Panthers, Wilks earn first road victory of season in Seattle, inch closer to division lead
Carolina, at 5-8, is back within one game of the NFC South lead.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers inched ever closer to a playoff spot on Sunday, thanks to what has proved to be a weak NFC South division.
In a pair of West Coast matchups, the Panthers went on the road and defeated the Seattle Seahawks 30-24, while the division-rival Buccaneers were thrashed by the 49ers a few hundred miles south in San Francisco.
The victory, which is the first on the road this season, puts Carolina at 5-8, in a tie for second place in the division, and just one game back of 6-7 Tampa Bay with four weeks to go in the regular season.
Carolina used a pair of first-half interceptions to take a 20-14 lead into halftime, before long, clock-chewing drives helped melt the second half away.
Quarterback Sam Darnold declined to take many shots down the field against Seattle, but avoided turning the ball over to help the Panthers dominate the time of possession, keeping the Seahawks’ explosive offense on the sidelines for much of the game.
Darnold finished the day 14 of 24 passing for 120 yards and a first-quarter touchdown to wide receiver Shi Smith.
The Panthers’ running game also played a big role in the team’s win, as running backs D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard helped the offense to 223 total rushing yards. It marked the seventh time Carolina has reached the 100-yard mark on the ground this season.
Defensively, Jaycee Horn and C.J. Henderson came away with interceptions, while linebacker Frankie Luvu continued cause chaos on defense, posting two tackles for loss and a sack.
In the seven contests where the Panthers have ran for at least 100 yards, they have won five times.
Carolina will return home next weekend when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers. If they win and Tampa Bay loses to Cincinnati and Atlanta loses to New Orleans, the Panthers and Buccaneers would be tied atop the NFC South standings. The head-to-head tiebreaker, which Carolina currently holds, would give the Panthers the advantage.
If Atlanta wins, and the Panthers win, but Tampa Bay loses, all three teams would have a 6-8 record. The Panthers would still hold the tiebreaker in that scenario and would take over first place in the division.
Following the Dec. 18 date with Pittsburgh, the Panthers will play the Detroit Lions at home before facing the Saints and Buccaneers on the road to end the regular season.
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