Bryan Strickland Senior Writer
Charlotte, NC – The Carolina Panthers know they let a golden opportunity pass them by with their last-second loss at the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday.
Opportunity only knocks so often in the NFL, so the Panthers know they now must answer the call when the Seattle Seahawks pay a visit this Sunday.
“We had an opportunity to make up some ground last week, but we didn’t do it. We’ve got to be sure to make up some ground this week,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. “This would put us right back in a good position going into the bye. We’d like to go into the bye on a high note so we can build towards coming out of it on an even better note.”
The game is big for both teams (but aren’t they all?), with the Panthers in position to improve to 2-3 and drop the Seahawks to 2-3.
If Carolina is to begin putting itself in better position for a playoff push, here are some keys to a successful Sunday.
CINCHING LYNCH: While Marshawn Lynch, Seattle’s relentless running back, leads the NFL with 423 rushing yards, the Panthers rank 25th in stopping the run.
Tackling has been an issue for the Panthers, and tackling often is an issue when it comes to Lynch.
“He’s tough to bring down,” Panthers linebacker
Lynch can be a beast, but the best way to contain him is to corral him. The play isn’t over, however, until Lynch is dragged to the ground, so secure tackling is crucial.
“We have to tackle better, that’s for doggone sure,” Rivera said. “He’s kind of a blend of what we’ve got. We’ve got a slasher who’s got tremendous burst in DeAngelo (Williams), and you look at what Jonathan (Stewart) does for us with his power in the inside running game – Marshawn has got a little bit of both. It’s a good challenge for us.”
The Seahawks sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers eight times before halftime, with defensive end Chris Clemons getting him four times in the second quarter alone.
“We know that this defensive line has a motor like no other, and we’re just going to have to contain it to the best of our ability,” Panthers quarterbackCam Newton said. “We can’t have any mishaps. We can’t have any hiccups. We can’t have any ‘my bads.’ We’re trying to eliminate that vocabulary as much as possible and get back to congratulating and high-fiving each other.”
The good news is that Newton has been sacked just nine times this season – a fairly average figure – and the Seahawks’ rush has been average at best statistically speaking outside of that crazy half. The Seahawks have totaled just four sacks over their other seven halves of football, and Clemons has just one sack outside of that remarkable 15 minutes.
MR. WILSON AND FRIENDS: Former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson is starting under center as a rookie for the Seahawks, but Kuechly is among those who knows all about his game.
“He was able to pick apart our defense at B.C. a couple of times,” Kuechly said. “A lot of guys in college can run but can’t throw, or can throw but can’t run. He’s one of those guys that can do it all. He can run, he can pass, and he’s a smart quarterback, too. He knows where he’s going with the ball.”
Wilson lit up the opposition throughout the preseason to earn the starting job, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll has taken a conservative approach with him in the regular season. The Seahawks rank last in the NFL with 130.8 passing yards per game.
One player that could help get Wilson going is wide receiver Sidney Rice. Since piling up 1,312 receiving yards for the Vikings in 2009, injuries have contributed to him not even totaling 900 yards, but he’s still dangerous.
“It’s going to be tough, but I’m up for the challenge,” said Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who played with Rice at South Carolina and could start Sunday in place of Chris Gamble. “I know some of his tendencies. I know how he plays.”
CONSISTENT PRESSURE: One obvious way to contain Wilson is to get him to the ground, something the Panthers did seven times to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan – including Charles Johnson‘s first 3.5 sacks of the season.
“They were relentless,” Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. “They showed great intensity, great passion, and Charles upped his game even more.
“My challenge to them is to do that every week, no matter who you play or where you play.”
McDermott’s statement applies well beyond the defensive line. The Panthers need to play every week like they did against Atlanta – minus the final minute – to have a successful season.
TRAVEL PLANS: It isn’t easy for West Coast teams to travel across the country to face the Panthers. Carolina needs to continue to take advantage of that.
The Panthers last lost a regular season game to a team traveling from Denver or farther west in 2004, winning their last seven such games. Seattle has dropped 12 of its last 14 games in the Eastern time zone.
Sometimes the status quo is a good thing.
|Fuel Up To Play 60 Kids Combine||Located on the Panthers’ practice field adjacent to Bank of America Stadium and open from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Free, interactive area promotes youth fitness through a variety of football skills and drills for children and their families. Activities include 40-yard dash, vertical jump, wide receiver/quarterback challenge, TopCats dance studio and inflatable obstacle course.|
|Panthers Lair||Located on the corner of Mint Street and Morehead Street and open from 1:45 to 3:45 p.m., with TopCats signing autographs and posing for photos at the 107.9 The Link booth from 2 to 3 p.m. and Sir Purr appearing throughout the afternoon. Support breast cancer awareness month by getting a pink ribbon from Zeta Tau Alpha. Sample one of Pepsi’s newest flavors – Pepsi Next – play games at the Keffer Hyundai vehicle display, and visit the Forms & Supply, Inc. mobile furniture showroom.|
|Catwalk||Located outside Bank of America Stadium’s North Gate on Graham Street and open from 1:45 to 3:45 p.m., with TopCats signing autographs and posing for pictures from 2 to 3 p.m. at the WBT 1110-AM booth. Throw a virtual football with Verizon, and learn about protecting your home from CPI Security. Get information about the 2012 ACC Championship at Bank of America Stadium and meet personalities from News Channel 36, including Larry Sprinkle. Support breast cancer awareness month by getting a pink ribbon from Zeta Tau Alpha.|
|Invocation||Rev. Matthew Codd – St. Mark Catholic Church, Huntersville, N.C.|
|Presentation Of Colors||University of North Carolina-Charlotte National Society of Pershing Rifles|
|National Anthem||Eric Kesler|
|Halftime||Junior TopCats performance|