Bank of America Stadium (73,504) / October 7, 2012 • 4:05PM / PANTHERS.COM
Panthers Host Seattle for First Time Since 2007
Charlotte, NC – Carolina’s offensive revival will face one of its sternest tests Sunday when the Panthers host the Seattle Seahawks at Bank of America Stadium as the teams seek to bounce back from tough losses. The Panthers dropped a 30-28 decision last week in Atlanta while the Seahawks were suffering a 19-13 defeat at St. Louis.
Despite the loss, the Panthers continued a two-year upward trend in Atlanta with 404 yards by its offense, which currently ranks 13th in yardage gained after finishing last in 2010. However, the Panthers will be facing the League’s second-best defensive unit in the stingy Seahawks.
In addition, the Seahawks bring a punishing run game that ranks sixth in the NFL and is complemented by the timely throws of former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson. That poses problems for a Carolina defense that is still trying to find the consistency head coach Ron Rivera seeks.
Last week reflected the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the Carolina defense as they tied a team record with seven sacks, but surrendered 424 yards total offense versus Atlanta. Big plays were the culprits as the Falcons scored on touchdowns of 49 and 60 yards while setting up the game winning field goal on another long passing play.
Those plays negated a superlative effort by Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson, who set team record with 3.5 sacks for losses of 35 yards to increase his career total to 34 in 39 career starts. Rookie Frank Alexander added a sack and a half.
The seven sacks are one less than the elusive Wilson has been sacked for the season. For the season, the Panthers are eighth in the League in sacks per pass play and have 12 total sacks for the year.
However, the Panthers were not able to make the plays to close out a win over the Falcons, leaving them at 1-3 for the season and ranking 24th in total defense. Takeaways continue to be a challenge for Carolina, whose three are tied for the second-lowest total in the NFL after four weeks.
All three of those takeaways have come on interceptions, the latest by Haruki Nakamura against Atlanta.
If big plays proved to be the demise of the Panthers in Atlanta, they also helped keep them in games throughout the season as Carolina ranks first in yardage per play. The trigger man to that success is quarterback Cam Newton, whose 9.47 yards per passing attempt is first in the League to go along with a team-best 5.1 yards per rush and 167 rushing yards.
Averaging over 373 yards per game total offense, the Panthers will be facing a Seattle unit that allows just 275.8 yards per contest. The Seahawks have been virtually unmovable against the run, allowing opponents an average of 3.0 yards per carry.
Conversely, Carolina is coming off a 199-yard rushing game against the Falcons and is eighth in rushing average on the strength of Newton, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart.
Newton is also on the heels of a strong passing performance in which he had a 119.3 quarterback rating, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for one. Tight end Greg Olsen has emerged as a favorite target for Newton with a team leading 20 receptions for 256 yards and his first touchdown of the year last week in Atlanta.
Close behind is veteran Steve Smith with 17 catches for 348 yards, but much of the noise this season has been made by Carolina rookie players:
- Linebacker Luke Kuechly has started every game and ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 32 and has added two passes defensed.
- Rookie Amini Silatolu has been a mainstay at left guard between center Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross along the offensive line.
- Alexander has provided depth to the pass rush with 2.5 sacks.
- Cornerback Josh Norman has moved into a starting role in the secondary and is tied for the team lead with three passes defensed.
- Brad Nortman has stepped in with some pin-point punting with seven kicks inside the 20 on 19 punts.