Seahawks’ defense has a throwback performance against Panthers
The Seahawks wanted a more effective pass rush, and they sacked Cam Newton three times. They wanted to be better on third down, and Carolina converted just 20 percent of the time (2 of 10). They wanted to force more turnovers, and they got two of them.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seahawks defense by the numbers
Touchdowns allowed by the Seahawks. It was the first time Seattle did that since a 23-0 victory over the Giants in Week 15 last season.
Points allowed by the Seahawks, the fewest since giving up eight points in the Super Bowl.
Sacks by the Seahawks, their most since getting three in Week 1 vs. Green Bay.
Interception, by Marcus Burley. It was Seattle’s first interception since the third game against Denver and only the Seahawks’ third this season.
Total net yards allowed by the Seahawks, the fewest since the Packers gained 255 against them in Week 1.
First downs allowed by the Seahawks, the fewest they have allowed since Washington had 14 first downs in Week 5.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Seahawks safety Earl Thomas sat at his locker, his right elbow gashed, his right pant leg splattered and caked with his blood.
And he didn’t mind.
“I got dirty today,” he said, “but that’s how I like it.”
The same could be said for the entire Seattle defense. In need of a victory to settle the bubbling questions surrounding this team, the Seahawks responded with a throwback performance: opportune offense, solid special-teams play and, perhaps most important, a bloodthirsty defense.
The Seahawks didn’t just beat the Panthers 13-9 Sunday, they stood tall for 12 rounds and outlasted them.
“We have to get back to feeling those hard wins like last year,” Thomas said. “Because this is the same thing.”
Or, as running back Robert Turbin put it, “We showed who we were in a big way.”
The identity of this team still is the defense, the engine that powered the Seahawks to the Super Bowl a season ago. But the Seahawks have in some ways become victims of their own success. They were so good defensively last season that anything short of that this season has felt like failure by comparison.
It all started to come together against the Panthers. The Seahawks wanted a more effective pass rush, and they nearly sacked Cam Newton on three consecutive plays during the final drive, twice getting to him. They wanted to be better on third down, and Carolina converted just 20 percent of the time (2 of 10). They wanted to force more turnovers, and they got two of them.
The Seahawks weren’t flawless — they had chances for a handful of more sacks and turnovers — but they looked far more like the unit they want to be than the one they’ve at times been.
And look now: The Seahawks rank sixth in the league in yards allowed per game and 12th in points allowed with two of the league’s worst teams — the Raiders and the Giants — visiting in the coming weeks.
“It was good to finally put it on film so we can see what we’re capable of,” Thomas said.
The Seahawks went into boa-constrictor mode against the Panthers, conceding yards and scoring opportunities early but squeezing the life out of Carolina by the end.
The Panthers’ first three drives all lasted longer than six minutes and advanced Carolina into the red zone, but the Seahawks forced two field goals and a turnover.
Those stops had a mounting effect as the game continued: Newton and the Panthers pressed in search of points, which is exactly what the Seahawks want. Seattle’s defensive philosophy centers on not giving up big plays because the more plays an offense runs, the more likely it is that it will cough up the ball.
“Sometimes with a team like this you have to press,” Newton admitted. “You have to be able to take chances. When you make plays, you’re labeled a genius. When you don’t — and a lot of times we didn’t today — it looks bad. It looks really bad.”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll and his staff challenged the team to be better this week, and the defense answered its objectives of creating turnovers and being better in the red zone.
Thomas said the most important stat was Seattle’s effectiveness on third down, and he credited that success to a “sense of urgency.”
“The whole week you could see it in body language and attention to detail,” Thomas said. “That’s what we’ve got to keep doing. We’ve got to keep growing in that area.”
The Seahawks sacked Newton three times, with two of those sacks coming from Bruce Irvin on the final drive, and Cliff Avril also nearly sacked Newton on the drive.
It was the type of thing that happened so often last year, and Carroll couldn’t help but call the scene “beautiful.”
“That’s why I’m so proud of my defense because the finish was a surge and that’s how we like to see it,” he said. “When the opportunity is there to win the football game and the pass rush is unstoppable, that’s a beautiful thing to see.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org