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Bruce Irvin helps Seahawks finish off Panthers

Bruce Irvin recorded sacks on back-to-back plays during Carolina's final drive. (Rod Mar/Seahawks)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The pass rush didn’t start quite like Seattle wanted.

That was as true at the beginning of Sunday’s game against Carolina as it was for this season in which Seattle totaled seven sacks over the first six games.

It was how the Seahawks – and Bruce Irvin specifically – finished Sunday’s game that provided hope for improvement, though, Seattle’s third-year linebacker recording sacks on back-to-back plays as the Panthers failed to gain so much as an inch on any of their final four plays.

“That’s exactly the guy that we count on showing up,” coach Pete Carroll said. “And when it came down to it, he just flew off the ball and ran right past their tackle.”

That was No. 77 Byron Bell on second down, Irvin racing outside of him and tackling Carolina’s Cam Newton for a 7-yard loss. On third-and-17, the Panthers tried to block Irvin with a running back, and that didn’t turn out any better. He logged a second sack, this time for a 3-yard loss.

“The finish was in a surge,” Carroll said. “That’s how we like to see it. When the opportunity is there to win the football game, they sensed it and the pass rush was unstoppable at the end of the game. That was a beautiful thing to see.”

But it wasn’t just Irvin. Michael Bennett nearly tackled Newton for a safety earlier in the fourth quarter only to have the Panthers’ 245-pound quarterback escape his tackle. In fact, while Seattle finished with just three sacks, the defense applied its most consistent pressure of the season on Sunday, though that shouldn’t entirely be a surprise given the fact the Panthers were without their two starting guards.

More coverage of the Seahawks’ Week-8 win over Carolina

Recap | Stats | Photos | Carroll Show | Interviews
O’Neil: Three Things from the Seahawks’ win
O’Neil: Wilson, Seahawks show their resolve
Huard: Breaking down the go-ahead touchdown
Henderson: Willson makes up for miscues
Henderson: Burley comes up big with first INT
Pete Carroll Show: Missed chances on defense

The way Irvin closed out the game was especially important, though. He had eight sacks in 2012 – most of any rookie – but he moved to outside linebacker last season and finished with only two. This season, the Seahawks hoped he would emerge as the No. 3 rusher in passing situations, but through six games, his only sack came on a play in which Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo fell down.

Improving the pass rush was a focus for Seattle this week, for Irvin in particular.

“Coach challenged Bruce also this week,” linebacker K.J. Wright said.

Carroll challenged Irvin again after his two sacks in the final minute. See, Irvin was winded after those back-to-back plays, asking to come out only to be turned around by his coach.

“I screamed at him, sent him back out there,” Carroll said.

Message received.

“He told me to get back in,” Irvin said. “I’ve got to do what the boss man says.”

In that case, Bruce, the boss says more sacks are on the menu in the coming weeks