Without the incredible play of its defense, the Seattle Seahawks would be, well, the Cleveland Browns.
But just when the Browns, err, Seahawks were seemingly on the verge of their second consecutive loss, the defense stepped up, more specifically a defender by the name of Brandon Browner stepped up, and Seattle rallied to capture a rare victory on the road, beating the Carolina Panthers, 16-12.
Steven Hauschka’s three field goals were not going to be enough until Browner blew up a third-quarter option play in between Carolina’s Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams that turned the team’s fortunes.
Much-maligned rookie quarterback Russell Wilson turned Browner’s strip-fumble-recovery into a touchdown pass to Golden Tate, who needed to spin away from a defender before reaching the end zone, and that’s the little exta offense Seattle needed in order to improve to 3-2.
Browner’s takeaway was one of a handful of game-changers by the Seahawks defense.
Following Browner’s play, opposite corner Richard Sherman forced a third-and-8 fumble on the next Carolina drive that led to a punt. On the Panthers’ final drive, rookie rush end Bruce Irvin recorded a sack-fumble that ended Carolina’s day.
In between, Seattle put up a goal line stand following an 11-play, 79-yard drive, forcing Newton into an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal with 3:47 left.
Carolina faced a second-and-goal from the Seattle 3 when Chris Clemons and Adrian Branch knocked Williams back three yards. On third down from the 6, Browner and Marcus Trufant kept receiver Louis Murphy out of the end zone, forcing a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 3:47 left.
Newton, who failed to convert a key short-yardage play a week ago against Atlanta when he fumbled rushing around left end, this time tried to pass but his attempt for Brian Hartsock was low and incomplete.
Seattle then converted one first down on an 11-yard run by Marshawn Lynch that allowed them to force Carolina to use its last two time outs and to wind the clock under a minute before punter Jon Ryan took an 18-yard loss and a safety.
Trailing 16-12, Newton would get one last shot, taking over at the Carolina 31 with 53 seconds left. His first-down pass was incomplete and his second-down drop back ended with Irvin holding the ball with 39 seconds left.
Wilson completed an efficient 19 of 25 passes for 221 yards and that 13-yard strike to Tate for a 13-10 lead late in the third quarter. He was also tagged with two third-quarter interceptions.
The Seahawks also lost a fumble and had seven penalties for 65 yards. Their usually reliable running game managed just 98 net yards and a 2.8 yards-per-carry average. Lynch had 85 yards on 21 carries.
Newton completed 12 of 29 passes — including 3 of 15 in the first half — for a career-low 141 yards and rushed seven times for 42 yards. The Panthers managed just 190 total yard, a miserable 3.7 per play average and just 13 first downs.
Seattle held Carolina to 2 of 11 on third downs, 82 yards rushing and had four sacks of Newton, two by Irvin and 1.5 by rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Carolina’s only touchdown came when Wilson threw behind tight end Anthony McCoy and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn intercepted the pass and returned the ball 33 yards for a 10-6 lead with 12:26 left in the third quarter.
A week ago, trying to rally the Seahawks against the Rams, McCoy slipped coming out of his break and Wilson’s pass went straight into the arms of a Rams defender with one minute left in the game. As trends go, this is becoming one for the struggling Seattle offense.
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