What is shaping up as the greatest defense in Seattle Seahawks history wasn't going to defeat the Carolina Panthers by itself. It would need at least some help from an offense still in its formative stages.
Quarterback Russell Wilson would have to improve. Wilson would have to make significant gains specifically on third down, where he had been averaging a league-worst 2.9 yards per attempt during Seattle's 2-2 start to the season.
Around the NFC West: Oct. 8, 2012
Wilson did improve during the Seahawks' 16-12 victory at Carolina.
The rookie quarterback completed all 10 of his pass attempts between the yard-line numbers, making fuller use of Zach Miller, Golden Tate, Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin. The Seahawks converted seven times on 14 third-down chances after converting only 14 times on 50 opportunities (28 percent) previously.
Wilson did suffer two interceptions. But he also had a beautifully delivered 56-yard deep strike to Tate wiped out by a holding penalty against right tackle Breno Giacomini. And one of his picks hit running back Marshawn Lynch in the hand before Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly made an impressive play to snare the ball.
Wilson finished the game with an 82.1 NFL passer rating and a 51.7 score out of 100 in Total QBR. The latter figure represented average play from the position. It also represented improvement. Seattle will win quite a few games with its defense if its quarterback plays at a passable level.
The Seahawks' last two opponents have scored two touchdowns, one on a fake field goal and the other on an interception return. The defense hasn't allowed one since a disputed pass-interference penalty against safety Kam Chancellor sustained a Green Bay scoring drive three games ago.
This was also a good game for Seattle's rookie draft class, at least near the top.
First-round defensive end Bruce Irvin secured the outcome with a fumble-forcing sack. Irvin now has 4.5 sacks, putting him on pace for more than 14 sacks this season. That would put Irvin on pace for a season similar to the one Aldon Smith enjoyed as a rookie with the San Francisco 49ers last season. Seattle could live with that, for sure.
Second-round middle linebacker Bobby Wagner made impact plays, including when he tracked down Cam Newton for a 4-yard loss. That play fired up Wagner's defensive teammates while showing speed and playmaking ability. Wagner is now getting work in the nickel defense, too. He was one of five Seattle defenders to play every snap Sunday.
Wilson, the Seahawks' third-round choice, vastly outplayed Newton.
This outcome helped Seattle keep pace in the NFC West heading into what figures to be a tougher matchup against New England, albeit at home, in Week 6.