CHARLOTTE— Bruce Irvin raced by an offensive lineman and chopped down on Cam Newton’s arm as the quarterback loaded up to throw downfield.
The ball popped free and into the hands of a teammate, capping the latest strong performance by a Seattle Seahawks defense that made life miserable for Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 35 seconds left in the third quarter, while the defense kept the Panthers’ offense out of the end zone in a 16-12 win Sunday.
Wilson shook off two third quarter interceptions — including one returned for a touchdown — and outperformed Newton on a struggle-filled day for the Carolina offense, which finished with only 190 yards.
That included forcing Newton into an incompletion on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 3:47 left.
“It wasn’t easy; it might have looked like it was, but it wasn’t easy because of all the stuff they do,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “And they tried all their options and stuff, and we were able to stay in sync with it, so it’s a fantastic job defensively.
“Nothing can express it more than standing up on the goal line down there and finishing. That was awesome. It’s what defensive players and coaches live for — those challenges and opportunities — and the guys came through in a big way.”
Wilson threw for 221 yards, while Marshawn Lynch ran for 85 yards for the Seahawks (3-2) in their first road win.
Newton threw for a career-low 141 yards on 12-for-29 passing and he was sacked four times. He also ran for 42 yards.
“When you know what guys are doing and you still can’t beat them, they’re just good at what they do,” said Newton, last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick.
“Let’s call a cat a cat and a dog a dog. They’re a great defense. We knew what we they were going to do before the game even started.”
The Panthers’ only touchdown came on former South Carolina star Captain Munnerlyn’s 33-yard interception return early in the third.
Carolina started the season with plenty of optimism with the return of Newton to lead a high-scoring offense, but the Panthers (1-4) couldn’t rebound a week after losing 30-28 to the Falcons on Matt Bryant’s field goal with 5 seconds left.
“This is by no stretch done,” second-year Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “This is 1-4 and we’re not going to quit. We’re going to show up and we’re going to be back on the job (today). We will find answers and we’re going to win.”
The offense never found a rhythm while Newton was frequently off target, completing just 3 of 15 passes for 40 yards in the first half.
“We know he’s a great dual-threat quarterback, but once we bottle it up and frustrate him, we know he’s going to tank a little bit,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said.
“We were able to do that today.”
Carolina had two chances to take the lead in the final minutes Sunday only to come away empty each time.
After driving the Panthers to the 1 for the 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.
Then, after the Seahawks took an intentional safety, Carolina got the ball back at its own 31 with 54 seconds left and no timeouts. That’s when Irvin, a rookie, stripped Newton for his second sack. Defensive tackle Alan Branch fell on the loose ball to seal the win.
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.
“I felt like we had so much control there,” Wilson said. “I made sure everyone was on the same page, and even changed the snap count a lot. We did a lot of great things today. ... Obviously, some of the penalties pulled us back, as did the turnovers, but we still did a lot of great things.”
After Brandon Browner ripped the ball away from DeAngelo Williams and recovered the fumble to give Seattle a short field, Wilson moved the Seahawks to the Carolina 13 then found Tate over the middle. Tate spun off a hit from Thomas Davis around the 4 and into the end zone for the 13-10 lead.
Steven Hauschka added his third field goal to make it 16-10 with about 10½ minutes left.
Notes: The Panthers played without three starters; cornerback Chris Gamble, linebacker Jon Beason and offensive lineman due to injuries. ... Newton targeted receiver Steve Smith a season-high 13 times. The previous high was 11 in the opener at Tampa Bay. ... Seattle tight end Zach Miller had three catches for a season-high 59 yards, including a season-long 30-yard catch. ... Seattle’s Sidney Rice had five catches for 67 yards.