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Little-Big Plays: Carolina at Seattle Week 6

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Highlighting the little plays that made all the difference between winning and losing in Carolina's 27-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Little-big plays are the plays that may not stand out in the box score, but go a long way to winning – or losing –a game. Little-big plays extend drives that lead to scores, turn field goals into touchdowns, or flip field position.

On the other hand, negative little-big plays can abruptly end drives and take points off the board.

Here are the little-big plays that helped the Carolina Panthers beat their nemesis Seattle Seahawks in Week 6 of the 2015 NFL season.

Positive plays from Panther players are marked with a plus-sign and negative plays with a minus-sign, with the players' cumulative season totals for each type of play listed by his name. For example, if on the year Cam Newton has posted six positive little-big plays and three negative plays, it would show (+6, -3).

1st Quarter

8:20 – Panthers 0, Seahawks 0. CAR ball 3rd-and-13 on CAR 13. The game started as expected with tough, physical defense. Seattle had punted on both of its first two possessions, and the Panthers punted on their first series. On Carolina’s second drive Cam Newton (+7, -3) dropped to pass on 3rd-and-13 from his own 13 yard line and tried to force the ball to Jerricho Cotchery. Newton’s pass was behind Cotchery and Earl Thomas jumped the route for an interception, setting up a Seattle field goal that ricocheted off the upright for a 3-0 lead.

4:20 – Panthers 0, Seahawks 3. CAR ball 2nd-and-10 on CAR 31. Ahtyba Rubin sacked Cam Newton for a 10 yard loss, but Richard Sherman was flagged for defensive holding. Instead of 3rd-and-20, Carolina got a new set of downs on a drive that would end with a Cam Newton rushing touchdown and a 7-3 Panthers lead.

2nd Quarter

13:27 – Panthers 7, Seahawks 3. CAR Kickoff to SEA. After Cam’s rushing touchdown, Tyler Lockett returned Graham Gano’s kickoff and was drilled at the 10 yard line by Teddy Williams (+2, -1). In tough defensive matchups, special teams plays like this can be big in getting the advantage in field position.

12:28 – Panthers 7, Seahawks 3. SEA ball 3rd-and-9 on SEA 11. Carolina had Seattle pinned deep on 3rd-and-13, but cornerback Charles Tillman (+1, -2) gave a huge cushion to receiver Chris Matthews. Matthews simply sprinted past the first down marker, turned, and caught an easy pass for a first down. Tillman was never within five yards of the receiver. The first down extended a drive that ended with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown, putting Seattle up 10-7.

7:03 – Panthers 7, Seahawks 10. CAR ball 3rd-and-13 on CAR 17. Facing 3rd-and-13 and struggling to move the ball, Mike Shula (+1, -1) dialed up a beautiful screen pass to Fozzy Whitaker in the left flat. Ryan Kalil (+1, -3) and Andrew Norwell (+3) pulled as lead blockers and threw great blocks as Fozzy picked up 15 and a first down. The Seattle fans were going crazy before this play, and the first down quieted the crowd and seemed to stop some of Seattle’s momentum.  It also flipped field position, so when the series ended with a punt, Brad Nortman (+3, -1) was able to pin the Seahawks on their own 11 yard line after a great special teams tackle by Tre Boston (+1).

:58 – Panthers 7, Seahawks 10. CAR ball 4th-and-1 on SEA 37. Instead of attempting a long field goal, Carolina went for it on 4th-and-1 near the end of the first half. Cam Newton (+7, -4) went play action and had Greg Olsen open, but Newton floated the pass too high, giving Earl Thomas the extra fraction of a second he needed to deflect the pass. A conversion here would have likely meant at least a field goal for the Panthers to close out the half.

:41 – Panthers 7, Seahawks 10. SEA ball 3rd-and-2 on SEA 45.With one time out remaining and nearing midfield, Jimmy Graham ran a quick slant on third down. Roman Harper (+1) made a great play on the ball to break up the pass. Seattle was forced to punt instead of extending a drive to close the half with a score.

3rd Quarter

12:21 – Panthers 7, Seahawks 10. SEA ball 3rd-and-14 on SEA 33. Facing third-and-long, Jimmy Graham ran a deep seam route. Roman Harper (+1, -1) was a step slow breaking to cover Graham, and the Seahawks tight end hauled in a 27-yard gain one step ahead of Harper. Instead of punting, the Seahawks scored on a trick play on their very next snap, extending their lead to 17-7.

10:51 – Panthers 7, Seahawks 17. CAR ball 2nd-and-7 on CAR 23. Cam Newton dropped back to pass and Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril bull rushed right through Mike Remmers (-1). Avril hit Newton’s arm on the release, and the pass fluttered over the middle and was intercepted by Kam Chancellor. To make matters worse, Ted Ginn had beaten Cary Williams off the line and was running free down the sideline. Newton’s throw was to Ginn for what would have likely been a touchdown. Instead, the Seahawks got the ball deep in their own territory.

10:02 – Panthers 7, Seahawks 17. SEA ball 2nd-and-6 on CAR 29. Russell Wilson faked a handoff to his left, then spun right to run. Kony Ealy (+1, -3) stayed at home on the end and was suddenly one-on-one with the nimble Seattle quarterback. Wilson juked, but Ealy read Wilson perfectly, stayed in front of him, and pounced like a cat to drop Wilson for a five yard loss. Ealy’s incredibly athletic play helped end the series with a 50-yard Seattle field goal, upping the Seahawks lead to 20-7.

5:26 – Panthers 7, Seahawks 20. CAR ball 3rd-and-3 on SEA 46. On third-and-short, Cam Newton hit Greg Olsen on a crossing route that went for 22 yards. The little-big play was actually Ed Dickson’s (+2, -1) legal pick on Cary Williams on the cross that gave Olsen just enough separation from Williams to make the long gain. Two plays later Olsen hauled in another 22-yard reception, then Jonathan Stewart punched in a 1-yard touchdown cutting the Seahawk’s lead to 20-14.

2:50 – Panthers 14, Seahawks 20. SEA ball 3rd-and-8 on SEA 22. Facing a three-and-out after Stewart’s touchdown, Russell Wilson attempted to throw to an open Jimmy Graham over the middle. Graham had beat Roman Harper and the pass would have likely produced a first down, but Kawann Short (+3, -1) got his hands up at the line and batted down Wilson’s pass for an incompletion. Instead of a potential Seattle first down, Short’s deflection forced a punt.

4th Quarter

15:00 – Panthers 14, Seahawks 20. SEA ball 3rd-and-4 on SEA 22.On the first play of the fourth quarter, Roman Harper was in man coverage on Jimmy Graham. Graham ran an out route as Russell Wilson started to scramble. Harper (+1, -2) seemed to momentarily take his eyes off Graham to look back at Wilson, allowing Graham to turn his route up the field. Graham hauled in a monster 45-yard reception with Harper trailing, setting up a Seattle field goal and a 23-14 lead

11:07 – Panthers 14, Seahawks 23. CAR ball 2nd-and-3 on CAR 27. On 2nd-and-3 Mike Shula’s (+1, -2) offense was flagged for an illegal substation. Now facing 2nd-and-8, the Panthers were unable to get a first down and were forced to punt two plays later. This penalty was a drive killer.

8:08 – Panthers 14, Seahawks 23. CAR ball 1st-and-10 on CAR 20. Devin Funchess (-1) ran a deep in route and dropped a perfectly thrown pass that hit him right in the hands. Making matters worse, the ball popped up in the air and was nearly intercepted. But Funchess (-1, +1) redeemed himself six plays later making a diving, fully-extended beautiful catch for a first down.

4:39 – Panthers 14, Seahawks 23. CAR ball 1st-and-10 on SEA 33. On the play following Funchess’s nice grab, Cam Newton (+8, -4) threw a perfect pass over the middle to Greg Olsen. The pass was just high enough to clear the linebackers and allowed Olsen to make a leaping catch and sprint 32 yards to the 1-yard line. Right tackle Mike Remmers (+1, -1) made a nice block on defensive end Cassius Marsh who rushed wide, and Remmers pushed him behind Newton, giving his quarterback a clean pocket. Jonathan Stewart scored on the next play, narrowing the gap to 23-20.

4:39 – Panthers 20, Seahawks 23. CAR Extra Point Attempt. Graham Gano (+1, -1) missed the extra point, leaving the Panthers down three instead of two. A late Panthers field goal would now only tie instead of winning the game. The missed extra point was a punch in the gut for the surging Panthers.

3:05 – Panthers 20, Seahawks 23. SEA ball 1st-and-10 on SEA 40. Shaq Thompson (+1, -1) came untouched on an edge blitz and nearly sacked Russell Wilson. Marshawn Lynch was flagged for holding Thompson to prevent the sack. The penalty blew up the series for Seattle and they were forced to punt three plays later.

:54 – Panthers 20, Seahawks 23. CAR ball 3rd-and-3 on SEA 33. Facing third down on the edge of field goal range, Jerricho Cotchery (+2) ran a buttonhook just past the first down marker. Cotchery was blanketed by safety DeShawn Shead, and the Panthers receiver simply outmuscled Shead to make the catch. The physical grab by Cotchery set up the epic game-winning touchdown to Greg Olsen on the very next play.

:32– Panthers 27, Seahawks 23. CAR Kickoff to SEA. After Olsen’s instant classic touchdown, Graham Gano’s kickoff was returned by Tyler Lockett. Shaq Thompson (+2, -1) flew downfield on coverage and dropped Lockett at the 10. Because of Thompson’s key special teams play, Seattle had terrible starting field position and needed to cover 90 yards on their final drive for a potential game-winning touchdown.

But there would be no 90-yard drive for Seattle.

The Panthers defense shut down the Seahawks offense as the game came to an end without Seattle even getting in position for a final Hail Mary.

This was a statement win for the Panthers. Personally, this win one of the most exciting, satisfying regular-season victories I have ever seen.

Going back to last season, the Panthers are now 9-1 over their last 10 games, including the playoffs. This Panthers team can beat any team in the NFL on any given Sunday right now. What a glorious win! What a glorious time to be a Panthers fan!

Keep pounding!