What it means: The Seahawks showed they could win a road game with only sporadic offensive production as long as their defense is going to dominate the way it often has this season. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson completed 12 of his first 13 passes and finished strong after two third-quarter interceptions renewed questions about his suitability as the Seahawks' starter. Seattle improved to 3-2, giving the NFC West four teams with a winning record following Week 5. That's a first since the NFL realigned into eight divisions for the 2002 season. The way this game turned out put on hold questions about whether Wilson should remain the starter.
What I liked: Bruce Irvin's fumble-forcing sack in the final minute capped a dominant defensive performance as Seattle preserved the victory. The defense held Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to 3-of-15 passing in the first half. The Seahawks had been weak on third-and-long this season, but that changed when Irvin sacked Newton for a 13-yard loss on third-and-10, the Panthers' only play of third-and-8 or longer during the first half. Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner also brought down Newton for a loss.
On offense, the Seahawks scored on their opening possession for the second week in a row and the third time in their past four games. They have one touchdown and three field goal attempts on opening drives this season. Wilson was much sharper early in this game, completing 12 of 13 passes for 123 yards in the first half. Wide receivers Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate made plays early. Seattle converted four times on its first eight third-down plays, a big improvement from the recent past. Baldwin's long-awaited emergence was particularly encouraging for Seattle.
Seattle's defense continued to dominate in the second half, giving the offense second chances. And when Wilson found Tate for a 13-yard scoring pass in the third quarter, the Seahawks were back in front despite all those turnovers. Marshawn Lynch's powerful 11-yard run in the fourth quarter helped the Seahawks protect their 16-10 lead heading toward the fourth quarter.
What I didn't like: The Seahawks led only 6-3 at halftime despite controlling the game. The defense held Newton to 40 yards passing in the first half. But there were too many missed chances. Earl Thomas dropped a sure interception. Chris Clemons committed a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer.
On offense, a holding penalty against right tackle Breno Giacomini nullified a 56-yard pass from Wilson to Tate. Officials also flagged left tackle Russell Okung for holding during the first half. Leon Washington lost a fumble during the kickoff return to open the second half. Wilson had an interception returned for a touchdown a short time later. Those plays helped turn Seattle's 6-3 lead into a 10-6 deficit. Wilson suffered another turnover when a pass went off Lynch's hand to Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Taking the safety: The Seahawks took a safety while leading 16-10 and punting from deep in their own territory. The snap was high, creating the impression the safety wasn't planned. But the play made sense because it allowed Seattle to punt from a more favorable position on the field while still forcing the Panthers to score a touchdown.
What's next: The Seahawks return home to face the New England Patriots before playing two games on the road.