The Panthers-Seahawks matchups have become some of the most highly anticipated each season and with a conference rivalry taking shape it’s once again the case here in the 2016 playoffs.
Both teams have been trending upward since the arrival of their young, dynamic quarterbacks and both feature strong defenses and a powerful running game, making their battles with each other tight til the end.
With this being the fourth matchup in the last two seasons and a rematch from the 2015 Divisional Round as well as from earlier this season in Week 6, the Panthers will look back at past experience when they step on the field on Sunday.
2015 Divisional Round: Carolina @ Seattle
Result: L, 31-17
About a year ago, the Panthers backed into the playoff at 7-8-1 but managed to defeat the Arizona Cardinals in the first round to then head to Seattle to play the then defending NFL Champion Seahawks. Not many gave Carolina a chance but they did manage to keep it close for a while but were clearly overmatched.
At halftime, the Panthers were down just 14-10 and after not getting much done on offense the Panthers found themselves behind by 14 at the half-way point in the fourth quarter. On one drive they were finding success but Cam Newton threw an interception to the Seahawks’ Kam Chancellor who returned it for a score to effectively end Carolina’s chances.
In that game the Panthers’ offense had trouble getting much going, as has become the norm when facing Seattle. Newton had a pedestrian 246-yard performance and two scores but turned it over three times (two interceptions, one fumble) with Kelvin Benjamin as his top target who caught seven passes for 75-yards and both touchdowns.
The defense did its job for the most part but was prone to the big play that usually breaks open their games versus Seattle and it did so again when Jermaine Kearse caught a 63-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. And the pick-six from Chancellor sealed the deal for the Seahawks.
2016 Week 6: Carolina @ Seattle
Result: W, 27-23
This year the matchup saw much of the same that usually accompanies a Panthers-Seahawks bout. There was plenty of strong defensive play but a surprising amount of offensive firepower took place as well.
The Panthers were down 20-7 mid-way through the third and 23-14 early in the fourth. That’s when Cam Newton put on a display of poise and composure and led his team to two 80-yard touchdown drives, the second of which ended with a touchdown strike to Greg Olsen with 32 seconds to go.
In this matchup, the Panthers never seemed truly out of it, even when behind by as much as 13. Newton did still throw two interceptions but made up for it in the end and his defense kept them in it just long enough for their quarterback to take the reins. Jonathan Stewart rushed for 78-yards and two scores in this one and Newton’s top target was Olsen who consistently found openings and ended with seven catches for 131-yards and the previously mentioned game-winning score.
This time around, the Panthers will get the Seahawks at home; a place where Carolina hasn’t lost in its last 11 games there.
Coming off of a win in their latest meeting will likely help Carolina and as Ron Rivera put it in his press conference yesterday their victory helped “validate” them as a team and proved that they can beat their rival NFC powerhouse in Seattle.
With having so many recent matchups to look at, there is a lot that these teams know about each other but still, plenty has changed. Both teams have improved since their Week 6 contest and with their quarterbacks each having tremendous seasons, this could turn into a shootout rather than a defensive struggle this time around.