Panthers Jumps Out to Early Lead
The Carolina Panthers wasted little time, less than four minutes to be exact, jumping out to a 14-0 lead over the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers opened the game on offense and it took only four run plays for them to score their first touchdown. The majority of the work was done by Jonathan Stewart who had a 59-yard run on the first play of the game.
The Panthers found a little luck on the second play as Cameron Artis-Payne fumbled his first carry but it was recovered by Mike Tolbert. Cam Newton was up next on a read option run that picked up a first down, but Stewart finished what he started and crossed the goal line for a touchdown on the fourth play of the drive.
It was the defense's turn next to get on the board and on the second play, Luke Kuechly intercepted an errant pass by Russell Wilson and returned for a touchdown. This was Kuechly's fifth interception of the year and his second touchdown of the year, the first touchdown came on Thanksgiving Day against the Dallas Cowboys.
Jonathan Stewart Picks up Where He Left Off
This was the first game back for Jonathan Stewart after missing the three final regular season games and he has not seen any live action for over a month. Well the rest appeared to have done Stewart well as he finished the first half with 84 rushing yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.
The Panthers' have had one of the best offenses this year and while Newton gets a great deal of the credit, Stewart has been one of the best running backs in the league. Prior to his injury he was Top 3 in rushing yards and attempts and he is showing why in the first two quarters today.
Panthers Defense Dominating in First Half
The Panthers' defense played arguably their best half of football all season. They dominated the line of scrimmage and disrupted almost everything the Seahawks tried to do. The return of Marshawn Lynch was supposed to be a big boost for this offense but he only has 12 yards on five carries. By the end of the first half, the Seahawks started to give the ball more to Fred Jackson, who found a little bit more success, and it will be interesting to see if they rely on him in the second half.
Russell Wilson has not had much more success through the air as he only has five completions for 68 yards but has thrown two interceptions. The Panthers' have been getting constant pressure on the Seahawks quarterback and has not allowed him to be comfortable in the pocket.
Defensive tackle Kawann Short brought the pressure on Wilson's first interception and then got a sack on their second drive. Defensive end Mario Addison beat Russell Okung to get pressure on Wilson to force the second interception, which was caught by Cortland Finnegan. They even found success bringing pressure from the secondary as Tre Boston sacked Wilson in the second quarter.
Panthers Must Keep the Pressure on Seattle
One of the weaknesses of this Panthers' team is that they have struggled to play with the lead. They have had big leads against the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, and NY Giants that have disappeared rather quickly in the second half.
The odds are clearly on the Panthers side as ESPN's Mike Sando tweets that teams with a 24-0 lead in the first half have won 99 of 102 games. This team will need to keep the pressure on this team on both sides of the ball because this Seahawks team is a talented group that knows how to win games.