SEATTLE – The Panthers suffered a 40-7 loss against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football – by far the largest margin of defeat for Carolina this season.
"At the end of the day, it comes down to which team plays the best and executes the cleanest," linebacker A.J. Klein said. "That's who is going to win the game, and we didn't execute on our end."
Seattle was the team executing at a high level throughout the evening. The Seahawks amassed 534 total yards, 240 of which came on the ground against the Carolina defense that entered Week 13 boasting the NFL's second-best run defense.
"The tough thing is the lack of discipline, in terms of being where you're supposed to," head coach Ron Rivera said after his team fell to 4-8. "That's the thing that bothers you more than anything else."
The Panthers threatened to make it a game when wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. hauled in a 55-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter. That cut the Seattle lead to 10-7, and it gave Carolina a much-needed shot of confidence.
But wide receiver Tyler Lockett returned the ensuing kickoff to the Seattle 43-yard line, and two plays later, running back Thomas Rawls ran for a 45-yard touchdown.
"Disappointing," Rivera said. "We pull within three and give up the big play right away."
Two field goals before halftime gave Seattle a 23-7 lead, and the Seahawks started the second half with another explosive run play.
On the first play from scrimmage of the third quarter, Lockett took a speed sweep off the right side and ran away from everyone for a 75-yard touchdown.
"They did a good job – you can't take way from what they did – but there was a lack of mental discipline on our part," said Klein, who started his second consecutive game in place of njured middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. "I think we played hard. We never stopped playing hard, but especially in the run game you have to stay disciplined the entire play."
Seattle tacked on 10 more points in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham and a third Steven Hauschka field goal.
The game started in unusual and unfortunate fashion for the Panthers.
On the first play of the game's opening possession, quarterback Derek Anderson rolled right and tried to connect with fullback Mike Tolbert in the flat. The pass went off Tolbert's hands and linebacker Mike Morgan picked it off, setting up a 23-yard field goal to give Seattle a lead it would never relinquish.
Rivera said he did not start quarterback Cam Newton because of a violation of the team's travel dress code. Newton, who took over after that first series, did not wear a tie when the team traveled from San Jose to Seattle.
Anderson's one pass didn't go as planned; neither did the rest of the game for Carolina.
"We didn't lose this game because of a tie. It was a lot of execution errors," Newton said. "As a team, we are going to keep putting ourselves in this position if we don't maximize the opportunities that we do get in the game."
View game action photos from Carolina's 40-7 loss to Seattle.