10 tackles. Brought on the blitz frequently off the edge, he also harassed quarterback Kyle Allen several times and registered his first career quarterback hit.
When Wagner went down at the 7:02 mark in the fourth quarter, Barton shifted to middle linebacker and Carroll indicated he took over command “calling the shots” for Seattle’s defense.
“Really liked that Cody Barton got 10 tackles today, was part of it, the second game he’s played for us. And we have needed him to come back or jump in and fill in for [Kendricks and Wagner].”
Barton wasn’t alone stepping up, either. Making the start in place of Clowney, Rasheem Green registered his team-leading fourth sack of the season. With Akeem King sliding outside to replace Griffin, Ugo Amadi nearly reeled in his first career interception off a batted pass but running back Christian McCaffrey punched it out of his hands.
Additionally, Lano Hill, who briefly left the game with his own injury and had to be replaced by rookie Marquise Blair, recorded five tackles filling in for Diggs, while Ben Burr-Kirven and Shaquem Griffin played extensive snaps at linebacker during the closing minutes alongside Barton and veteran K.J. Wright.
For the Seahawks to make any noise in January, they’ll need their defense to get healthy in a hurry. There’s no way they’ll be able to contend against the 49ers, Saints and Packers with multiple starters inactive, regardless of how well Russell Wilson and the offense play.
But Carroll isn’t wrong about the experience gained by Barton, Amadi and a host of others being beneficial going into the final two regular-season games. If they’re forced to play any meaningful snaps next month, he knows they’ll be better prepared than if they didn’t take their lumps on Sunday.
“There’s a number of guys that played into the fourth quarter – there was time we might have had six guys out there that are non-starters. And that’s fantastic for those guys to get some play time… It’s a good statement for us going forward. We’re going to need those guys down the stretch and it makes us stronger.”