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Seahawks pounce in second half to beat Panthers in Week 3

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

As part of the Seahawks celebration of their 2013 Super Bowl champion team, Pete Carroll on Saturday asked Red Bryant – who was the defensive captain of that squad – to give a little pep talk at the end of walkthrough.

It was Bryant who often said the last words to the 2013 team in the locker room before every game.

“It was a classic Red Bryant at pregame,” Carroll said. “I told him, ‘OK, give the pregame speech like (you) used to.’ It didn’t take him two seconds to jump into character.”

And then on Sunday, it was the current edition of the Seahawks who did their best rendition of portraying the character of that 2013 team in a 37-27 win over Carolina.

Like that squad did a few times, the Seahawks didn’t get off to the greatest start, falling behind 13-12 at halftime.

But like that squad usually did, the Seahawks came back to dominate the second half and win going away, doing so with a balanced offense that featured 296 yards passing from Geno Smith and a season-high 146 running, including 97 from Kenneth Walker III, outscoring the Panthers 25-7 in the first 28 minutes of the second half. (It may be forgotten the 2013 team has the greatest comeback in team history, coming from 21 down to beat a nondescript Tampa Bay squad.)

And while this wasn’t as dominant a defensive performance as the 2013 team might usually have turned in, it featured a lot of steps in the right direction with a season-high three sacks, holding Carolina to 44 yards rushing on 14 attempts, and batting down eight passes.

“To give them 44 yards today, that’s a team that likes to run the football, and they were determined, and after a while they couldn’t,” Carroll said. “Great job by our guys. That’s just something that we have to hang on to and be part of our team. When we rush for 146 yards, 33 carries, that’s the same thing on the other side of the ball. We have to make these staples of our play, and then we can find the consistency we need. Really fired up about this day today.”

The homages to the 2013 team, though, hardly ended there.

There was the crowd, frenzied as it was every week that season, helping force the Panthers into eight false starts, the most for any team since 2011, according to ESPN.

“It was crazy,” said linebacker Jordyn Brooks. “They showed up and showed out today. Sometimes it might get me a little rattled, I can’t hear what Bobby (Wagner) said in the huddle. (But) I’ll take that any day.”

There was Jarran Reed breaking through to sack Carolina quarterback Andy Dalton on a fourth-down play midway through the fourth quarter when the score was 29-20 to end what was realistically the Panthers’ last chance to make it a game, and then unveiling the swivel-hip dance made famous by Michael Bennett.

“I thought it was only right,” said Reed, who was a teammate of Bennett’s for two years. “I was thinking the whole day today, if I was getting a sack and I do it, how am I going to look, because I really didn’t practice it. I really didn’t expect to get the sack, but I got it and I just said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ ”

And then there was the duo of Smith and Tyler Lockett, capping the day’s scoring with a two-point play happily reminiscent of the famous Russell Wilson to Luke Willson two-point play against the Packers in the 2015 NFC title game.

The play came after Smith had thrown a TD pass to Jake Bobo to make it 35-20 with 4:17 left, and two points would make it a three-possession game and realistically end all drama.

Smith initially escaped pressure to the left then circled back to the right, finally eyeing Lockett near the left of the end zone and uncorking pass from behind the numbers at about the 22-yard line.

Lockett didn’t deny he was thinking about the Wilson-Willson two-pointer as the play unfolded.

“I had those thoughts in my head when I ran the other way,” Lockett said. “I was like, ‘Bro, it would be so cool if he threw it across the field.’ And then I was like, ‘Oh, he really threw it across the field.’ ”

Lockett turned in a little acting job, trying to make Carolina defender Jeremy Chinn, who was facing away from the ball, think that nothing was coming their way.

“I saw the ball coming,” Lockett said. “I just tried to wait it out and lull the guy to sleep so that way I didn’t have to worry about him trying to grab me and do all that different type of stuff.”

After Lockett got up with the ball, he gave a theatrical bow to the crowd.

“Did Tyler make it look like the ball wasn’t coming?” Carroll asked. “Yeah. That’s amazing stuff. That was a thrill.”

Carroll said the Wilson-Willson play went through his mind, too, as Smith began scrambling.

“Had a little bit of that, yeah,” Carroll smiled. “Just lucking out, yeah.”

Said Smith: “Just one of those things where you’re just out there playing in the backyard. Obviously it’s a two-point conversion. You don’t want to throw it up and give them a chance to get two points. Obviously that would change the game. Kind of reminiscent of that one play Russ had in I think it was 2014 when he threw it to Luke. Tyler is a guy who we trust. When I scrambled I saw it was just him and another guy back there, so figured I would give it a shot, and he did a great job coming down with that.”

Not that the game was all about celebrating the old.

A 36-yard catch by second-year running back Walker set up one TD, and rookie Zach Charbonnet ran over Panther Sam Franklin Jr. near the goal line to set up another.

DK Metcalf had his best game of the season with 112 yards and rookie Devon Witherspoon gave even more evidence why Seattle took him fifth overall with a team-high 11 tackles and two passes defensed in only his second game.

And an offense playing the entire game with three backup linemen, and for a while in the first half with four, powered for 425 yards and 6.0 per play.

It was a game that Carroll felt was not only a proper way to celebrate the 2013 team, but also forget the recent past of the season-opening loss to the Rams two weeks ago.

“The first game was such an outlier, can’t imagine how that happened,” he said. “To go finish 60-plus minutes last week (the win over Detroit) and come back again this week, that’s really a big statement for us to build on. We’re going to need it all the way down the schedule. It’s a young team that’s coming together and finding themselves and we can really make something of that.”