A trio of touchdowns from Marshawn Lynch and a nearly perfect third quarter made up for one miserable half by the Seattle Seahawks.
Against hapless Carolina, that was more than enough. Lynch scored on a pair of 1-yard runs in the third quarter, sandwiched around Lofa Tatupu's 26-yard interception return for a score, and the Seahawks rallied from a 14-0 deficit for a critical 31-14 win over the Panthers on Sunday.
Lynch added a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for the first three-touchdown day of his career as Seattle overcame injuries to their top two receivers and an awful first-half performance to stay even with St. Louis on top of the NFC West. Seattle (6-6) broke a two-game losing streak.
Lynch ran 21 times for 83 yards, his most since posting a season-high 89 yards against Arizona nearly six weeks ago, and Seattle's 162 yards rushing were a season-best. Matt Hasselbeck was intercepted twice, but threw for 229 yards despite losing receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu to injury.
Williams had his ankle rolled up on while blocking on Seattle's first possession and returned to the sideline at halftime in street clothes. Obomanu was hurt getting crunched by Carolina safety Charles Godfrey on a 27-yard reception in the second quarter. Obomanu immediately went to the locker room holding his hand and never returned.
Appearing headed for a season-deflating loss to the worst team in the NFL, Seattle rebounded with 21 points in the third quarter, thanks to a trio of big plays and one extremely embarrassing moment.
Seattle scored on the opening drive of the half, going 96-yard after Leon Washington muffed the second-half kickoff. Justin Forsett darted for 31 yards to set up the first of Lynch's two touchdowns.
Three plays after the score, and on third-and-1, the Panthers (1-11) opted to go away from Jonathan Stewart and have rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen throw for fullback Tony Fiammetta in the flat. The pass never got to Fiammetta. Tatupu never broke stride cutting off the throw and jogging the 26 yards and stunningly giving Seattle a 17-14 lead.
And Washington nearly made it 24-14 on his own, only to get punished for showing off. Washington appeared headed for his first punt return touchdown of the season, fielding Jason Baker's kick at his 14 and breaking clear of the Panthers coverage with only Baker to beat. Washington even starting raising a finger at about the Panthers 40, but Baker never stopped his pursuit and caught Washington's right foot about the 10 and forcing him to fall at the Panthers 2.
While Washington sat on the sideline with his head down, Lynch plowed in for his second touchdown in less than 5 minutes and a 10-point Seattle lead.
Seattle's third-quarter blitz was a stunning turnaround from a lackluster first half when Seattle's offense failed to make a first down in the first quarter for a second straight week and the Panthers appeared just as threatening as they did a week ago in being inches away from winning at Cleveland.
Instead it was just another Panthers' flub. For two quarters, the Panthers rolled through Seattle's struggling defense.
Stewart had nearly 100 yards in the first half as the Panthers gladly exposed Seattle's biggest weakness during its recent skid, the inability to stop the run. Stewart broke tackles and busted through open holes for 73 yards in the first half.
Clausen hit on nine of his first 13 throws, including a perfect 39-yard streak to Steve Smith, beating Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant. That completion eventually led to Stewart's 3-yard
touchdown plunge and a 14-0 Panthers lead.
The last time Carolina had a 14-point lead: the final game last season against New Orleans, which was resting all its starters. The Panthers led 17-3 in a 23-10 win.
And it all disappeared in the second half. Following Stewart's TD with 8:05 left in the second quarter, the Panthers had 197 total yards. They gained just 86 yards in the final 38 minutes, much of it coming on their final drive.
Clausen finished 18 of 34 for 169 yards and was sacked three times. Stewart, playing near his hometown of Lacey, Wash., had just 19 yards in the second half and finished with 92 on 21 carries.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)