CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In one corner of a celebratory visitor’s locker room, veteran teammates Quinton Jefferson and Branden Jackson were ribbing K.J. Wright about his wayward attempts to find the end zone Sunday afternoon.
Wright could laugh a bit at himself, too.
“My hands are good,” Wright said. “My return skills are a little suspect.”
Wright, the outside linebacker in his ninth season with Seattle, intercepted Carolina’s Kyle Allen on back-to-back throws in the third quarter, one of three interceptions Seattle had off the rookie quarterback in a 30-24 victory.
It was what happened after Wright’s interceptions that had teammates chuckling.
Wright’s first interception came after defensive tackle Poona Ford deflected Allen’s pass near the line of scrimmage. Wright caught it at the Seattle 39-yard line and appeared to have space up the left sideline to make a run toward the end zone. Instead, he was caught and tackled at midfield.
On Carolina’s next possession, Allen made a wild throw under pressure from Jarran Reed. Wright made a diving catch at the Panthers’ 19 and tried to make a run toward the end zone — tucking the ball in his right arm and cutting hard to his right — but he was upended awkwardly on the tackle, falling facemask-first into the grass.
“Ah man, if he had just run straight he’d have been in the end zone,” Jefferson said. “The end zone was right there. But they (Wright and Bobby Wagner) played a great game, and I’m happy for them.”
Wagner had his first interception of the season in the final minute of the firs t half, and rookie defensive back Ugo Amadi had an interception (and a pick six) wiped away in the second half when it was ruled he dropped the ball before completing possession.
“Big day for linebackers,” Wright said. “We got three of them (interceptions) today. It was fun. Bobby made a heck of a play, just reading the quarterback’s eyes. … It was a fun day today. We got three — that was our goal. And we made it happen.”
It was the first two-interception game of Wright’s career.
“It was just my day,” he said. “You know what is really crazy? I had a dream (the night before) that I had two picks. Y’all may not believe me, but I really had a dream that I had two picks.”
It was the fifth consecutive game in which the Seahawks (11-3) have forced at least two turnovers, and the result was a franchise-record seventh victory on the road.
“Creating turnovers was a big thing,” Wagner said. “We had a lot of momentum-changing turnovers.”
Already without four defensive starters going into the game — Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah, Shaquill Griffin and Mychal Kendricks — the Seahawks lost starting free safety Quandre Diggs late in the first half to a sprained ankle.
Then, in a scary scene, Wagner went down with a sprained ankle with 7:02 left in the fourth quarter. That injury initially looked much worse than what it turned out to be, and Wagner said afterward, “I’m good.”
Still, with the injuries mounting, the Seahawks were down to six regular starters to finish out the game. Rookie Cody Barton took his first snaps in Wagner’s place at middle linebacker; Akeem King started at left corner in Shaquill Griffin’s place for the first time this season and Amadi had his most extensive snaps at nickel corner.
“We’ve had some years where we’ve had a lot of injuries, but having six down is real tough,” Wright said. “Hopefully we can nurse those guys back to health.”
The Seahawks appeared to have communication issues, among other breakdowns, that allowed Carolina to scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes, turning the Seahawks’ 30-10 lead to a six-point game with 3:14 left.
“We got lax at the end. We can’t do that,” Jefferson said. “But it was pretty dope those (young guys) got so much playing time.”