CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Seattle Seahawks know how to cope with tight spots, and quarterback Russell Wilson fired a pass into one of those for the team's only touchdown in Sunday afternoon's season opener.
Wilson threw a 43-yard touchdown strike to leaping wide receiver Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter and Seattle's physical defense was up to the task in a 12-7 victory against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
"I just kind of read the play," Wilson said of the pass to Kearse. "He was my second read."
The touchdown, which came with 10:13 to play, happened one play after Wilson slightly overthrew wide receiver Stephen Williams in a similar spot down the right sideline working against Josh Thomas.
"I saw Russell looking at me and he was going to give me a chance," Kearse said. "If I had a chance to go up there and make a play, I had in my mind I was going to go up and get it."
Seattle failed to connect on a two-point conversion pass, but it didn't matter.
Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas forced Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams' fumble at the Seattle 8 yard-line with 5:25 remaining. Tony McDaniel recovered the ball, negating a potential go-ahead drive - and the Panthers never got the ball back.
The Panthers would have given up the ball earlier on their final possession, which started following a punt inside their 15-yard line, but a third-down facemask penalty on Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett prolonged the possession. Another personal foul against Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor pushed the ball into Seattle territory.
"We've got a great defense on our side, and their defense is known around the league," Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert said. "Points are going to be one of those things that's hard to come by."
Wilson threw for 114 of his 320 yards in the fourth quarter. He was 25 of 33 on pass attempts for the game.
On three consecutive trips inside Carolina territory bridging the second and third quarters, the Seahawks managed a total of three points.
"I think the relentless nature we had in terms of the offensive line (made the difference)," Wilson said.
The Panthers' offense kept stalling as well, as quarterback Cam Newton threw for just 125 yards on 16-for-23 passing.
"We have to finish drives," Newton said. "We have to get first downs to get touchdowns. ... Let's not panic now. It's going to be all right. We played an unbelievable team."
The Panthers went ahead on their only full second-quarter possession, moving 80 yards in 11 plays, capped by Steve Smith's 3-yard catch from Newton. Their other chance with the ball lasted just one play before halftime.
"We made the right corrections on the sidelines and then we went from there," Thomas said of the Seahawks' ability to contain the Panthers. "At the end of the day we got the win like we wanted to and that's all that matters."
Carolina escaped trouble in the last minute of the first half when the Seahawks reached the Panthers' 12 before Charles Johnson's sack of Wilson dislodged the ball. Johnson fell on the fumble.
The Seahawks didn't pick up their initial first down until their third possession late in the first quarter, with that leading to the game's first points on Steven Hauschka's 27-yard field goal with 9:36 left in the second quarter. The 15-play, 74-yard drive chewed up almost nine minutes.
They didn't score again until Hauschka connected from 40 yards out with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter.
After a Seattle third-quarter punt hit Thomas, with Chris Maragos of the Seahawks recovering, a taunting penalty on Seattle's K.J. Wright moved the ball back to the Seattle 49. The Seahawks didn't convert.
"I think this is one of those games that you needed," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. "We needed, as a team, some adversity. ... Last year, we didn't really see too much adversity until the playoffs."
Carolina defensive end Frank Alexander was ejected for a post-whistle personal foul after slugging Seattle right tackle Breno Giacomini with 1:13 to play in the first half. Alexander wasn't a starter, but he had been in the Panthers' rotation along the front.
NOTES: The Seahawks also won last year in Charlotte. ... Panthers OT Garry Williams departed in the first quarter with an injured left knee and was out for the rest of the game. He was replaced by OL Chris Scott. ... Seahawks S Jeron Johnson, a second-string player, also left in the first quarter. A hamstring injury meant he didn't return. ... Seattle P Jon Ryan's first punt of the season went for 69 yards while standing in his own end zone.