By Ted Fleming
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS BY THE NUMBERS
2012 Record: 11-5
Record vs. Panthers: 4-2 (Includes 2006 NFC Championship Game)
Streak vs. Seahawks: L2
Last Meeting: Seahawks 16, Panthers 12 (10/7/12 in Charlotte)
Next Game: Sunday at Bank of America Stadium (74,455), Charlotte NC at 1:00 p.m.
A Young Russell Wilson At The Helm
The Seattle Seahawks were one of 13 teams to win at least 10 games a year ago so getting off to a strong start is imperative if they plan on overtaking the San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) for the NFC West crown. Their strong performance was due to the emergence of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, a third round pick out of Wisconsin.
The 24-year-old signal caller passed for 3,118 yards with a superb touchdown to interception ratio (26-10) while giving defenses something else to worry about by tacking on an additional 489 yards rushing. Many scouts believed the 5-foot-11, 206-pounder was too short to be an effective first stringer, but he erased all doubts when he beat out Matt Flynn for the starting job and the rest, as they say, is history.
Wilson was just part of the story on offense because the Seahawks had the league’s 11th best rushing attack with Marshawn Lynch leading the way with 1,590 yards (5.0 average per carry) and 11 of the team’s 16 touchdowns. That duo will surely test the much-improved Panthers defense.
Seattle’s Receiving Corps Takes Hit
If there is one downer it is the loss of wideout Percy Harvin to hip surgery for a torn labrum. His big on field capabilities were thought to be the final piece of an above-average receiving corps that ranked seventh a year ago. The team did not place him on injured reserve and chose to put him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list making him available, if healthy, to return after six games.
Overall, the offense jumped from 310 and 321 points in 2010 and 2011, respectively, to 412 last season. While that will win you a few more games, the Seahawks defense also took a giant leap allowing just 245 points. They went from a minus 97 points-differential in 2010 to a plus 167 with the “The Legion of Boom” highlighting the resurgence. Seattle has arguably the best defensive backfield in the league.
‘The Legion of Boom’
Three members of the secondary, safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, and cornerback Brandon Browner, all went to the Pro Bowl. Safety Richard Sherman rounds out the fearless foursome and he says the nickname came from ‘Here Comes the Boom’ by Nelly that was played on the stadium loudspeakers. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will have to be extremely accurate if he hopes to be successful downfield.
Seattle was solid across the board on defense ranking in the top seven in four key categories, points (9.0 – 1st), yards (239.2 – 3rd), passing defense (151.5 – 4th) and rushing defense (87.8 – 7th). Head coach Pete Carroll wanted to build a world-class defense when he returned to the NFL and last year it emerged as one to be reckoned with.
The line, once considered the team’s weakest point, has developed into a force. In the offseason they added free agent defensive ends Michael Bennett (15 career sacks) and Cliff Avril (39.5) with both stepping into starting roles. Other starters include Red Bryant (2.0), Tony McDaniel (8.5), Brandon Mebane (13.0) with Bennett stepping in for Chris Clemons (53.5 including three straight seasons of 11 or more) until he returns.
The Panthers have a big test in the season opener and they need to get off to a good start, but for a very different reason than the Seahawks. Seattle is now a proven commodity, Carolina is not and they hope that their 5-1 finish a year ago was not a fluke after starting 2-8. All they have to do is topple one of the best teams in the NFL.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.