Devastating loss taints Seahawks’ 40-7 win over Panthers

SEATTLE – The Seattle Seahawks played one of their best games of the season Sunday, but it hardly seemed to matter.

Earl Thomas’ devastating  injury in the first half – and his tweet hinting at his possible retirement – were the focus of attention after the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers, 40-7, on national TV in a frigid CenturyLink Field.

Thomas inadvertently collided with teammate Kam Chancellor while diving for an interception. He didn’t come up with the ball, and came away with a broken tibia for his troubles. While he was still in the locker room before halftime, he tweeted he had a lot going through his mind, “including retirement.”

After the game, Chancellor said he’d talked to Thomas and said the injury was season-ending.

“It’s a big hit for us, it’s a big loss for us because he’s a big part of our defense, a big part of the brotherhood,” Chancellor said after the game.

Once you get past Thomas’ injury, however, there was plenty of positive news from perhaps the Seahawks’ most complete game of the season.

A week after the offense failed to show up in a 14-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Russell Wilson’s looked downright brilliant at times. Thomas Rawls fought for a tenacious 106 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, and Tyler Lockett had 138 total yards on offense with a 75 yard touchdown run and 63 more yards on five receptions.

Wilson added another solid game, continuing to look fully recovered from a spate of injuries early in the season as he threw for 277 yards on 26-of-36 passing before giving way to Trevone Boykin in the fourth quarter.

It was the offense’s best game of the season, as the Seahawks matched their season high in points and set a new season high in yards with 534.

The defense was its usual outstanding self, welcoming back Michael Bennett, Mike Morgan, DeShawn Shead and – for an all-too-brief time – Thomas as they continued to be the league’s stingiest unit in giving up only the 7 points and 263  yards.

The game got off to a weird start, with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton sitting out the first series for a team violation – reportedly he didn’t wear a tie on the trip to Seattle – and his replacement Derek Anderson immediately throwing an interception to Morgan that turned into a Seahawks field goal.

Seattle (8-3-1) holds a commanding three-game lead in the NFC West with four games to play. They travel to play the Packers next week, return for a two-game home-stand against the Rams and Cardinals, then wrap up the season with a trip to San Francisco.

If the season ended today, the Seahawks would be the NFC’s No. 2 seed behind the Dallas Cowboys, getting a first-round bye and playing host to a wild-card winner in the divisional round the weekend of Jan. 14-15.