Kearse's 43-yard scoring play came on a pass from Russell Wilson, who went 25-of-33 through the air for 320 yards for the Seahawks (1-0), won their opener after going 11-5 in last year's regular season and beat Washington 24-14 in an NFC wild-card playoff before losing to Atlanta 30-28.
Doug Baldwin paced Seattle's receiving corps with 91 yards on seven catches while Marshawn Lynch picked up 43 yards on 17 carries.
Steven Hauschka booted two field goals for the Seahawks.
Cam Newton who completed 16-of-23 passes with a touchdown for the Panthers (0-1), got only 163 yards of total offense.
DeAngelo Williams rolled up 76 yards on 16 rushing attempts but fumbled near the Seattle goal line late in the game.