- Establish the line of scrimmage
- Challenge the Seahawks secondary
The one thing effective offenses are able to do is to establish the line of scrimmage and “win in the trenches”. A lot of times, fans call tell who is going to win and who is going to lose based on how their respective offensive and defensive lines are performing. Carolina seemingly is already at a disadvantage in this area with both their starting guards already ruled out (Amini Silatolu and Trai Turner) and both starting tackles (Byron Bell and Nate Chandler) dealing with injuries but are expected to play.
The Seattle Seahawks meanwhile have a solid defensive line with good pass rushers on both ends (Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril) and are tough up the middle with solid defensive tackles (Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniels). A strong performance by the offensive line would give Cam Newton time to make the right throw and give Jonathan Stewart room to work on the ground.
Which brings us to the next point which is if Newton has time to throw the ball, he needs to take shots down the field and challenge the Seahawks secondary. This would seem crazy considering their secondary (aka the Legion of Boom) is this defenses’ greatest strength. However, the Panthers have the weapons to beat this group (Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen) but Newton has to trust his playmakers and put them in a position to make plays.
A couple of times against Green Bay, Newton had time and was able to connect with Kelvin Benjamin on a 32-yard reception and another time with Greg Olsen for a 22-yard catch. If the Panthers can connect on a couple of these throws, it should force the secondary to play back a bit and give the running game some room to work.
- Press Seahawks wide receivers at the line of scrimmage
- Contain Russell Wilson when the play breaks down
The Carolina Panthers have one main focus on Sunday and that is to stop Russell Wilson, both through the air and on the ground. The Panthers secondary has struggled this year and it was very evident last week against Green Bay when their top two wide receivers (Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb) combined for 10 receptions, 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Luckily for Carolina, the Seahawks do not have the same caliber wide receivers as Green Bay. After trading away Percy Harvin, the clear cut number one wide receiver is Doug Baldwin who has 23 receptions for 310 yards and one touchdown. After him there are a number of question marks considering the three wide receivers listed below him on the depth chart (Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette and Bryan Walters) have combined for only 23 receptions this year.
For the Panthers to be successful, they will need to get physical with these players at the line of scrimmage and try to disrupt their timing and route running. This is going to force Russell Wilson to hold that ball just a split second longer that may give the Panthers defensive line time to get to him.
The front line of the Panthers though will need to remember when rushing Wilson that he is a mobile quarterback and he can create plays with his feet. The front four are going to have to work together and when they rush Wilson keep him in the pocket and don’t give him any gaps to escape from.
Defensive linemen are taught that if you can’t get to the quarterback to stop and get your hands up to try and deflect the pass. The Panthers defenders should have a similar mindset where if they don’t think they can’t get to Wilson they need to play the running lanes to try and keep the Seahawks’ quarterback in the pocket.
If the Panthers can disrupt the Seahawks wide receivers and limit Wilson’s scramble ability when the play breaks down, their chances of winning should increase significantly.