One word best describes Russell Wilson's Saturday night in the NFC divisional playoffs against Carolina.
That's the word Pete Carroll used following Wilson completing 15 of 22 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns -- including 8 for 8 for 199 yards and all three scores on third downs -- in the Seahawks' 31-17 victory that puts them in the NFC championship game for the second consecutive January. His 149.2 passer rating was the fifth-highest in NFL postseason history.
"That's as good as it can get," Carroll said of his third-year quarterback.
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Well, 158.3 is a perfect quarterback rating. But why quibble on a night like this?
Wilson extended his NFL record with his 41st victory, the most by a QB in the first three seasons of a career. He is now 17-3 in December, January and February and 5-1 in the playoffs.
"Sometimes," Wilson said, "I think I'm made for these situations."
What helped make Wilson so good tonight was how much time he had to throw -- for a change. Center Max Unger returned after being out six games with a high-ankle sprain and -- presto! -- Wilson had time to wait to his receivers do double moves plus improvisational routes on his scrambles.
"I'm excited to have Max Unger back in there," Wilson said.
No wonder. The Seahawks wanted to target the two rookie starters in Carolina's secondary. Unger and the offensive line allowed Wilson to do exactly that.
Wilson's mind -- and arm -- did the rest.
Late in the first quarter he saw the Panthers in "Cover Zero," the safeties on the hash marks instead of in the middle of the field. Wilson had time to watch Doug Baldwin to fake the jock strap off Carolina rookie safety Tre Boston around the 3-yard line. Wilson threw a pass of faith even before Baldwin's stutter move and run into the end zone; had Boston not bitten on Baldwin's move he would have intercepted the pass. Instead, Baldwin caught it 4 yards behind Boston in the end zone to put the Seahawks up 7-0 late in the first quarter.
Wilson's second touchdown came when the targeted Carolina's other rookie starting defensive back. On third and 7 with 5 minutes left in the first half he found Lakewood's Jermaine Kearse one on one with Bene Benwikere. Wilson precisely plopped his throw into the crook of Kearse's right arm at the Panthers' 33, over the wide receiver's shoulder and 3 yards past Benwikere. Kearse ran the rest of the way for a 63-yard score, the longest touchdown pass in Seattle's postseason history that made it 14-7 Seahawks.
Benwikere got his shoulder about ripped out of its socket on a third-down catch and bullish run through Benwikere by tight end Luke Wilson early in the fourth quarter. Three plays later with Benwikere on the Carolina sideline injured, on third and 10 at the Panthers 25, Wilson's exploited Benwikere's replacement, second-year man Melvin White.
Luke Willson split out wide right instead of tight. Marshawn Lynch went from the backfield into the right flat. White took two steps up and out to go after Lynch. Willson zoomed on a slant instead the out-of-place White. Wilson's throw hit his speedy tight end in stride at the 17, and Willson ran the rest of the way in to make it 24-10 Seahawks with 11 minutes left.
Wilson said Willson was his first read all the way -- even if Lynch in the right flat was his first look.
"I kind of looked in the flat just to kind of make the guys move a little bit and gave Luke a chance," Wilson said.
Wilson looked to the sky following the score. He wasn't looking into the rain. He wasn't looking for someone inside CenturyLink Field.
He was recognizing his late father, Harrison Wilson III. He died in 2010 at the age of 55 after a long battle with diabetes. That was two years before the Seahawks selected his son in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
"I'm just truly grateful. Every time I usually look to the sky, I'm thanking my dad," Wilson said. "If you ever catch me doing that, that's usually what it is."
--Here is my game story, leading with Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman's great quote about his thumping teammate.
--News Tribune columnist Dave Boling writes there was only one Superman at quarterback Saturday night -- and it wasn't Cam Newton.
--Fellow TNT columnist John McGrath writes how Jermaine Kearse went from out with a hamstring injury to record holder for longest TD catch in Seahawks' playoff history.
--Colleague Todd Milles writes how the other Willson, Luke, killed the Panthers -- again.
--The Seahawks Notebook starts with the switch of Tharold Simon for Byron Maxwell. Carroll said it was because of shortness of breath and the chest cold Maxwell has had the caused him to miss practice on Wednesday -- though Maxwell's contract ends after this season.
--Colleague Meg Wochnick writes how bummed Can Newton was.
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said by the end of the game the Panthers quarterback looked "like he had lost his puppy."
--And here are a ton of postgame quotes:
HEAD COACH PETE CARROLL
(Opening…) “That was really an extraordinary night here at CenturyLink. I don’t know how you describe the power of the 12s and what the fans did tonight. That was amazing. Every player could feel it, throughout the game. The support, the backing, just the noise and the craziness in the stadium. It’s just extraordinary and it makes it so much fun, such a great event to be a part of. Our guys played really hard tonight, and played a really good, tough, physical game, like we thought we would need to. We had a lot of respect for these guys. I thought that they did an excellent job, mixed all of the different runs that they did, and they did just a really good job with it. I thought Cam played really good, but our guys hung in there tough and kept the score down and allowed for some guys to really make some things happen. I don’t know that a strong safety can have a better game than Kam had tonight. He was all over the place, he had, I heard 11 tackles and a pick for a touchdown. But, all the big hits that he made, and all the things that he did tonight. It was just an amazing football game he was able to get done tonight. I was really fired up for Russell, he had a great night on third downs tonight. I don’t know what he was, but he must have hit almost everything. I think he had three third down touchdown passes, which is just unheard of. How does that ever happen? He did a great job. All in all, it’s a terrific first win in the divisional round here, and we got one more game, that’s all we got. We’re going to crank it up, and we’ll see who it is after tomorrow. “
(On whether he has any predictions on Sunday’s games…) “No.”
(On whether the offense gets enough credit for making explosive plays… ) “No, I don’t care about credit. I don’t care about that. That’s something that we really cherish, explosive plays, because we know that those determine scores in drives and stuff, so it’s a big deal. For us to continue to see that in our game. It makes us hard to defend. We’re really good on the other side of the ball, too, in the same area. It’s a real point of emphasis to us. There were some beautiful plays. Luke did some great stuff, and Jermaine had a terrific game. Fantastic play by Russell and Jermaine. It led to all that stuff. ”
(On the touchdowns from Russell Wilson on third and long…) “That’s a fantastic night; coming through in the critical situations. To get three scores and whatever he hit. He might have hit them all on third down, completion-wise. It was a fantastic job of game-planning, execution, great job by the receivers, and also the protection to give him a chance, too. So, everybody works together to get that done. That’s not a one guy show, but he certainly had some stats on third down tonight.”
(On the value of the 12th man, after three road games against Carolina…) “It’s a spectacle. You’d have to talk to them, what they thought about it, as far as how it affected the game. But, I do know that it’s certainly charges us in a way that’s extraordinarily rare. It’s an incredible place. They’re standing up and they’re screaming the whole time. It’s just so much fun to be part of it. I think they’re going to be kind of revved up next week, too. It’s so cool to be able to bring the game back to them, and have another shot at it. Let’s go get warmed up, 12s, we need another week out of you.”
(On the injuries… ) “Byron [Maxwell] just didn’t feel well enough. We thought he would come out of it. He was sick during the week. He just didn’t feel well enough to contribute on a steady basis so he participated on special teams, and he was available to us if we needed him in the nickel. But really, he just didn’t feel well, at all. Paul [Richardson] sprained his knee, a knee that he’s had worked on before, so we’ll see, we’re not sure. Sometimes you can’t tell on the tests right now. But, he’s pretty sore, it looks like. Max [Unger] did roll his ankle a little bit, the same one that he had injured. He felt pretty good once he got into the locker room. So, maybe it’s just a scare; we’ll see. We don’t know. We’ll see what happens. ”
(On Russell Wilson’s passing on third down…) “He had a great night on third down. What was his stats. On third down, he was 8 for 8 for 199. That’s impeccable work. And three scores, that’s as good as it can get. Thanks for bringing that up again. [laughter]”
(On the Wilson to Willson connections getting more crisp…) “I really agree with you. The work that they’ve put in, the time they’ve spent together; Luke is really coming alive. They are creating a chemistry that makes a difference. Luke is a big man that runs real fast. If you get the ball in his hands, you saw him break the tackles and go. He’s a heckuva football player. So, that’s something that’s really exciting. It’s coming on, and you’re right, it’s getting better as we’re finishing up this season. It really bodes well for the future and those guys working together. ”
(On the consistent success in the second half…) “It’s just the way it’s always been. It’s been that way for a lot of years. It’s not unusual or uncommon for us. We figure out the plan, do the things that we’re doing in the first half to get the information, and then respond with that information, and usually we do better. Our guys know that. They know that the second half is something that we can really count on our guys making something happen on both sides of the ball. It’s really, really fun to finish well. We take a lot of pride in that, and it’s working out, still.”
(On the field goal sequence at the end of the first half…) “That was game planned. It was extremely well orchestrated. Brian Schneider saw something during the week and tried to take advantage of it. They really didn’t have enough time to adjust after the first attempt. Was there 3 different tries? We’re just working on our field goal block. That’s just the way it turned out. Unfortunately, the kicker kicked it so poorly that Kam couldn’t block the second one. And, then we roughed him. So, it was just kind of a calamity there. ”
(On Carolina’s long drive in the second quarter….) “Yes, they executed really well. They got the running game going in that drive, and Cam hit a couple of plays. They just put together a great drive. We were hoping that that would be the drive of the night, and it pretty much was. I don’t know how many plays that was, but it was really well executed and they had us moving on that.”
(On whether Carolina ran some misdirection plays….) “Yes, they did. I don’t mind saying it, because the teams that are coming from this point forward can’t run the ball like Cam can. That’s a very difficult offense. The threat that he poses allows them to do some other stuff. It’s the Panther offense, but it’s structured so much about Cam’s capabilities. They were able tonight to take advantage of the fact that we had loaded up against the running game and throw the ball outside some and they had some success out there. It’s not going to be the same the next couple times out. Still, they did a great job tonight. It was very difficult. “
(On whether Seattle made adjustments over the course of the game…) “As always, we adjust. Our guys did a nice job adjusting and Danny did a good job of keeping everybody calm and taking to the coaching that happened at halftime and the adjustments that we needed to straighten things out. ”
(On the play of Tharold Simon…) “I thought it was a hard night. He had a lot of work, and he had no help at all. Scheme-wise, we were so tucked in for the running game and all of the things that Cam presents to us that he had to hang out there all by himself and they worked it pretty good and did a nice job. It is too bad he didn’t make the play in the end zone, because that’s a play he’s really good at, and just mis-timed it a bit. Other than that, he survived the game and his confidence was strong. He knew it was a hard night because they kept working the ball underneath him, and we had no problem with that.”
(On whether Maxwell had a respiratory problem…) “There’s chest complications with the cold that he had, or something’s going on.”
(On whether he is OK long term…) “I don’t know that. I was kind of surprised he couldn’t rally tonight. We went in thinking he would be able to go. He practiced Thursday and looked ok there but he just couldn’t shake it.”
QB RUSSELL WILSON
(On whether he felt ‘in a zone’ on third down…) “I think it all starts with the offensive line, I think they did a tremendous job tonight blocking up for me, giving me enough time to make some decisions. The guys made some tremendous plays. You think about Jermaine Kearse, he goes for 100+ yards, I think 120 or something and has a phenomenal game. Doug Baldwin has a phenomenal game. Luke Willson makes some huge, big-time plays for us. There were so many different guys tonight. But, like I said, it all starts with the offensive line giving me enough time. ”
(On the difference from earlier Carolina games…) “Honestly, the last time we played them, I didn’t have my best game, I didn’t feel like. This time, we really connected. We really clicked on all cylinders. I’m excited to have Max Unger back in there. You have to give credit to the other guys, Patrick Lewis and Lem, the guys who have played; Schilling, he hasn’t played in a while, but all those guys have stepped up to play the center position, and that’s not easy, especially going against a tough defense like we did tonight. Max Unger played a phenomenal game tonight. ”
(On how it feels to be back in the NFC Championship… ) “It’s exciting. The job’s not done, though. There’s still a lot more to do. We’re on one mission, that’s what we keep talking about, juts one mission. You just take one game at a time, like we always do. Our goal is to go 1-0. The game’s not any different. It’s still 100 yards, it’s still 53 and a third. To play in this stadium is pretty exciting. To be NFC champs, in terms of being first place, coming back home and playing in front of our crowd again. We’re going to really need the 12s, no matter who we play. They were phenomenal tonight, in terms of being extremely loud and tough on the Carolina Panthers. You have to give the 12s some credit, too.”
(On whether will it help that they’ve played both Dallas and Green Bay this season…) “We played both teams, the Packers and the Cowboys, pretty early. We beat the Packers early on in the season, and then the Cowboys we lost to, we didn’t play our best game. Whoever we play, they have phenomenal quarterbacks, they have great defenses, both teams, and great players on offense. So, it’s going to be one of those for the ages, you look forward to that, and I definitely look forward to playing at home, rather than those two places. ”
(On being in a good rhythm today … ) “That was the biggest thing today. I continue to talk to my quarterback coach, coach Carl Smith, just trying to get the ball out on time and just get the ball to the right guy at the right time. Like I said earlier, when the line protects like that and does a phenomenal job like they did, and the guys just make plays. You think about Jermaine’s catch, that 60-plus yard touchdown catch that he had, how good was that? Those are the plays we can make, and that’s always good.”
(On whether the game plan tonight was to emphasize the pass…) “We always want to be balanced. We always want to be 50:50. We have the best running back in the National Football League, so you want to hand the ball off to him. They did a pretty good job of stopping him and so our passing game had to show up tonight, and we made those plays. When guys make exceptional plays like that, it’s easy on me. You just give them a chance, and they make a play.”
(On whether he was surprised with Carolina’s defense stacking to stop the run, even with an empty backfield…) “It didn’t surprise us. They showed a lot of different looks when we went Empty and we just tried to prepare for that and make sure that we got protected and got the ball out and got the ball out on time. Doug Baldwin had that first touchdown catch which kind of got us going there, and that was an awesome play. They brought Cover-Zero, and he goes up and gets it. Those are things that we can do offensively. The defense, though, they give us a chance, they give us a chance every time. They just played so physical. Kam Chancellor had one of his best games that I’ve ever seen, honestly, and Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. Richard Sherman makes that interception, and I look at probably three of our wide receivers, and I just give them the “did he really just do that?” Those are the players that we have, and that’s exciting.”
(On whether Seattle’s defense impacts what they do on offense…) “No, you never say ‘whatever’ when you go three-and-out; it’s never good. I think that it just gives you a better chance. I think offensively, it’s two different sides. Offensively, you want to always produce, you want to always be productive. One of the things I learned in college, to be honest with you, is that it’s never bad to end a possession with a punt or a kick or whatever. A lot of times, we take that for granted. We have the best field goal kicker in the National Football League, in Steven Hauschka. When he makes those field goals, that gives us a couple extra points. If you don’t score a touchdown, that’s ok. Just stay on schedule, and keep believing in it. Tonight, we scored a lot of touchdowns, and we were able to make some key plays, especially on third down, and gave us a chance to win.”
(On whether he watches the TV broadcast of the game…) “I watch the TV copy every once in a while. It depends on what I’m trying to look for. Tomorrow I probably won’t watch our TV copy, I’ll be watching the games tomorrow, just studying that, and kind of playing the game in my head, with some of my teammates, probably, and just watching that game. That will be a lot of fun.”
(On whether the key throws to Luke Willson were his first read…) “The last touchdown to Luke, we had Marshawn going in the flat, we had a guy on the numbers area. I kind of looked to the flat just to kind of make the guys move a little bit and gave Luke a chance and he caught the ball and accelerated to the end zone. Just how fast he is, you guys have seen that in the Arizona game, you saw that tonight, just all the plays he can make, he had a great game.”
(On Wilson looking to the sky after the touchdown…) “I wasn’t looking at the sky in relief, I was more so thanking the Lord for allowing me to have the opportunity to play the great game of football. I’m just truly grateful. Every time I usually look to the sky, I’m thanking my dad, too. If you ever catch me doing that, that’s usually what it is. ”
(On the touchdown pass to Baldwin, why did he change the call…) “They actually brought Cover-Zero against us the last time we played them in Carolina, and they got me on it. I wanted make sure I was prepared for that, and sure enough they showed it and we capitalized on it.”
(On how he rises up for big games like this…) “Sometimes I think I’m made for these situations. I just try to do be prepared for us. When you’re prepared, you’re never scared. You just go. You trust your teammates, you trust the guys you have around you, you trust the preparation, you trust that the balls going to bounce your way, and I just believe that. I just believe in the guys I have around me. We work so hard. I can’t see anybody in the National Football League working harder than us. If there’s a team that works harder than us, I have to give them a lot of credit. When you work that hard every day, you give yourself a really, really good chance to win a lot of football games.”
(On whether this was one of the more complete performances by the offense…) “Yeah, I thought it was definitely a complete game. I thought we could have done a little bit better early on, and in that one point in the second half. But, I’m pretty critical. I think we played a lights-out game, to be honest with you, against a very good defense. We look forward to next week. You can’t look at this game too much, you have to keep moving. The goal is to go 1 and 0. So, we’re going to really need our fans, we’re going to really need to be prepared against whoever wins tomorrow. Both teams are very, very good football teams. We’re excited about that opportunity.”
(On the mental preparation before each game…) “I think playing this game, playing in the National Football League, especially playing quarterback, this game is humbling. If you don’t get prepared, you won’t give yourself a shot. I think that I have great people around me, my quarterback coach, coach Carl Smith, and my assistant quarterback coach, coach Dave Canales, they really get me prepared, and the guys in the room, Tarvaris Jackson and B.J. Daniels, we look forward to practice. We look forward to our meetings. We look forward to getting ready, and the rest of the guys, the rest of the players and coaching staff around me, you know. Every time we come to work, it’s exciting. For me, I always want to be prepared. That’s my biggest fear in life, that’s my only fear, really, is not being prepared. So, I’m going to make sure I do everything I can, and the rest will kind of go from there.”
“Thank you guys. Go Hawks. Strong against cancer.”
WR DOUG BALDWIN
(On how the touchdown play was designed) “Well if you take a look at it, it’s actually very similar to the touchdown that we had in the Eagles game. Won’t give it away, but it’s very similar. We got the same protection, the same look, if you watch me you see me point to the guy knowing that he’s about to blitz. Russ [Wilson] saw it before I did and threw a beautiful ball and gave me a chance to go up and get it.”
(On if there were similar plays happening as Luke Willson’s looked similar) “Yeah, very similar. Russ [Wilson] just did a great job of reading the coverage and made the right decision.”
(On Jermaine Kearse saying this is what pedestrian looks like from a receiving corps, and if this is any statement to the critics) “We don’t really care what our critics say. We just enjoy proving them wrong and also proving ourselves right. We may go out to Applebees tonight and get us some appetizers on the menu you know, it’s just what we do though.”
WR JERMAINE KEARSE
(On setting a franchise playoff record, 63 –yard touchdown tonight) “It’s just the work that we put in. The whole receiver group, it’s not just me. A lot of people doubt us and we just constantly put the work in and we just constantly prove people wrong.”
(On if he thinks people still doubt the receiving group in playoffs) “Of course. You hear it all the time, but whatever. It just comes down to us. We put the work in and we know what we’re capable of and when an opportunity shows, we just make the most of them.”
(On coming out explosive in the second half) “I mean we just finish. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We’re not going to win the game in the first half and we had to come out explosive in the second half and that’s just what we did.”
TE LUKE WILLSON
(On his touchdown catch…) “They had a zone coverage, I kind of sat in a little window, and Russ threw it right on time, I was able to catch it, kind of break a tackle there, and get some extra yards.”
(On how good Russell Wilson was today…) “Unbelievable. There were a couple of plays, obviously throwing the ball, everyone saw that, but I always enjoy his scrambles, that are just unbelievable. He does that every week. He makes great defenses look like peewee football. Those are big plays. You call a play, and it’s not really working, and he is able to continually make plays, and it’s pretty awesome.”
(On why he does well against Carolina…) “I don’t know. Not really sure. The way things are going right now, I’d like to keep playing them. It was kind of neat. My parents are here, too, so that was kind of cool. My parents came all the way from LaSalle, Ontario, to catch this one, so it was nice.”
DE CLIFF AVRIL
(On if this is where the team needs to be) “There’s always room for improvement, and we feel that there’s definitely room for improvement but we’re definitely heading in the right direction and we’re happy in the direction that we’re heading. We have to continue to keep building and the sky’s the limit for us.”
(On having a big differential second half of the game) “I play defense, so I don’t know.”
(On only giving up seven points in the last seven games in the fourth quarter) “I know, we’re mad about those seven points. No, I mean, we’re just playing good ball. We know we can’t win the game in the first or second quarter, we know we need to win it in the third or fourth quarter. I don’t know if there’s a light switch or something that turns on or anything like that.”
DE MICHAEL BENNETT
(On what was different about this win…) “Another week, doing the same thing we’re always doing. Watching “Homeland.” Just chilling. Just doing the things we’ve always been doing.”
(On the Panthers…) “They played a great game. Defensively, they played a really good game. Offensively, they had a good plan, but we just were victorious today.”
SS KAM CHANCELLOR
(On going back to the NFC Championship game) “It’s a blessing to go back--all the glory to God. He’s had his hand on this team for a while and we’re using our God given ability out there, we’re playing together, and we’re showing a lot of love for one another. I think those things are what you need as a team to come together to go through this journey like you should and like you want to.”
(On his interception) “It’s a credit to the defensive line man--the defensive line did a great job on that interception play. I look back and I see Cam [Newton] just under pressure and looked as if he was going to get tackled and he threw the ball right to me. I read the play, I saw the defensive line get pressure on Cam, credit goes to them, and I just finished the play.”
(On Kam being the real superman) “You know what--they call me batman so he can have the superman. I’m the dark knight.”
LB BRUCE IRVIN
(On the Carolina running backs, Stewart and Williams…) “They both were running hard. Stewart’s a good back. I didn’t really see DeAngelo too many times, but Stewart is a good back. He runs tough. But, we knew he was going to run tough, this is where he’s from. You know he was going to try to come out here and play hard, and he did. The most important thing we got out of here was just win. ”
(On which turnover was most impressive tonight…) “It has to be Kam’s.”
CB RICHARD SHERMAN
(On why the defense is dominant in the 2nd half) “We’re playing for each other--I think that’s the biggest thing. Guys are playing selfless--there aren’t any egos, there aren’t any agendas, and guys just want to do whatever it takes to win--if that means making a tackle, then make the tackle; if that means catching the football, we’re going to catch the football. Guys are playing for one another, they don’t care about stats, nor do they care about anything else.”
(On Kam Chancellor’s interception) “It’s fitting--but it’s disappointing that he didn’t get the accolades that he deserved this year. I think every year he gets snubbed more than anybody else. I think this year he should have been first team all-pro and it should have been easy. Who’s the other first team all-pro safety? Is he in the playoffs? No he’s not. You have to make those decisions some time, you have to go with the guy who’s in the playoffs, who’s making big plays, who continues to play at a high level beyond the regular season. A lot of these guys are regular season guys--and cool. Championships are won in the playoffs.”
CB THAROLD SIMON
(On who can stop the Seahawks now) “Only ourselves. Like I said we got to keep going out there, keep playing, I don’t think nobody can stop nobody [us] except their selves [ourselves]. We keep going out there doing our best and playing our hardest and we’re untouchable.”
(On when he found out he was going to start) “As soon as I walked into the locker room they kind of told me I was going to be starting.”
(On if it was surprising) “A little bit. He kind of warned me during the week but we weren’t really sure because we kind of thought Maxy [Byron Maxwell] would be ready. As soon as I walked in they were like, you’re going.”
(On how you felt you did) “I feel I did pretty solid except for the two touchdowns, but other than that, I feel like I played pretty solid.”
(On how he really didn’t give up any plays) “No, except for basically the last one was the biggest play but like I said, I will go back and watch film and get better at that.”
LB BOBBY WAGNER
(On the defensive battle…) “We kind of knew it was a defensive battle. We wanted to come in and kind of make our mark, just run out there and hit, and everything else would kind of take care of itself. We knew what was at hand and we just wanted to play good.”
(On whether there was extra motivation, knowing that Kuechly was on the other side…) “I just felt sunk in today. As the team wins, us working toward the Super Bowl, that’s a lot better than kind of personal things.”
(On the play of the defense…) “We just played really good. We figured out the new plays that they had, and once we got going, and once we started figuring out everything, everybody was flying around making plays. That’s what we were doing.”
LB K.J. WRIGHT
(On how Kam Chancellor played) “He was on fire, man. That’s our captain man. I love the way he plays. He brings so much energy to this team. Big hits. Pick sixes. Everybody looks up to that guy. He had a hell of a game.”
(On how much the team feeds off of Kam Chancellor’s intensity) “We love it man. Whenever I look at him I just get inspired because he’s a guy that we love and he’s a guy that just sets the tone. He’s a big time guy.”
(On if something was missing earlier in the season when Chancellor wasn’t healthy) “Yep. You saw it was clear that he wasn’t the same guy he was but you like you said this whole team just came on fire towards the end of the season. That’s what you really need. To finish strong and to win the NFC West.”
HEAD COACH RON RIVERA
(What was the difference in today’s game…) “Unfortunately turnovers and missed opportunities in terms of chances on a couple of plays. We had a blitz on the first touchdown they scored. Tre (Boston) was in pretty good position, he lost sight of the ball and they made a nice play. Bene (Benwikere) the same thing, we were in good position, he lost sight of the ball and they made a big play, give them credit for the play. They had a couple of nice throws and a couple of nice catches. The turnovers were not at the right time unfortunately and they took advantage of it.”
(What happened on the fumbled handoff…) “Cam read it, saw that it was going to be a negative play and he tried to pull it. He’s reading to see what’s going to happen. He tried to make a play.”
(Does the left tackle have to block down on that one…) “No, for the most part were trying to read off of that. He saw that he was going to pull it out and try and get around him and try and pick up as many yards as he could.”
(Defensively was that what did you in, not getting off the field on third down…) “We did some things early on to give ourselves some opportunities but you have to give them credit and give their quarterback credit. He is a special football player. He made some plays, especially when it counted, especially in third down situations.”
(Thoughts on Wilson…) “He was making plays. That’s the honest truth about it. He is a smart football player. He’s a sharp football player. He got some protection a couple of times. He was able to hold the ball until somebody came up. He caught us a couple of times in blitzes when we were bringing pressure on him, trying to get after him. He read that, they picked him up, they made some good plays. There is a reason why, there in the situation they are.”
(Did you need for Cam and everyone to play better….) “Well certainly, we needed them (Seattle) to make some mistakes and that would help. But it didn’t happen, again credit to them. They did some really good things, we made some mistakes. We missed some opportunities. They did some things that lead to winning championships. They scored on defense, they took the ball away. You have to give them credit, there a good football team.”
(What are your emotions right now…) “Well, I’m disappointed for our team. First of all, I would like to see us play better. We had opportunities, again credit to them. Again I am disappointed for them, they came so far. They really have, they fought, they went through an awful lot. They endured an awful lot, they kept their heads up. They played together, they came together and they deserved to be here. Again I know a lot of people don’t agree with me, but that’s too bad. That’s the way it is. I’m proud of these guys. I’m proud of who they are as young men. They fought, they didn’t quit. They showed up everyday, they went to work everyday. They worked very hard and they gave themselves an opportunity to get in the playoffs. They won one game in the playoffs and lost to the defending champs. So I’m pretty proud of who they are.”
(How do you think you will look back on the 2014 season…) “With a little humor and a little pride. You can’t make this stuff up that happened to us. There is a lot of irony to the things that happened. But the one thing that I’m proud of is that these guys never quit. They showed up, they wanted to work. They stayed late, they stayed after practice, late after meetings, they watched film. They came together. They did the things that you needed to do when the situation was right to win. We had to win and we did. We had to win out to get in the playoffs and we did. We had to win our first round and we did. I would have liked to have played better today. But I’m not going to take anything away from Seattle, they are a heck of a football team, there defending champs. I tell you what, they have a great opportunity to go win next week.”
(Russell’s first two touchdown passes, were you in man coverage…) “Yes both times. They caught us in pressure on both of those and the young guys lost sight of the ball. Tre kind of looked down inside. I think Tre might have been expecting a slant and he didn’t expect the ball to be thrown up like it was. I think Bene got crossed up a little bit. I thought that Bene was a half a step away, he just never saw the ball.”
(Do you think that Russell was targeting the young guys…) “No, I don’t think so. I think he just made two great reads. I really do. Again there is a reason why to me, I think he’s special. All the young man has done is win.”
(Did your defense being on the field a long time in the fourth quarter hurt…) “No, again I think it was missed opportunities. We drove the ball down there and again Cam was late on a read and threw an interception for a touchdown. At that point we still had a chance, were still in their fighting. Again who knows what would have happened if we could have scored a touchdown there. Instead it goes the other way, they‘re a very good football team.”
(Thoughts on defending the run in the second half…) They (Seattle) got one big run is what they really did. If you let them keep pounding and taking shots at you, they are going to make something happen. They have a special running back as well. Marshawn is a heck of a football player and the quarterback got after us, a credit to him. He again made a couple of good reads in the zone read, he pulled the ball and picked up 8,9,10 yards. That keeps you off balance, now all of a sudden his triple threat comes into play. The ability to hand the ball off, throw the ball or keep it and run. When a quarterback is on and that’s happening, he is tough to stop and their offense is tough to stop.”
(How tough was it for Cam to run on the Seahawks defense…) “It was tough. You have to give them credit. Again the hybrid style of outside linebacker slash defensive end, that they have, posed some problems. We can’t put ourselves in the hole and expect us to win football games, especially against good football teams like this. Your constantly clawing up hill and it kind of dictates a little to you. Again you would have liked to have had some opportunities where you could have forced them to kick some field goals instead of allowing the touchdowns over the top.
QB CAM NEWTON
(On the difference of the game…) “The difference was just missed opportunities. [I] did a bad job of protecting the football, and when you’re playing a great defense you just have to take what they give you. A lot of times, I was overlooking the play that needed to be made of instead trying to make the bigger play. We started to move the ball, but one thing we have to learn moving forward is this: great teams build from these types of opportunities. Through what we’ve been through this year, it doesn’t stop. We had a great run, yet we just have to come back and mature as a team and know that when we’re in this type of situation again, we will prosper.”
(On the positive future of this team…) “Absolutely. When you look at how many players made an impact [that have been in the league] for two years (or less), it kind of tells you that sky is the limit. Yet, it’s the NFL, and teams change every day. This offseason is something in which we need to grow as a whole unit, and we will—we will be ready to go.”
(On the mentality coming in…) “We didn’t think coming out here that were going to lose. I don’t put on my helmet just to bow down to somebody and say ‘You guys got it.’ We play with a chip in our shoulder. Coming into this game, you saw a team that wasn’t afraid of the hostile environment; it wasn’t afraid of the defense it was going against. We just stepped up to the challenge, and yet we’ve got be more thorough throughout the game. When you’re playing a team like this that is talented, coached well, and schemed and ready to go, you just have to be ready and play a full game of football.”
(On his current emotions…) “I don’t know how I feel. Of course I am frustrated, but I have been on this mood before, and I need not speak on it. And yet, I feel overwhelmed with emotion. I feel like since Day 1, as a team, nobody gave us anything. But having a performance like today makes you want to go back and play it right now. We wish we could play these guys over again. These guys are a good team. We’re a good team—we have to be better, and we will be better. Yet, I am extremely pleased with this team’s performance to a degree—but we are not satisfied by any means, and we are still hungry to seize the ultimate goal.”
(On emotions based from adversity…) “There are a lot of mixed emotions because this team has been through so much. I don’t want to make it about myself, but we all know what I’ve been through. Yet, that’s not an excuse. Of course, we would have hoped to get a win today, but we didn’t. When you look back at this year it was tumultuous in so many different ways—on the field and off the field—and the things we could control, we conquered a lot of things, and that’s the optimism of it all.”
(On the importance of the team coming together…) “I would say so. Not necessarily a lot of bad things happened, and that’s not the reason why we were successful. I think guys started to come together and believing, not only in the coaching, but believing in each other. With the injuries we’ve had and the people we’ve missed, from Day 1 it was filling the holes and voids, but yet when we set our teeth in and set out to be who we wanted to be and got comfortable with each other, that’s when you start seeing the benefits.”
(On the fumble…) “That was a read play. I don’t think it was blocked right, but that’s what happens when you play in a hostile environment. A lot of people heard one thing, and others heard something else. It wasn’t necessarily a run read for myself, it was a pass read. The fact that the safety came down so hard to take away the slant or the flat, that tells me as a quarterback to give it. When Jonathan (Stewart) felt the guy getting on him, which I didn’t see because he was supposed to be blocked, anyway. It’s just something you have to grow from. I’m not here to fingerpoint and I am not here to say what did or didn’t happen, but at the end of the day, I am the quarterback and I have the last say of anything. A throw away here or a sack there (would have been better).”
(On the interception…) “I was just trying to give guys opportunities, trying to give guys chances. We know who Richard Sherman is, but yet I said that I am not going to not throw to his side as if it dictates our pass scheme. We can’t just eliminate that side of the field. Don’t get me wrong—he is a great player on top of a lot of great players on that defense—having a hard front seven, a very talented pass rush, on top of that the secondary makes it easy for those guys to roam.”
(On being surprised the team made it this far…) “No, you guys are surprised. We’re not surprised. Right now, a lot of guys counted us out. Not only in this game, but the whole year. That’s why I am proud, that’s why I sticking my chest out with my head up. That locker room has a lot of guys that didn’t have a chance from the jump—we have free agents, guys who are fill-ins for other guys, and played their tails off, and you have to respect that. My hat goes off to every person in that locker room, as well as the coaches for being patient, and the fans, can’t forget about those guys. We’ve been fighting along this whole year. It wasn’t pretty at times, but we still have things we can cheer about and things we can build on.”
(On playing through adversity…) “That’s life. When things happen, you can’t give up and you can’t quit. When a person gets injured, when a person can’t play, when a person isn’t playing good enough, you can’t just shut down the process; you can’t just shut down the unit. A person has to step up and keep it going and battle. If a person dies, all the soldiers don’t go back; you need someone to pick up the rifle and keep shooting. That has been our mentality.”