Game Preview: Panthers at Seahawks

A year after winning the NFC Championship the Carolina Panther make their first-ever trip to the Pacific Northwest to face the struggling Seahawks.

What: Game between two struggling teams
When: Sunday, October 31st, 1 pm (PST)
Where: Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington


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Panthers Key Players:

QB Jake Delhomme: Delhomme had a dream season in 2003, leading the Panthers to within minutes of a Superbowl victory. So far the 2004 season has been a nightmare for five-year veteran as he has lost some of his most potent weapons. WR Steve Smith broke his leg in the first game of the season and will be out for at least another month. RBs DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis have both struggled with injuries and thus the running game has been non-existent. Delhomme has had to force things, trying make things happen and it has not paid off. So far he has completed 56.9% of his passes for 1,305 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His lack of arm-strength has allowed teams to press his receivers at the line and the lack of a running game has allowed teams to drop seven or even eight into coverage.

WR Keary Colbert: The rookie from Southern California has been the one nice surprise on the offensive side of the ball so far in 2004. Colbert lacks great size or speed, but he runs smooth and crisp routes, understands how to read defenses, knows how to separate, and has exceptional hands. He has 20 receptions for 311 yards and two touchdowns.

MLB Dan Morgan: In his fouth-year, Morgan has established himself as one of the most underrated MIK LBs in the league. Morgan leads the Panthers in tackles with 57, is tied for first in sacks with two and is tied for the team lead in passes defensed with four. Morgan makes the defensive adjustments on the field, covers sideline-to-sideline and is a sure tackler. His biggest problem so far has been his ability to stay healthy for an entire season, but so far he has been able to stay out of the trainer's room.

DE Julius Peppers: Peppers is one of the most athletically gifted defensive ends in the league but he has yet to totally realize his potential. So far this season he has only two sacks and while he plays the run well he still needs to be more of a playmaker. He also holds the record for the longest interception return without a touchdown, taking one back 97 yards against Denver but not getting into the endzone.

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Key Matchup:

Peppers vs. Seahawks RT Chris Terry: Terry, who is usually solid in pass-protection, has not been as stellar in 2004. While Terry has struggled Peppers has as well, but he didn't make the Pro Bowl last year for nothing. Peppers plays well against the run but he has not been able to get after the QB as much as the Panthers expect him to. Look for Terry to get a little help from the backs and TEs when QB Matt Hasselbeck drops back to pass and for the Hawks to run away from Peppers when they go to the ground game.

Hasselbeck vs. Himself: Hasselbeck had one of the worst games of his career last week versus Arizona, completing 14 of 41 passes for 195 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Hasselbeck and his leadership are the keys to the Hawks offense and he must break out of this slump in order to get the team back to its winning ways.

Seahawk's young linebackers vs. Panther's running game: The Panthers have suffered a ton of injuries and no area of the team has been hit harder than the running back position. Both DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis have been shelved and last week little-used Brad Hoover got the bulk of the carries in emergency duty. Hoover runs with power and he is also decent receiver out of the backfield, but he is not a game-breaking back. It is important that LBs Tracy White, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Orlando Huff and Niko Koutouvides stay in their lanes and know their assignments or the Panthers try to pound the ball all day.

Seahawks LDE Antonio Cochran vs. Panthers LT Jordan Gross: Cochran has filled in admirably for starter Grant Wistrom and has enjoyed one of his best seasons recording two sacks and consistently getting pressure from different points along the line. Gross, in only his second year in the league, is still learning the nuances of pass-protection but his quick feet and outstanding athleticism allow him to ward off speed-rushers and bull-rushers alike.

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News and Notes: The Panthers are 30th in points per game, at 13.8. Their run defense has allowed 138.5 yards per game, 28th in the league, and they are giving up first downs on 44 percent of third downs, 29th in the NFL; The Seahawks and the Panthers, who joined the NFL in 1995, have met just one other time. The Panthers won 26-3 in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 8, 2000; The Panthers are on their way to becoming the fourth straight NFC champion to miss the playoffs the following season; Seahawks SS Terreal Bierria leads the team in tackles with 34.

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Injuries:

Seattle:
PROBABLE: DT Rashad Moore (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Bobby Engram (ankle); P Tom Rouen (right hamstring); T Chris Terry (shoulder)
DOUBTFUL: LB Chad Brown (fibula); WR D.J. Hackett (hip)
OUT: LB Anthony Simmons (shoulder); DE Grant Wistrom (knee)


Carolina:
PROBABLE: S Colin Branch (thumb); LB Vinny Ciurciu (knee); LB Mark Fields (back); DT Omari Jordan (ankle); DE Mike Rucker (rib); DE Al Wallace (back); T Matt Willig (stomach)
QUESTIONABLE: G Tutan Reyes (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: RB Stephen Davis (knee)
OUT: RB DeShaun Foster (shoulder); RB Rod Smart (knee); WR Steve Smith (ankle)


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Prediction: Seahawks 22 – Carolina 13

.NET Reporter Scott Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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