Panthers' stellar defensive effort wasted

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers' cornerback Josh Thomas lost coverage on consecutive deep passes in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 12-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

He got lucky on the first as wide receiver Stephen Williams dropped Russell Wilson's throw near the goal line.

He wasn't so lucky on the second as Jermaine Kearse hauled in a 43-yard bomb that gave the Seahawks the lead and ultimately the win with 10:21 remaining.

Otherwise, the Carolina defense looked every bit as stout as the highly-touted Seattle defense. It shut down the running of Marshawn Lynch (43 yards on 17 carries) and kept constant pressure on Wilson, who escaped situations that quarterbacks of lesser athletic abilities wouldn't have.

But on the play to Kearse there was a breakdown. Thomas took a chance on making a big play and it turned into a big play for Seattle.

"He has to stay disciplined and on top of the ball,'' Carolina coach Ron Rivera of Thomas. "He is an aggressive football player. He is going to attack and try and put his hands on you and if he misses that is the unfortunate part about it.

"At that point, he has to be smart and has to make sure he can keep that guy in front of him.''

Thomas didn't. And a stellar defensive effort was lost in defeat.

The only other thing the unit could have done better was get Seattle off the field on the final drive. That didn't happen, either.

"We played great,'' said middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who tied for the team lead in tackles with nine. "The whole deal right here is that we did a good job on defense in parts of the game and in order to be a solid playoff defense that's going to make a run, we've got to make a big play at the end of the game where we've got to get off the field on third down.''

First-round draft pick Star Lotulelei was a bright spot. He made four tackles, including one for a loss, and was a big part of making the Seattle running game ineffective. The secondary that was much-maligned last season and a question mark in the preseason played well, too, with the exception of the touchdown.

Even the player who caught the touchdown was impressed.

"Their defense was really stout,'' Kearse said. "So we just had to resort to the quick game, and continue to pound the ball. Eventually, we were going to break [one], and that's what happened at the end of the game.''

It's a Carolina defensive effort that, to a degree, will get overlooked because of the loss.