What we learned: Seahawks 16, Panthers 12
I. Seattle's cornerbacks are as good as people were saying back in Week 3.
Carolina completed two passes of more than 20 yards and neither was to that dimunitive dominator Steve Smith Not only that, but Seattle cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner each forced an important second-half fumble. Yes, there were some whispers that perhaps the Rams were targeting Sherman, not Browner, in Week 4, but anyone who's doubting Sherman's chops is advised to take look at Sunday's game. Yep, that was Sherman perfectly defending an attempt at a fade to Smith, and yes, that was Sherman stripping the ball away from Jonathan Stewart and taking away a critical first down in the fourth quarter, and sure enough, that was Sherman getting Smith so frustrated he was penalized 10 yards for holding in what amounted to a judo takedown. Now remember that Sherman is in his fourth season at cornerback, starting just his 15th regular-season game in the NFL. The best may be yet to come.
II. Zach Miller wears a number in the 80s for a reason.
He is in an eligible receiver not to mention an effective one. It was tough to tell last year when he was a de facto third tackle at times, finishing with a career-low 25 catches. The single biggest bright spot for Seattle's offense may have been Russell Wilson's ability -- and willingness -- to throw to Miller down the middle. Wilson fired two passes right down the seam to Miller for gains of 30 yards and later for 23. Miller finished with 59 yards receiving, his most as a Seahawk, and those two receptions rank among the four longest catches he has had as a Seahawk.
III. There is, in fact, a limit to Pete Carroll's patience.
Three personal-foul penalties in the span of five quarters will get you the hook. At least for a series. That's what right tackle Breno Giacomini learned after he was penalized in the first quarter. It was a call that Carroll admitted was questionable as he thought the play was still alive when Giacomini bopped a defender near the sideline, but after being called for two personal fouls last game, a third strike was enough for Carroll to pull Giacomini for Frank Omiyale. While Giacomini returned after one series, the question remains whether Seattle must temper its play on the offensive line. Tom Cable may want his line playing tough, physical and aggressive, but it's crossed the line enough with holds and personal fouls that it's worth wondering whether Seattle must dial it back because this offense -- as currently choreographed -- can't overcome those kinds of setbacks.
Three things we're still trying to figure out
I. How in the world did Seattle have only six points at halftime?
The Seahawks outgained Carolina 174-93 in the first half, allowed the Panthers to cross midfield only once and Wilson was 12-for-13 passing yet Seattle had only six points. Huh? Sure, you can point to penalties as Giacomini cost Seattle 81 all by himself in the opening period, but still, when your defense plays that well and your quarterback is that accurate and you should get more out of it unless Wilson is just constantly settling for the easiest available outlet. The fact that Wilson was 9-for-10 passing on third down in this game and Seattle only scored 16 points is Exhibit A for dialing up the aggressiveness of the playcalling.
II. Does it matter when opponents stack up to stop Marshawn Lynch?The Panthers loaded up against the run. Lynch carried seven times in the first half, and five of those carries gained 3 yards or fewer. Carolina certainly gave every indication it was not going to let Lynch win this game yet when Seattle had the ball deep in its own territory, facing thid-and-7 from its own 4 with 2:58 remaining, Lynch was able to run for 11 yards and gain a first down that was essential in bleeding the clock. For all Carolina's attention, Lynch rushed 21 times for 85 yards in spite of having a 20-yard gain negated by a questionable holding penalty against Russell Okung.
III. Does Seattle have the best defense in the league?
The 49ers have allowed fewer points this season, but remember of the six touchdowns Seattle's opponents have scored this season, only four were against the Seahawks defense. On Sunday in Carolina, the Panthers scored seven points off an interception return, two points off a coach's decision and only three points that could be levied against the Seahawks defense. The Panthers have an explosive offense yet had only two plays from scrimmage gain more than 20 yards and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton passed for a career-low 141 yards. When the season began, there was the daunting reality Seattle would face five different quarterbacks who passed for more than 4,000 yards last season over the first eight games of the 2012 schedule. Well, Seattle is currently 3-0 so far in those games.