RENTON — Seattle’s defense allowed the Carolina Panthers to cross midfield only once in the first half Sunday.
It wasn’t enough.
The Seahawks’ defense kept the opposing offense out of the end zone for a second consecutive game.
Still wasn’t enough.
Only after the defense forced three fumbles in the final 18 minutes of the game, one of which was recovered to set up the Seahawks’ go-ahead touchdown, only then had the defense done enough for Seattle to win its first road game of the year.
But at what point is Seattle asking too much of this defense? Not Sunday, said coach Pete Carroll.
“Fifty-four plays,” Carroll said, pointing to how long the defense spent on the field. “Heck, that was an easy day for them.”
Easy probably doesn’t describe anything about a defense that has allowed 70 points, matching the second-lowest total after five games of any season in Seahawks history. Sixteen of those points can’t be pinned on the defense, though, as Seattle willingly took a safety on Sunday and the past two touchdowns against Seattle have come via a fake field-goal attempt and an interception return.
Seattle’s offense has given up more touchdowns than its defense the past two games, but can the Seahawks really keep this up when it comes to keeping opposing offenses grounded?
“I don’t have any idea,” Carroll said. “I’ve been around defenses that have done it from wire to wire. There’ll be a time where some guys are going to have to jump in and help, but right now, with really great fortune, we’ve been healthy and guys are able to do their stuff.”
Seattle is starting a rookie at middle linebacker in Bobby Wagner. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are both in their second NFL seasons, as is linebacker K.J. Wright.
Throw in the fact that rookie Bruce Irvin is second on the team in sacks, and it’s reasonable to assume that the trajectory for this team points up.
“I think we should improve,” Carroll said. “I think we should count on our guys to continue to get better.
“Where the numbers go? I don’t care.”
Well, that might be true for the defense, but Carroll has a more pressing concern about his team’s ability to put up numbers on offense.
Through five games, the Seahawks have 18 scoring drives, nine of which started in the opponent’s half of the field, which is kind of like the kid who needs to sit on a phone book to be seated at the dinner table.
And one thing the game Sunday demonstrated was the fragility of Seattle’s formula. The Panthers had been outgained 174-93 in the first half when they grabbed a 10-7 lead when Captain Munnerlyn returned an interception for a touchdown.
Does Carroll worry his team is leaving too little room for error?
“Heck, yeah,” Carroll said. “I’ve told you about it, it’s going to be this way until we get better and until we improve and take advantage of all the opportunities.”
That means taking better advantage of all red-zone chances. Seattle had the ball inside the Panthers’ 20-yard line three times Sunday, but scored only one touchdown.
“We need another touchdown a game and the games would be so much different,” Carroll said. “Four more points in each game makes such a difference from those field goals.”
But after the game Sunday in Carolina, perhaps the offense can start by not allowing touchdowns like the one the Seahawks handed over on that interception return.