The history between these two teams is brief, but they have a history. The last time these squads took the field together was back in December of 2010 in Seattle, the Seahawks thumping the Panthers, 31-14. Carolina’s most notable loss coming in the 2006 NFC Championship, when they went west to Seattle and got annihilated by Seattle’s 12th man and hard hitting defense, 34-14.
The Panthers can’t worry about previous matchups, especially now that Seattle is beginning to click on the defensive side of the football. Not to mention the Panthers are potentially staring a 1-4 record in the face if they come up short on Sunday.
The stage is set for a must-win showdown with the Seahawks. Carolina is reeling from back-to-back crushing defeats, but now is not the time for panic. That comes later, if the Panthers lose.
Now is the perfect situation for Carolina before heading into their week six bye.
They are hosting a Seahawks club that generally doesn’t travel well when playing on the east coast, so Sunday will mean opportunity for Carolina, but only if they find a way to build on their successes from week four.
Seattle’s long travel arrangements alone won’t be enough for the Panthers to be able to obtain victory. Seattle’s defense is physical both up front and in the secondary. They play a lot of man-to-man coverage and are able to force opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said himself on Wednesday, that limiting mistakes as a whole will be crucial. That means Carolina has to limit stupid penalties and not turn the ball over. Sounds simple, but the Panthers have had trouble in both departments.
Newton has an opportunity on Sunday. He has the ability to play strong against any and all kinds of defenses. Look for Newton to try and exploit one-on-one matchups down field and look for the Panthers to show Seattle’s defense all kinds of different looks. It worked for Carolina last week, meaning they might mix it up even more in this upcoming contest.
On defense, stopping the run, as always will be key for the Panthers’ success. Sounds easy enough, but the Panthers currently rank 25th in the NFL in rushing defense; not the best formula when facing the league’s leading rusher in Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch is the type of dynamic back that could potentially destroy Carolina’s defense on Sunday. All hands must be on deck for the Panthers defense. Everyone must buy into stopping the run because Seattle is going to keep the ball on the ground early and often.
Carolina can control this game if they hinder Seattle’s run game and of course get pressure on Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
Carolina’s front four showed up in week four, registering a franchise record tying seven sacks. They need to build on that effort from last week and get to Wilson as much as they can. Wilson has made plenty of mistakes on his own in his young career, tossing four interceptions and playing flustered at times in the pocket. Forcing Wilson to turn the ball over will be critical for the Panthers. Seattle is 0-2 when Wilson throws a pick and 2-0 when he doesn’t.
If the Panthers can control the game defensively, particularly on third down, then they should be fine. Either way, this game is set-up to be grind it out type of matchup. Both teams will want to run the ball and play physical on defense.
Expect the score to be low and the hitting to be hard in this one.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1.