By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer
RENTON, Wash. (AP) - For a change, the conversation about whether Russell Wilson was the best option at quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks was a bit muted on Monday.
Rightfully so after the performance the Seahawks defense turned in a day earlier in shutting down Cam Newton and Carolina.
And while Seahawks coach Pete Carroll felt the effort his defense put forth in Sunday's 16-12 win could be the best since he took over in 2009, he also added this bit of caution.
"We're just getting better. It feels like we are very, very early in the stages so hopefully we can keep going," Carroll said.
Despite all the ways the Seahawks tried to give away Sunday's game, the end result was their defense would not let it happen. Facing the Panthers' unique offense, Seattle limited them to 190 total yards, a combined 2 of 15 on third and fourth downs and the worst day passing in Newton's young career.
Newton was just 12 of 29 for 141 yards and was sacked four times. Only one other time in his two seasons has Newton completed less than 50 percent of his attempts.
The 190 yards of total offense were the fewest allowed by the Seahawks since November 2007 against San Francisco. Carolina had only two plays of more than 20 yards after coming into the week averaging more than five per game.
"Most teams, after three turnovers, something would go wrong. But our defense held on and fought hard and we stayed true to what we were there to do and finished the game really well," Carroll said. "It was an exciting game for our guys. I love seeing that we played so well and so tough on defense."
There were plenty of moments when the Seahawks defense shined on Sunday and cornerback Brandon Browner was often in the middle. It was Browner's strip of DeAngelo Williams and subsequent fumble recovery in the third quarter that changed the momentum after Seattle had gifted the Panthers three turnovers, including Captain Munnerlyn's 33-yard interception return for a touchdown to give Carolina a 10-6 lead.
Browner's forced fumble led to Wilson's touchdown pass to Golden Tate that gave the Seahawks the lead late in the third quarter.
But the burly cornerback wasn't done. He and Marcus Trufant combined to tackle Carolina's Louis Murphy at the 1-yard line on third-and-goal with less than 4 minutes remaining when it appeared he would score easily and potentially give Carolina the lead. On fourth-and-goal, Newton rolled out of the pocket, but threw a pass intended for Ben Hartsock into the turf.
"The four plays down there were really extraordinary," Carroll said of the goal-line stand. "That's a fun situation to be in. As a defense that is as intense as it gets and as exciting as it gets to play ball, so much at stake and the game on the line and all that and to come through is really huge."
Overshadowed by the play of the Seahawks defense was Wilson's best performance as Seattle's starting QB. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 221 yards, but was intercepted twice. The throw that Munnerlyn intercepted was a poor decision and a poor throw, but the other interception was a ball that Marshawn Lynch should have caught.
After seemingly weekly debate about whether Wilson was the right choice to be the starter over Matt Flynn, Sunday's efficiency quieted the talk for a bit.
Instead, the concerns continued about red zone efficiency. Seattle has just four touchdowns in 14 trips inside its opponents' 20 this season. Seattle outgained Carolina 174-93 in the first half on Sunday, yet led only 6-3 at halftime because it stalled inside the Panthers' 20.
Additionally, Seattle continues to struggle with penalties and had a number of big plays called back on Sunday, most notably a 56-yard pass to Tate and a pair of long runs by Lynch. The Seahawks enter this week's home game against New England as the most penalized team in the league.
"I better start reinforcing a lot better than I'm doing. I'm not doing a very good job here. It's not because it's not emphasized, the message isn't hitting home yet," Carroll said. "We just stay after it. We have very aggressive guys, we sought them out and now we're having to deal with it."
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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