For the third time in four weeks, the Seahawks gained 420 yards or more, after having not gained more than 418 in the first eight weeks of the season.
It was a night when the Seahawks appeared to regain their identity even as they lost a key part of their core.
That this was the night when free safety Earl Thomas suffered a broken leg that appears likely to keep him out for as long as Seattle will play games this season is hard to ignore.
“We’re going to miss him enormously,’’ coach Pete Carroll said later.
But otherwise, this was a night when the Seahawks looked like the best of themselves, with a dynamic offense, a powerful running game and a defense that gave ground as grudgingly as they have all season.
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That Carolina appears a shell of the team that went 15-1 last season — the Panthers are now 4-8 and on the verge of one of the biggest collapses from one year to the next in NFL history — has to be noted. But then, this is what a good team should do to a bad one, and there was no question which was which Sunday night.
For the third time in four weeks, the Seahawks set a season-high in yards, also topping the 420-yard mark for the third time in four weeks after not gaining more than 418 in the first half.
The season-high 534 Seattle gained against the Bucs was the hoped-for reversal from the debacle in Tampa Bay. That included a season-high 240 yards rushing, the most since Seattle had 255 against San Francisco last Nov. 22 at CenturyLink Field.
And as all the problems started up front against the Bucs, so did the success Sunday begin with much steadier offensive line play, with the line indeed appearing to benefit as predicted by Carroll from the return of center Justin Britt, who missed the Tampa Bay game with a sprained ankle.
“I think it really demonstrated how important Justin Britt has been to us,’’ Carroll said. “His coming back in there really cleaned things up this week.’’
But he was hardly alone.
To name one other lineman, tookie left tackle George Fant, who struggled mightily last week against Tampa Bay, had a huge block to open up the left side of the line for a Rawls 8-yard touchdown run that put the Seahawks up 10-0.
And throughout, the Seahawks executed at a much-higher level in averaging a season-high 7.5 yards per play — almost double the 4.0 of last week. Consider further that the Seahawks had 11 plays of 18 yards or longer, including four runs — Seattle had had eight other games this season before Sunday night in which they had not had a single run as long as 18 yards.
Rawls, who Carroll said had had his best week of practice, lived up to the billing with 106 yards on 15 carries.
Wilson, who had the second-lowest passer rating of his career last week, rebounded to complete 26-36 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown.
Wilson threw an interception straight into the hands of Carolina safety Tre Boston later in the first half, his third interception in the last two games after he had only two in the first 10 games.
But his back-to-usual mobility was evident throughout, helping to open up plays elsewhere and rushing for 29 yards on three carries.
Maybe the most welcome sight was a breakout game for receiver Tyler Lockett, appearing finally fully healthy and capable of consistently turning in the kind of explosive plays the team envisioned at the start of the season.
Lockett had 63 yards on five catches on six targets, as well as a 75-yard touchdown run on a fly sweep on the first play of the second half.
Seattle could probably be forgiven for its one big defensive lapse — a 55-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Ted Ginn, Jr. on the play after Earl Thomas suffered a fractured leg.
Take that out and the Seattle defense was stifling when it mattered — Carolina had just 211 yards until just over 10 minutes to go in the game.
Linebacker K.J. Wright gave even more life to his Pro Bowl candidacy with a pass defense and a forced fumble in the first half.
Defensive lineman Michael Bennett, playing for the first time since Oct. 23, looked like his usual self.
Kam Chancellor showed some unique hops when he leapt high to bat down a Newton pass on what was Carolina’s second possession of the game.
Cassius Marsh, seeing increasing playing time the last few weeks, also had some nice moments, including recovering the fumble forced by Wright.
Bobby Wagner, who came in leading the NFL with 118 tackles, had 10 more as the Panthers were held to just 36 yards on 14 carries in the first three quarters.
And Mike Morgan, in his first game since Oct. 2, had an interception on the first play of the game and finished with five tackles, third on the team.
Steven Hauschka, who hit a lull a few weeks ago, appears to have rediscovered his groove, hitting four field goals.
Lockett, bothered by a knee injury the first half of the season, again appears a legit threat to break every return and had a season-high 46-yard kickoff return.
Neiko Thorpe also remains a star on coverage teams, making two tackles, one a tone-setter on the opening kickoff when he tackle Fozzy Whittaker at the 18-yard-line, creating the field position that led to the first-play interception.