CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A recap of the Seahawks’ 16-12 victory over the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday:
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
The Seahawks’ defense. From coordinator Gus Bradley’s game plan, to the way his defenders carried it out, this was just another exemplary performance by a unit that entered the game ranked No. 2 in the league in average points and yards allowed.
The Seahawks held the Panthers without a touchdown – running their streak to eight consecutive quarters – and to only 190 yards. They also limited them to two conversions in 11 third-down situations – or 18 percent, for a unit that had been allowing opponents to convert at a 43-percent rate in its first four games; and 75 percent on third-and-8 or longer.
“It was a great day for our defense,” end Chris Clemons said. “Everybody played exactly the way they were supposed to play today.”
Especially against the Panthers’ vaunted option-read plays that had allowed QB Cam Newton to produce so many big plays the past two seasons. But the Seahawks used cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman to take Newton’s pitch options, leaving the linemen and linebackers to clog Newton’s gap options.
Browner came up huge – even for a 6-foot-4 corner – with a strip and fumble recovery to set up the game’s only offensive touchdown and then combining with nickel back Marcus Trufant to make a stop just short of the end zone on a third-down play in the fourth-quarter goal-line stand.
Rookie rush-end Bruce Irvin had two sacks of Newton, while rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had 1.5 among his six tackles and Clemons had the other half among his six tackles. Sherman had a team-high five solo tackles.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: The only offensive touchdown, which came on Russell Wilson’s 13-yard pass to Golden Tate in the third quarter – after Browner’s strip-and-recover play gave the Seahawks the ball at the Panthers’ 27. Tate lined up as the inside man in a three-receiver set to the right side that also included Braylon Edwards and Sidney Rice. At the snap, he ran up and then across the middle, taking Wilson’s pass and making sure he got into the end zone to give the Seahawks a 13-10 lead.
“Sid and Braylon did a good job of getting their guys out of there,” Tate said. “And my corner didn’t run with me. So Russ did a good job of finding me. After that, I just found a way to get into the end zone.”
Defense: The Panthers’ only touchdown, which came on a pick-six by Captain Munnerlyn. Wilson was going to tight end Anthony McCoy on the play, but threw the ball slightly behind him. That gave Munnerlyn his chance, and he returned the interception 33 yards for the score.
This Captain had been demoted after allowing more completions than any corner in the league last season. The Panthers drafted Josh Norman to take his spot on the right side. But when a shoulder injury prevented Chris Gamble from playing on Sunday, Munnerlyn was back in the starting lineup – on the left side.
Special teams: Jon Ryan waiting, and waiting, and waiting before stepping out of the end zone to take a safety with 59 seconds to play. It made the score 16-12, of course, but it also allowed Ryan to punt the ball to the Panthers on the ensuing free kick with some breathing room.
“Taking the safety was great,” Carroll said. “We’ve been working on all that stuff.”
Was the high snap from Clint Gresham that forced Ryan to “climb the ladder” to grab it part of the plan?
After the laughter subsided, Carroll offered, “That was just one drama of the day.”
Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald pulled a groin, and Carroll had no report on how long he might be sidelined.
With his six tackles, Wagner now has 21 in the past three games.
Clemons’ half sack gives him a team-high 5.5 for the season, and Irvin is second with 4.5.
Marshawn Lynch ran for 85 yards, giving him at least 85 in 13 of his past 14 games.
Wilson’s 221 passing were a season high – and therefore a career high. He also was 9 of 10 on third downs for 73 yards.
Tight end Zach Miller had the Seahawks two longest plays of the game – a 30-yard reception in the third quarter and a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter. After catching 25 passes all of last season, Miller now has 12 in five games this season.
Of the Panthers’ 190 total yards, 77 came on their drive to a field goal in second quarter and 79 on the drive that ended on downs at the Seahawks’ 1-yard line in the fourth quarter.
YOU DON’T SAY
“To me, it was all about the finish today. It’s what we haven’t had in the other couple (road) games.” – Carroll