By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
CHARLOTTE — Earl Thomas understands that turnovers are game-changing plays created by circumstance and execution, not luck.
And Seattle’s top-flight safety created one of those opportunities by punching the ball out of DeAngelo Williams’ hands to help preserve a 12-7 win for the Seahawks.
Cornerback Richard Sherman said he loosened the ball by jamming his shoulder pads into Williams as he tried to cut back at Seattle’s 8-yard line.
But Thomas, who actually missed Williams initially and had to chase him down, finished the play by stripping the ball.
“We practice those situations all the time in practice,” Thomas said. “And it just feels good to see that translate in a live game situation, especially in a big-time moment like that. And give credit to Sherm (Richard Sherman) for throwing his body in there. He didn’t have to do that. But that’s what happens when your brother is throwing his body around out there for you; good stuff is always going to happen.”
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll always preaches it’s about the ball — both taking care of it on offense and creating turnovers on defense.
And since the second half of the 2012 season, few teams have been better at doing that than Seattle.
The Seahawks forced 20 turnovers and only turned it over five times in the last eight regular-season games, so it’s no surprise Seattle won 7 of 8 down the stretch.
Since 2010, the Seahawks are 17-3 when winning the turnover battle. The Seahawks finished with two fumble recoveries compared to one for the Panthers.
Running game woes
The Panthers came into this contest intent on shutting down Seattle’s running game. And for the most part, Carolina’s defense was successful.
“There were definitely some execution issues, where we weren’t getting on the right guys, or just not good technique when we’re getting on our blocks and staying on them,” Seattle tight end Zach Miller said. “But I give credit to them for forcing us to have issues.”
The Panthers held Seattle to 70 yard rushing on 26 carries, for a 2.7 per carry average. The Seahawks averaged 161.2 rushing yards a contest in 2012. Marshawn Lynch finished with 43 yards on 17 carries, with a long of 14 yards that came late in the game.
“We did not feel good at all about the way we ran the football today,” Carroll said. “And we need to go back and take a look and see what happened here. We thought we would be better than that. We had a really nice array of things that we wanted to do, and we tried them all; we tried everything we wanted to try in the plan.
“And we weren’t getting much movement. I thought they played very active up front, and were very difficult. And we’re just real disappointed in that.”
A long shot to play on Sunday, Brandon Browner had to watch from the sidelines because of a hamstring injury he suffered during practice last week.
But Seattle’s depth at cornerback showed once again, with Walter Thurmond starting in place of Browner.
When the Seahawks went to five defensive backs, Thurmond moved inside, and Byron Maxwell manned the cornerback position on the outside.
“They did great,” Thomas said. “That’s the great thing about Seattle. We have a lot of depth. Guys show up in practice. We work hard, and it pays off in the game.
Added Carroll: “It’s a big deal. He (Thurmond) comes in and gets a start. He found on Thursday that he had a chance to start, and jumped out there and played a terrific football game for us. That’s exactly what we’ve seen from our guys when they come off the bench and we need them.”
Safety Jeron Johnson left the game after suffering a hamstring injury on the opening kickoff, and did not return. Panthers right guard Garry Williams suffered a left knee injury in the first half, and did not return. … Punter Jon Ryan had a good day flipping field position. He finished with a 49.5 punting average, and a 47.0 net punting average. … Thomas led the Seahawks in tackles with a combined 10, followed by Bobby Wagner with seven. O’Brien Schofield picked up Seattle’s only sack. … James Carpenter played a little over a quarter at left guard for Seattle, but Paul McQuistan started the game. … Browner, DE Cliff Avril, LB John Lotulelei, OT Michael Bowie, OT Alvin Bailey, DE Chris Clemons and DT Jordan Hill were inactive for the Seahawks.