Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 12, Panthers 7

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thoughts and observations from the Carolina Panthers' 12-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Bank of American Stadium:

What it means: The Panthers' defense is built to win, but the offense has a ways to go. The team still hasn't figured how to win the close ones. The Panthers were 1-7 a year ago in games decided by seven or fewer points, including a 16-12 loss to Seattle. This one looked eerily similar. Good teams find ways to win close games. Many more of these and coach Ron Rivera's hot seat will be ablaze.

Stock watch: Carolina showed why it used the No. 14 pick of the NFL draft on Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. He made his presence felt on Seattle's first drive, running down running back Marshawn Lynch for only a 1-yard gain on a third-down swing pass. He played a major role rendering the Seahawks' ground game almost nonexistent.

The entire defensive front proved a load for the Seahawks and constantly bailed the team out of tough situations.

Traditional offense? Carolina looked like a more traditional offense under new coordinator Mike Shula. Quarterback Cam Newton's efficiency was better -- he was 14-for-20 in the first three quarters -- but the offense still failed to produce enough points. A fourth-quarter fumble by DeAngelo Williams inside the Seattle 10 made it look worse than it should have been. And the Panthers were facing one of the league's best defenses, so it's too early to judge whether this is the norm.

Where is Geoff Hangartner? The Panthers already were without starting left guard Amini Silatolu (hamstring), then had right guard Garry Williams go out in the first half with a left knee injury. That changed the plan to rotate Chris Scott and Travelle Wharton at right guard into Scott moving to right guard. If Williams' injury is serious, Carolina will be looking for another guard. Maybe Hangartner, who was a surprise release in camp, will return.

Are you kidding me? Carolina's Armond Smith drew two penalties in the second half for going out of bounds and then back in on a punt, the first drawing a 15-yard penalty and second a 5-yarder. Doesn't this fall under the category of fool me once ...?

What's next: The Panthers travel to Buffalo for what should be a winnable early-season road game. There aren't many of those, so you could almost put it in the must-win category.