The Carolina had the misfortune of being the first team on the NFC’s side of the playoffs to travel to Seattle to play the reigning champs. The Panthers had not beaten the Seahawks in their previous four attempts, but each of those games were extremely close and both defenses kept the opposing offenses under wraps.
That wasn’t quite the issue in this one, as the Seahawks took advantage of Carolina turnovers and turned them into points. One of the latter turnovers essentially turned the win into a rout, here’s a few things to take from the Seahawks 31-17 win over the Panthers in the Divisional round.
Turnover Battle is Pivotal against Seattle – One of the reasons the Panthers had played Seattle so close in past games was their ability to do what most teams fail to do against the Seahawks, avoid costly turnovers. Last night that wasn’t the case as on the second play from scrimmage, Johnathan Stewart fumbled the ball, Carolina recovered, but the near turnover seemed to ignite the already ramped up Seahawk defense. Cam Newton threw two interceptions, one of which was returned 90 yards for a touchdown. The Panthers also lost a fumble, Seattle won the turnover battle 3-0 as they didn’t turn it over at all.
Cam Newton needs more help – If you were to look at only the stats, it’d be easy to assume that Newton played a horrible game. That isn’t exactly the case, while under heavy duress much of the night, Newton did a great job going through his progressions and using his mobility to buy time in the pocket for his receivers to get free. He also was accurate with the football in several tight spots, but his pass catchers failed to help him. Kelvin Benjamin needs to be featured as the number one guy, they need better complimentary pieces in the pass game.
Russell Wilson killed third down – The reigning champion showed his growth and poise last night, thriving on the ‘money’ down. Third down is extremely important, not only did he convert opportunities, but Wilson aced every test on third down. Going seven for seven when Seattle passed on that down, the six times they ran the ball, they didn’t convert.
‘The Dark Knight beats Superman’ – Kam Chancellor had a monstrous game for the Seahawks, simply letting everyone know that there are two good safeties in that secondary. Chancellor had 11 tackles, deflected one pass, and picked off a pass and returned it for his first career touchdown. Biggest moment of the game may have been his huge hit on Mike Toblert on a third down run play, Tolbert is far from a little guy and Chancellor flew up field and knocked the him back a couple of yards. Forcing the Panthers to settle for three points.
Chancellor if he’s the real Superman instead of Newton. “He can have it. I’m Batman, the Dark Knight. And I can’t change in a phone booth.”
— Terry Blount (@TerryBlountESPN) January 11, 2015
Seattle has pass catchers – Everyone knows about ‘Beast Mode’ and that outstanding run game, when the Seahawks jettisoned Percy Harvin to the Jets this season most thought the passing game would struggle mightily. The two mainstays, two huge playmakers for Seattle showed up big for them last night. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse routinely got open and got open deep in the Panthers secondary. Kearse had a huge night with three catches for 129 yards and 1 touchdown. Baldwin finished the night with just 38 yards, but moved the chains and also scored a touchdown. The other difference maker was tight end Luke Wilson with four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. Play-action passing was at a premium las night.