CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nothing has changed for Russell Wilson in Year 2: He still has a knack for winning close games.
Wilson threw for 320 yards, including a 43-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to lift the Seattle Seahawks to a 12-7 win Sunday over the Carolina Panthers.
The Seahawks managed just two field goals before Kearse beat cornerback Josh Thomas down the right sideline for his first career touchdown catch and the go-ahead score with 10:13 left. Kearse had just three catches for 31 yards as a rookie.
The Panthers held Marshawn Lynch to 43 yards rushing, but Wilson picked up the slack by completing 25 of 33 passes to improve his record to 12-5 in the regular season.
The Panthers threatened to take the lead late, but safety Earl Thomas forced DeAngelo Williams to fumble at the Seattle 8. Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel recovered with 5:25 left and the Seahawks ran out the clock.
Williams had 76 yards on 16 carries before the fumble. He also fumbled in a 16-12 loss to the Seahawks last season.
Cam Newton was held to 125 yards passing and one touchdown, a 3-yard strike to Steve Smith in the first half. Newton was plagued by a few dropped passes, including two by his normally reliable tight end, Greg Olsen.
New offensive coordinator Mike Shula wanted to limit Newton’s carries this season and he did just that as Newton ran just five times for 38 yards. Newton led the Panthers in rushing last year with 741 yards.
The Panthers were looking to get back to .500 for the first time since the end of the 2008 season. But the loss dropped third-year coach Ron Rivera to 2-13 in games decided by seven points or less.
He blamed the loss on “missed opportunities.”
“We had them backed up a few times and let them out,” Rivera said.
Despite playing without three defensive starters — ends Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril and cornerback Brandon Browner — the Seahawks only allowed one touchdown and held the Panthers scoreless in the second half.
Carolina’s only successful drive came in the second quarter, with Newton moving the Panthers 80 yards on 11 plays and finding the 34-year-old Smith for a 7-3 lead. The touchdown was set up when Smith eluded defenders on the previous play with a nifty move along the sideline to keep the drive alive on third down.
The Panthers were plagued by self-imposed blunders.
Late in the second quarter, defensive end Frank Alexander threw a punch at Seahawks offensive lineman Breno Giacomini after a sack for a 13-yard loss by Charles Godfrey. Alexander was ejected from the game.
Also, Armond Smith was flagged twice in the second half for running out of bounds while covering a punt, costing the Panthers 30 yards in penalties.