The Carolina Panthers took the field for their first offensive series early Sunday night, but quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t with them.
Instead, the starter bounced up and down on his toes on the sideline as backup Derek Anderson led the first team offense onto the field …
… And promptly threw a pick, returned 14 yards to the Carolina 8. Seattle settled the drive with a field goal and the tone was set for the Seahawks’ 40-7 rout of the Panthers.
Later in the quarter, a team source confirmed to Observer reporter Joe Person that Newton was benched for disciplinary reason. NBC’s Al Michaels reported that Newton broke a “minor” team rule. NBC’s Michelle Tafoya then reported it was a “dress code violation.” WBTV’s Ashley Stroehlein reported the violation was for not wearing a tie.
Running back Thomas Rawls skipped into the end zone to cap a 9-play, 92-yard scoring drive by the Seahawks on the team’s very next set of downs.
Defensive end Charles Johnson sacked Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on fourth down for a loss of 10 yards to open the second quarter.
On the first play of the Panthers’ resulting series, though, Jonathan Stewart fumbled. It was forced and recovered by Seattle’s K.J. Wright.
Carolina got the ball back in minutes, after safety Tre Boston picked Wilson off on third down and 19.
Ted Ginn Jr. burned his coverage and Newton hit him in stride with 10 minutes, 32 seconds left in the half for a 55-yard touchdown catch that cut the lead to 10-7.
Seattle answered just two plays later, though, after Rawls picked up a block and ran for a 45-yard touchdown.
Steven Hauschka sealed Seattle’s dominant 23-7 first half with a 37-yard field goal and a 31-yard field goal.
Tyler Lockett ran for a 75-yard touchdown to open the second half and push the Seahawks lead to 23 points. A 1-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to tight end Jimmy Graham boosted the Seattle lead to 37-7 with 11:09 to play, which tied a season-high for points scored by the Seahawks.
Two who mattered
Derek Anderson: When backup quarterback Anderson started in place of Newton, his first and only play was a pick by linebacker Mike Morgan that was returned for 14 yards and ultimately resulted in a field goal to put Seattle up early, 3-0. Seattle scored 10 unanswered points following the pick.
Thomas Rawls: The Seahawks running back was averaging 9.3 yards per carry in the first half against the Panthers, who entered the game with the second-best run defense in the league. Rawls also had two first-half touchdowns. According to the NBC broadcast, Rawls left the game to enter the NFL’s concussion protocol before the half. He accounted for 103 rushing yards on 11 carries (9.4 yards per carry) in one half played.
▪ Newton’s touchdown bomb to Ginn Jr. went 61 yards in the air.
▪ The Panthers’ first two turnovers happened on the first offensive play of the first quarter and the first offensive play of the second quarter.
▪ The Seahawks were not forced to punt once in the first half. Instead, they went for it on fourth down (they were stopped) and scored on each of the rest of their five first-half drives. Their first punt came with 6:22 left in the third quarter.
▪ Seahawks standout safety Earl Thomas went down early after attempting to pick off Newton, and then getting caught in a little friendly fire by teammate Kam Chancellor. Thomas tweeted from the locker room before halftime that “this game has been so good to me, no regrets. A lot is running through my mind including retirement, thanks for all the prayers.”
It was reported by NBC at the half that Thomas’ “broken leg” was described as a cracked tibia by coach Pete Carroll.
▪ Former star Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was in attendance and drew a huge ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the big screen.
▪ The Panthers loss means, mathematically, they cannot have a winning season. The team has never had back-to-back winning seasons.
▪ Lockett’s third-quarter touchdown was the first score allowed by the Panthers defense in the third quarter in three games.
▪ Cornerback Daryl Worley entered the in-game concussion protocol during the third quarter. He was in the official NFL concussion protocol earlier this season and missed some practice. He did not return to the game.
▪ Backup linebacker David Mayo also had to enter the in-game concussion protocol. He did not return to the game. The Panthers have now placed a player in the concussion protocol nine times this season.
They said it
▪ “It was going to be a one-series deal. I didn’t anticipate the series lasting one play.” – Panthers coach Ron Rivera on not starting Cam Newton.
▪ “We didn’t lose this game because of a tie.” – Newton.
▪ “I got nothing to say. Because what I’ve got to say wouldn’t be good.” – Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert.