Seattle Seahawks eliminated but encouraged by Russell Wilson's play

By Curtis Crabtree, The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 19, 2016 at 1:04 AM
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RENTON, Wash. -- After the two early interceptions helped build the massive deficit, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson did everything he could to pull Seattle back from the abyss in Sunday's 31-24 playoff loss at Carolina.

Wilson finished the day with 366 yards passing and three touchdowns as Seattle rallied to within a touchdown before the end of the game. It was the second-most passing yards Wilson has ever thrown for in his career. The only greater output came in Seattle's 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2012 Divisional playoffs.

"(Russell) had a huge day yesterday to get us back in the game," head coach Pete Carroll said. "You always wanted to ask us 'What if he had to throw the ball a lot?' Well, we had to throw it almost 50 times and he did a great job. The more we got into it the better he was and he did a fine job of doing that for us."

Wilson completed 21-of-31 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in the second half alone against the Panthers.

The first interception was completely Wilson's fault as he tried to throw to Marshawn Lynch on a check down to avoid a sack. The pass was intercepted by linebacker Luke Kuechly and returned for a touchdown to give Carolina a 14-0 lead. The second interception happened because left tackle Russell Okung dislocated his left shoulder trying to block defensive end Mario Addison, who got a hand on Wilson's pass and deflected it into the arms of Panthers cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

Wilson has been stellar the second half of the season. He tossed 24 touchdowns with just one interception over a seven-game stretch in November and December as Seattle rallied from a 2-4 start to make the playoffs. With tight end Jimmy Graham expected to be back from injury to join wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks are excited about the future of their passing game.

"We're excited about it," Carroll said. "We can go down the field if we have too, we can throw the ball really quick and do all kinds of stuff. Russell showed all of the things that we would hope to see in really consistent fashion this year."

--Running back Marshawn Lynch played 47 snaps in his first game back after abdominal surgery in November. However, he received just six carries and gained only 20 yards as the score forced Seattle to abandon the running game early.

Lynch missed the previous eight games after surgery on Nov. 25 to address the injury suffered in practice the week before the team's game against the Arizona Cardinals. Lynch played in that game but was limited to just eight carries for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Lynch missed the team's next game against the San Francisco 49ers before being evaluated further and having surgery. He spent the next several weeks working with trainers in the Bay Area before returning to the team for the start of the postseason. However, he was unable to play against the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card round and his return was delayed until Sunday in Charlotte.

"I don't think he's 100 percent at this time but he certainly made it back to where he could play and contribute and he had some nice plays in the game, he just didn't get a lot of opportunities," Carroll said.

There is a real possibility that the game against the Panthers was Lynch's last in a Seattle uniform. Lynch is under contract for two more seasons, but he is expected to make $9 million in 2016. Thomas Rawls took over superbly in Lynch's absence until an ankle injury ended his season. In addition, Lynch hasn't always been the easiest player to manage.

After appearing in just eight games total this season and posting the lowest totals of his tenure in Seattle, Lynch could become expendable.

"I don't know how that's going to go," Carroll said when asked about Lynch's future. "I don't know how any of these guys are going to go right now. I don't know."

--Defensive end Cliff Avril left the game due to a neck injury. Carroll said Avril checked out fine after the game and there is no issue of significance.

--Left tackle Russell Okung suffered a dislocated left shoulder while attempting to block Panthers defensive end Mario Addison on Russell Wilson's second interception.

--Running back Thomas Rawls (ankle) said he expected to be out of his cast in the next few weeks and ready for training camp in late July. He suffered a broken ankle and ligament damage in his ankle against Baltimore in December.

--Tight end Jimmy Graham (knee) is off crutches now and Carroll said it "sounds really good" about his progress so far. Graham suffered a torn patellar tendon against Pittsburgh in late November.

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