STEWART POWERS PANTHERS: Running back Jonathan Stewart's first two touchdowns of the season on 1-yard runs were obviously important in the Panthers' 27-23 victory at Seattle. But his other 18 carries for 76 yards were critical to the success of Carolina's offense against the stout Seahawks front.
"When you are moving the chains and eating clock, you are setting the tone," Stewart said. "It was a physical performance up front."
Stewart, a Washington native playing in front of about 20 friends and family members, consistently grinded out tough yards and refused to go down on first contact.
"I don't think he gets enough credit for the talent that he is," tight end Greg Olsen said. "When you ask these defenses we play, it's not fun tackling that guy. He does a lot of the dirty work, and he's a hell of a player."
Said quarterback Cam Newton: "Stew was playing like a madman."
Did Stewart feel as though the Seattle defense was eventually worn down by the physicality of Carolina's rushing attack?
BIG DAY FOR OLSEN COULD HAVE BEEN BIGGER: Olsen only built on what already has the look of another Pro Bowl season, catching seven passes for 131 yards, capped by the game-winning touchdown.
Just three more yards, though, and Olsen would have scored three touchdowns.
"Cam came up to me. I thought he was going to say, 'Awesome job.' Instead he said, 'Man, you should have had three touchdowns,' " Olsen said. "I told him I was going as fast as I could go at that point."
Both of Stewart's touchdowns came after Olsen came up just short of the goal line. Late in the third quarter, with Carolina trailing 20-7, Olsen caught a pair of 22-yarders, the second one setting Stewart up at the 2. Then with about four minutes left in the game, Olsen picked up 32 yards – most of the yards coming after the catch – down to the 1. Stewart's touchdown that time brought Carolina within 23-20 and set the stage for Olsen's game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
"I was happy to see Stew get some touchdowns," Olsen said. "He deserves it."
IT ALL STARTED WITH THE OFFENSIVE LINE: Whether it was Olsen, Stewart or someone else gaining the yards, the offensive line set the table for it all as Carolina pulled off what is undoubtedly a rare accomplishment – driving 80 yards four times for touchdowns against Seattle's vaunted defense.
"It speaks a lot to what we were able to do up front," Olsen said. "A lot of those yards were hard, hard yards with the offensive line and Stewart."
In addition to helping pave the way for Stewart's season high in rushing yards, the line gave Newton the time he needed to engineer the game-winning drive.
"We know Jonathan is going to do everything he can. The least we can do is go out there and block everyone," right tackle Mike Remmers said. "And we try to do the best we possibly can to do give Cam as much time as he needs. The wide receivers and tight ends were all catching the ball, which is obviously very important, too, and we were clicking."
KUECHLY IS BACK IN A BIG WAY: Head coach Ron Rivera stated earlier in the week that he didn't want linebacker Luke Kuechly to play every defensive snap in his return from a three-game absence caused by a concussion.
But, especially after A.J. Klein was ruled out, you just knew Kuechly would be out there the whole time.
"He was pretty good, don't you think?" Olsen said. "We only see so much from the sideline, but it seemed like every time they peeled the pile apart, he was at the bottom of it.
"It sure helps having him out there. He's special. It was good to see him out there not missing a beat."
Kuechly, the NFL's leading tackler over his first three NFL seasons, began making up for lost time with a game-high 14 stops.
"We've got a great group of guys and it's fun to be back out there with them," Kuechly said, declaring that he felt "great" after the physical battle.
"It's a great win for us," he added. "Everyone was very excited."
RUN DEFENSE REMAINS ON POINT: The Seahawks entered the game as the NFL's top rushing offense, and Carolina's swarming defense answered the challenge.
Running back Marshawn Lynch ran 17 times for 54 yards – a 3.2 yards per carry average. Quarterback Russell Wilson added 53 yards on eight attempts with his scrambling ability.
"You have to get guys around Lynch," Kuechly said. "That's the biggest thing. He's going to break tackles – that's what he does. He's a monster and he runs really hard. But if you can get a ton of guys around him, it kind of limits what he can do."
View game action photos from Carolina's 27-23 win over Seattle.
Staff writer Max Henson and senior writer Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.