No running back had picked up 100 yards or more rushing against the Seattle Seahawks’ defense since Jamaal Charles ran for 159 yards on 20 carries in Kansas City’s 24-20 win on Nov. 16, 2014.
That streak went 25 games until Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart rushed for 106 on 19 carries Sunday in the, 31-24, win against the Seahawks.
Stewart, a graduate of Timberline High in Lacey and a University of Oregon product, stunned the Seahawks by taking a handoff up the middle on the first play and breaking it for 59 yards to set up the Panthers’ first touchdown — a 4-yard run he took in himself.
“Jonathan made a nice cut, somebody missed a tackle and the next thing you know he was off to the races,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
Stewart missed the last three regular-season games with a sprained foot, and got to ease back into playing during the Panthers’ bye during last week’s wild card round.
Rivera said Stewart’s return energized the entire team.
“That was the whole thing with me coming back, being able to come back and be effective, not just to come back and go out there and grind it out,” Stewart said. “I wanted to come here and be the running back they expected me to be.”
Stewart, in his eighth season, knew what the opening play was going to be, so he had time to think of how it might unfold.
“We came out and we executed,” Stewart said. “It opened up nicely and I just had to be patient and just take it the distance. I wish I could have taken it all the way, but I’m glad we were able to finish off the drive.”
The Seahawks had been so good against the rush by maintaining their discipline and protecting their gaps. And Stewart looked as if he’d be shut down on the first play, perhaps for no gain.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said they made a mistake on that one.
“They had him bottled up and I think guys kind of lost him in the scrum. Then he came out and a couple guys slipped on the play,” Sherman said. “So, you give 59 yards on one play and that’s going to be tough.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440