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Originally published October 7, 2012 at 7:47 PM | Page modified October 7, 2012 at 10:35 PM

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Magnificent Eleven defense saves the day for Seahawks

The legend of this defense, this Magnificent Eleven, continues to grow.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — How long has it been?

"Last one was against Dallas, right?" Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said.

"No. Not that long. We gave up one against Green Bay," cornerback Richard Sherman corrected him. "I'm going to say 147 minutes."

How long has it been since the Seahawks defense surrendered a touchdown?

"Man, I don't know and I don't really care," safety Kam Chancellor said. "We don't want to give up any touchdowns. This is just the way we play."

"I would say an hour and some change," defensive tackle Alan Branch said.

How long?

The answer is 128 minutes.

"How many?" defensive end Jason Jones asked. "One hundred twenty-eight minutes? Wow. That's pretty impressive."

"Wooh!" Branch said. "I'll take that every time."

Two hours and eight minutes.

"That's crazy," rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin said. "I mean crazy. This is one of the elite defenses in the league."

"One twenty-eight? Dang, that is a long time," Chancellor said. "But we've got to keep it going. It's a long season, man."

The legend of this defense, this Magnificent Eleven, continues to grow.

On a gray late Sunday afternoon, the Seahawks defense made another gaggle of great plays. Over and over again, this best defense in franchise history frustrated the Carolina Panthers.

Late in the third quarter, Brandon Browner forced and recovered DeAngelo Williams' fumble, the play that saved this game. The Hawks scored the go-ahead touchdown five plays later.

On a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with under four minutes to play, the defense gave Cam Newton no options. The Carolina quarterback rolled to his right, couldn't find an open receiver and short-armed a throw into the ground.

"We stayed disciplined on that play," Chancellor said after this unsightly 16-12 win.

And on the Panthers' final possession, Irvin stripped Newton and recovered the football on the Panthers' 31.

Ballgame!

On another day when the Seahawks offense played poorly enough to lose, the defense wouldn't let it.

On a day when the game shouldn't have been this close, when, once again, the Seahawks' red zone offense was awful, the defense kept returning to the field and smacking down the Panthers.

Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw two more interceptions, including a pick six to Captain Munnerlyn. But the defense picked him up.

"I think everybody on the defense expects to make some kind of big play in every game," rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner said.

Wagner had six tackles and 1 ½ sacks. Pass rusher Chris Clemons spent a large portion of the game in the Panthers' backfield, chasing and hitting Newton. And Irvin had two more sacks.

The defense won another game for the Seahawks.

But this team can't keep asking the defense to win games, can it?

"Why not?" Branch said. "That's the way we look at it."

"We don't care," Chancellor said. "We hold ourselves to a high standard. And we like playing defense. This is what we signed up for."

These Seahawks defenders are The Three-And-Outs, so good the Panthers converted only 2 of 11 third downs, so good they held Carolina to 190 yards.

Wagner sacked Newton on a third-and-seven. Clemons and Wagner combined for a sack on a third-and-eight. And Irvin sacked Newton on a third-and-10.

"The game was on us, so we pinned our ears back and we went hunting," Irvin said. "We live for that. We love to get after it. If it's on us to seal the win every week, we'll do it. We take pride in that."

Newton, who seems to have regressed since his 2011 rookie season, completed only 12 of 29 passes and had a quarterback rating of 56.8. In his defense, against the Seahawks secondary, it was hard to find an open receiver.

"That's our job. That's what we're paid to do," Sherman said. "You ask a construction worker to go do his job every day. We do the same thing. It never stops with our defense. That's what it's about.

"We play in Seattle, so it kind of goes unnoticed, but we've got a lot of great players out there. It's no fluke. It's not an accident. We have great players making great plays in big games."

Forget geography, this is a defense that is getting noticed. A defense on which the Seahawks will have to hang their season.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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