CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Seattle Seahawks need their tough defense to make things easier on rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. The plan worked perfectly against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
Wilson threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to Golden Tate late in the third quarter, while the defense frustrated Newton and the Panthers throughout Sunday's 16-12 road win.
Wilson threw for a season-high 221 yards and shook off two third-quarter interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Of course, it helped that the defense kept the Panthers (1-4) out of the end zone and harassed Newton into a career-low 141 yards passing.
"The defense hasn't had any problems this year," Seattle receiver Sidney Rice said. "They played well enough for us to win all year, all five games. On the offensive end, we need to pick it up just a little bit."
Carolina had two chances to take the lead in the final minutes Sunday only to come away empty each time.
After driving the Panthers to the 1 for a fourth-down play, Newton rolled to his right and spotted Ben Hartsock open in the end zone, but he threw a one-hopper on the short pass.
Then, after the Seahawks (3-2) took an intentional safety, Carolina got the ball back at its own 31 with 54 seconds left and no timeouts. That's when Bruce Irvin, a rookie, stripped Newton from behind for his second sack. Defensive tackle Alan Branch fell on the loose ball to seal the win.
"It wasn't easy; it might have looked like it was, but it wasn't easy because of all the stuff they do," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "And they tried all their options and stuff, and we were able to stay in sync with it, so it's a fantastic job defensively.
"Nothing can express it more than standing up on the goal line down there and finishing. That was awesome. It's what defensive players and coaches live for — those challenges and opportunities — and the guys came through in a big way."
Newton finished just 12 for 29 and was sacked four times. He also ran for 42 yards, but Carolina finished with just 190 total yards.
"When you know what guys are doing and you still can't beat them, they're just good at what they do," said Newton, last year's No. 1 overall draft pick.
"Let's call a cat a cat and a dog a dog. They're a great defense. We knew what we they were going to do before the game even started."
The Panthers' only touchdown came on Captain Munnerlyn's 33-yard interception return early in the third quarter.
"We know he's a great dual-threat quarterback, but once we bottle it up and frustrate him, we know he's going to tank a little bit," Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said of Newton. "We were able to do that today."
Carolina started the season with plenty of optimism with the return of Newton to lead a high-scoring offense, but the Panthers couldn't rebound a week after losing 30-28 to the Falcons on Matt Bryant's field goal with 5 seconds left.
"This is by no stretch done," second-year Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "This is 1-4 and we're not going to quit. We're going to show up and we're going to be back on the job (Monday). We will find answers and we're going to win."
The game marked a homecoming of sorts for Wilson, who first gained acclaim as a quarterback at North Carolina State. He also played minor league baseball in Asheville and Gastonia before returning to college football and finishing up at Wisconsin.
The rookie hadn't thrown for more than 160 yards in a game until Sunday, but didn't panic when he threw the two interceptions and bought time with his mobility on several plays.
"I felt like we had so much control there," Wilson said. "I made sure everyone was on the same page, and even changed the snap count a lot. We did a lot of great things today. ... Obviously, some of the penalties pulled us back, as did the turnovers, but we still did a lot of great things."
Notes: The Panthers played without three starters; cornerback Chris Gamble, linebacker Jon Beason and offensive lineman due to injuries. ... Newton targeted receiver Steve Smith a season-high 13 times. The previous high was 11 in the opener at Tampa Bay. ... Seattle tight end Zach Miller had three catches for a season-high 59 yards, including a season-long 30-yard catch. ... Rice had five catches for 67 yards. ... Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined to rush for 22 yards for Carolina. ... Steven Hauschka kicked three field goals for Seattle.