Seahawks vs. Panthers: Drawing Up a Game Plan for Carolina

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Seahawks vs. Panthers: Drawing Up a Game Plan for Carolina
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Both the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks enter Sunday’s Week 5 matchup wanting to get Week 4 as far behind them as possible.

The Seahawks lost 13-19 to the St. Louis Rams and had just 319 yards of total offense.

Carolina lost to the Atlanta Falcons on a game-winning field goal after pinning Matt Ryan on his 1-yard line with just 59 seconds to play and no timeouts.

Seattle can move to within one game of Arizona in the NFC West standings with a win. Carolina, already three games behind NFC South-leading Atlanta, can’t afford to fall further behind.

For Carolina to pull off the win Sunday, here are three things the coaching staff needs to remember.

 

Keep the Pressure On

Never in the history of the Carolina franchise has the defense registered more sacks than the seven it laid on Ryan and the Falcons last week. And to make that feat even more impressive, Atlanta had only given up four sacks in its previous three games.

Defensive end Charles Johnson led the way with 3.5 sacks, Frank Alexander had 1.5 and Greg Hardy and Dwan Edwards each got one.

The Panthers need to make sure their front four continues to bring the pressure like they did in Atlanta.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Breno Giacomini will be tasked with blocking Johnson on Sunday. Even though Giacomini has only given up one sack in 2012, he’s allowed 12 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus (paywall). Only seven offensive tackles have allowed more.

But Giacomini isn’t solely responsible for stopping the opposing pass rush, and the entire Seattle offensive line has been horrible at keeping Russell Wilson out of trouble.

Wilson has only been sacked eight times in 2012, but no quarterback in the NFL has been pestered more than the Seattle passer. He's felt pressure 46.3 percent of the time he drops back.

With an already low 60 percent completion rate, Wilson’s accuracy drops miserably low when under pressure—he completes just 48.7 percent of his passes.

The Panthers must aggravate Wilson all game to succeed.

 

Contain Marshawn Lynch

The Panthers might have the best rushing backfield in the NFL with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and at times Cam Newton. But the league's best running back heading into Week 4 is Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, who is averaging 105.8 yards per game.

Carolina’s run defense hasn’t held a team under 100 yards rushing yet this season and was just abused by Atlanta’s Michael Turner, who averaged 7.9 yards per carry to gain 103 yards on the ground.

The Panthers are No. 26 in the NFL against the run and must find a way to slow Lynch down.

David Welker/Getty Images

Lynch is a workhorse, running the ball 20 times or more in every game this season. He’s posted two 100-plus-yard rushing efforts and never dipped below 85 yards in a game this year.

It’s a possibility that linebacker Jon Beason will miss Sunday’s game (he’s listed as doubtful on Carolina’s injury report). With or without one of the team’s most proficient tacklers, the Panthers have to find ways to limit Lynch’s effectiveness.

 

Give Newton a Green Light to Air It Out

Newton’s gone from 303 yards passing in Week 1 to just 215 last week in Atlanta, and each week his total passing yards have decreased.

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When Seattle comes to town, that trend has to reverse.

Newton is one of 18 quarterbacks who enter Week 4 with an average of 250 passing yards per game or more. He’s going to have to throw more on Sunday for the Panthers to win.

The Seahawks have the second-best run defense in the league, giving up just 62.8 yards per game on the ground. As capable as the Panthers are at running the ball, Newton and the Panthers will have better success attacking Seattle through the air.

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