Panthers offense struggles in loss to Seahawks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton and the Carolina offense never looked anything like the high-scoring team they were last season. Instead, the Panthers dropped passes, lost fumbles and had to fight for every yard against Seattle’s tough defense Sunday.

Newton threw for a career-low 141 yards in the 16-12 loss to the Seahawks, while the offense managed just 190 total yards and failed to reach the end zone all afternoon.

Carolina (1-4) headed into a bye week with plenty to think about after a performance that drew some boos from the home crowd.

“I think the thing we have to understand more so than anything else is that when it’s harder, we’ve got to buckle down and play better,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “There is really no simple answer to this other than to just keep working hard and keep believing in the process.”

Things started off badly for the Panthers, with three three-and-outs in five first-half possessions that managed only a field goal. Newton missed on 12 of 15 passes during that half, and things didn’t get much better on the afternoon. He finished 12-for-29 and was sacked four times.

“I have to be accurate throwing the ball and the check downs and that didn’t happen today,” Newton said. “To a degree, I’m kind of embarrassed, you know? But things are going to get better.”

For the Seahawks, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 35 seconds left in the third quarter for the go-ahead score.

Wilson shook off two third quarter interceptions — including one that was returned for a touchdown — and threw for a season-high 221 yards. Marshawn Lynch ran for 85 yards for the Seahawks (3-2).

The Panthers’ only touchdown came on Captain Munnerlyn’s 33-yard interception return early in the third quarter.

Carolina started the season with plenty of optimism with the return of Newton to lead a high-scoring offense, but the Panthers couldn’t rebound a week after losing 30-28 to the Falcons on Matt Bryant’s field goal with 5 seconds left.

The Panthers had two chances to take the lead in the final minutes on Sunday, the first when they drove all the way to the Seattle 1-yard line with about 4 minutes left.

On a fourth down play, Newton rolled to his right and spotted Ben Hartsock open in the end zone, but he threw a one-hopper on the short pass to give the ball back to Seattle.

Then, after the Seahawks took an intentional safety, Carolina got the ball back at its own 31 with 54 seconds left and no timeouts.

After a first down incompletion, Seattle rookie Bruce Irvin came around the right side and stripped Newton from behind as the quarterback tried to load up for a throw.

The ball hit the turf, and Alan Branch recovered to seal the victory for the Seahawks.

The game marked a homecoming of sorts for Wilson, who first gained acclaim as a quarterback at North Carolina State. He also played minor league baseball in Asheville and Gastonia before returning to college football and finishing up at Wisconsin.

The rookie hadn’t thrown for more than 160 yards in a game until Sunday, but didn’t panic when he threw the two interceptions and bought time with his mobility on several plays to help the Seahawks keep drives going.

After a fumble by DeAngelo Williams gave Seattle a short field, Wilson moved the Seahawks to the Carolina 13 then found Tate over the middle for a short throw. Tate spun off a hit from Thomas Davis around the 4 then ran into the end zone for the 13-10 lead.

Steven Hauschka added his third field goal to make it 16-10 with about 10 minutes left.

Lynch, the NFL’s leading rusher for the season’s first month, reached 85 yards rushing for the 13th time in 14 games. That included when he had a spinning 11-yard run on a third-and-7 for a first down that helped the Seahawks use more clock after the Panthers’ stalled late drive.