Tag Archives: Mike Tolbert

Seahawks/Panthers Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

16 Jan
panthers divisional preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Carolina Panthers

Site: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Kickoff: 10:05am

We meet again. For the second consecutive season the Seahawks will take on the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional playoffs. This time around however the tables have been turned. The Panthers enter this game after a 15-1 regular season, an NFC South division title, and earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. With their win last week the Seahawks advanced to the NFC Divisional round for the fourth straight season but instead of hosting like they did last season they have to travel across the country to take on the Panthers this January. The Seahawks won games against the Panthers in Charlotte in three consecutive seasons from 2012-2014. In their 2015 meeting in Seattle earlier this season however the Panthers bested the Seahawks 27-23. This will be an extremely difficult matchup for the Seahawks but I believe we match up well with what the Panthers will put onto the field. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Marshawn Lynch mystery drags on for at least one more week. The star running back has practiced all week and proclaimed to ESPN that he is “ready to go” but it will come down to a game-time decision if Lynch actually suits up and plays. If Lynch cannot go it will be Christine Michael who starts at running back once again. For the rest of the Seattle offense, much improvement needs to be shown in order to compete with the Panthers on the scoreboard. Quarterback Russell Wilson must improve on his accuracy because there is little doubt the fantastic play of the Minnesota defense last week rattled him. Limiting turnovers will also be a big key in the way this game plays out. Carolina leads the league in turnovers with 39, which are 10 more than any other team. They also lead the league in turnover differential with a mark of +20. The Seahawks offense will need to take the majority of their drives deep into Carolina territory in order to stay in this game.

Many people may not realize this but the Seahawks defense will play this game with a couple of big-name players who did not play against Carolina back in week 6. Back in October K.J Wright moved from outside to inside linebacker in place of Bobby Wagner who missed the game with an injury. This week Wagner will be back starting at middle linebacker and will be a tackling machine in the middle of the field. In 3 career games against the Panthers, Wagner has averaged 7.3 tackles per game and has also sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton once. In addition to Wagner, Jeremy Lane will start at cornerback. Cary Williams, who is no longer on the team, started at cornerback against the Panthers earlier this season. Lane’s primary job will be to cover Panthers wide receivers Philly Brown and Devin Funchess. Last week the Seahawks only forced one turnover. If the Seahawks defense can force at least two turnovers in the game we will be in decent shape.

The Carolina Panthers offense is one of the very best in the National Football League. Quarterback Cam Newton is considered to be a most valuable player candidate this season. All year long Newton has had fantastic on-field chemistry with tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is Newton’s number one target and his numbers correlate to this notion. 26 percent of Newton’s passes were completed to Olsen this season. That percentage translates to 77 catches for 1,104 yards (both team highs) and 7 touchdowns. Olsen’s second best game of the season came against the Seahawks back in October. There is much more to the Carolina offense however and there are two other players whose presences cannot go unnoticed. My X-Factor Players to Watch for the Panthers are Pro Bowl running backs Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. I put my X-Factor spotlight on these two guys not because of their production on the ground, but the role they can play in the Carolina passing game. Stewart and Tolbert have combined for 253 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns this season. After watching film I see the possibility of Newton targeting these backs on screen passes and wheel routes/rollout passes inside the redzone.

Each level of the Carolina defense features incredible talent. Four Panthers defenders have been named to the Pro Bowl. The middle of the field will be a risky place for Russell Wilson to throw into as the Panthers are led by veteran linebackers and tackling machines Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Cornerback Josh Norman has had a meteoric rise to being one of the best cornerbacks in the league. His 4 interceptions and team-leading 18 passes defensed defend this reputation. The matchup that may have the most say in the Panthers season continuing on to the NFC Championship Game will be defensive tackle Kawann Short against the Seahawks offensive line. Short recorded 11 sacks this season and is considered one of the best pass rushers in football. Short is averaging one sack in each of his last 5 games and he was also able to bring Russell Wilson down in the backfield twice earlier this year. In short (no pun intended), this Panthers defense is scary good and it will take a monster effort to take them down.

Random Thoughts: At the start of the playoffs I assumed since the Seahawks would have to play three straight road games to get to the Super Bowl, that we would be wearing white throughout January. Instead the Panthers have elected to wear white jerseys and white pants this week. This means the Seahawks will wear college navy jerseys. The Seahawks will pair these jerseys with wolf grey pants. The Seahawks won in this combination in Carolina in both 2012 and 2013… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX’s only broadcast of Divisional weekend… The referee this week is Tony Corrente… Nothing and I mean NOTHING would make me happier than to see all the Seahawks players “dab” on the sideline and take a group photo if we win. For those not familiar these are the hijinks the Panthers have participated in all season long at the end of their games and it would be a tremendous troll job if the Seahawks came away victorious and stuck up the proverbial middle finger in this way. If this happens look for Michael Bennett and perhaps Richard Sherman to lead the way… Brunch n’ ball for the final time this season. I’m glad this is the final 10am game of the season… Speaking of 10am starts, a random thought unrelated to this game. I am thrilled the Rams have relocated to Los Angeles. We know better than any other city what greed and corruption happens behind the scenes when it comes to franchise relocation (SuperSonics, duh) and from this perspective it is sad to see the Rams leave St. Louis. The reason I am thrilled however is because it benefits the Seahawks. Instead of traveling to the middle of the country each season we will now fly to Southern California. This eliminates one 10am kickoff each season and the Seahawks never have to play at the Edward Jones Dome again. The Seahawks went 7-7 in St. Louis dating back to 2002. Instead these road games against the Rams will be played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the next three seasons which is a stadium not known for having an intimidating home field advantage. It is still a little weird to see “Los Angeles Rams” in print. It will take a little while to get used to.

Prediction: The Seahawks have lost 6 straight Divisional playoff games played on the road. Although I hope I am wrong I believe that streak continues on Sunday. The first half will be an entertaining defensive battle with Carolina taking a 13-10 lead into halftime. In the second half however the Panthers defense will shut the Seahawks offense down. Carolina will score a touchdown (with a missed extra point), and two field goals on their first three possessions of the second half. The Seahawks will have opportunities to claw back into the game but Russell Wilson will throw two interceptions and the Carolina defense will also force a fumble near the end of the third quarter. The Seahawks season will end and the Panthers will move on and host the Arizona Cardinals in next week’s NFC Championship Game.

Panthers 25, Seahawks 13

Review: Seahawks 12, Panthers 7

8 Sep

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These are the kinds of games we will be looking back on in November and December and be thanking God we were able to pull it out. The Seahawks escaped with a 12-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The win gives the Seahawks a 1-0 record and the Panthers start their season 0-1. There is a lot to talk about and a lot I pulled from this game. Here are my observations from this nail biter.

Running Game Needs To Improve: I will cut Marshawn Lynch a little bit of slack on this one because the Carolina Panthers front 7 is extremely talented in stuffing the run. Lynch ran for only 43 yards this week while the entire Seahawks team rushed for only 70 yards total. At times I felt that Robert Turbin had more success running the ball then Lynch did. I have a hard time diagnosing what the main problem was. As talented as the Panthers defense is, the Seahawks offensive line struggled at times to open holes and protection in both phases of the offense was shaky throughout the game. At home next week against another stout defense, the running game needs to improve or else we will struggle putting up points and extending drives once again.

Thoughts on Russell Wilson: Russell Wilson threw for 320 yards and one touchdown on Sunday but there was one head-scratching element and one frustrating element Wilson displayed during the game. The head-scratching element was that Wilson ran the ball only 5 times for 7 yards. None of these rushes were zone-read keepers. Even though the Seahawks running game was below average throughout the game, I thought Wilson would try to trick the Panthers defense by faking hand offs and keeping the ball, especially in the second half when it had been established that Seattle was having trouble on the ground. The frustrating element of Wilson’s game was that he seemed to be too comfortable in the pocket at times. Wilson was sacked twice and also fumbled the ball deep into Carolina territory. In these instances and others throughout the game, Wilson tried to stay in the pocket and waited for something to open up rather than scramble to create space to get his receivers open. When he did scramble, he didn’t seem comfortable committing to throwing to any of his receivers. The Panthers defense showed their presence by using their speed and quickness. Wilson needs to be more decisive next week because holding the ball for too long will result in lost yards and missed opportunities.

Dark Horses: Sidney Rice and Golden Tate were the starting wide receivers on Sunday but it was Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse who made the biggest impact in the passing game this week. Baldwin led the Seahawks receivers in receptions and yards, catching 7 passes for 91 yards. Kearse reeled in the only Seahawks touchdown of the game, a 43-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to give the Seahawks the lead for good. I think these two players will have a lasting impact this season; more of an impact than a lot of people thought. Without Percy Harvin, Baldwin and Kearse were given the opportunity to prove themselves as valuable assets in the passing game and both proved their value this week. Look for them to see expanded playing time in the coming weeks.

Schofield Holds down the Fort, But Road Defense Still a Weakness: Cliff Avril was inactive against Carolina, thrusting O’Brien Schofield into the starting lineup at defensive end this week. Schofield did not overly impress me but I think he did a solid job. Schofield recorded the Seahawks only sack of Cam Newton this week. I do not believe Schofield is meant to be a long-term solution at defensive end should Avril miss any more time, but he did his job adequately today and the Seahawks were able to pull out a win. As for the rest of the defense, we looked eerily similar to last year’s road defense. This is not a good thing. The Seahawks couldn’t put pressure on Newton when it mattered the most, on third down. Carolina converted 5 of their 11 third downs; a 45.5% conversion rate. Tackling also needs to improve, as Panthers running backs DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert were able to gain yards after contact on most of their rushes. The defense needs to do a better job contacting the runner at the line of scrimmage or behind it to prevent the opportunity to gain extra yards. Luckily for the Seahawks, we have two straight home games before our next road game in Houston.

Awareness is Key: On both Carolina fumbles that were recovered by the Seahawks, I noticed incredible awareness by the Seattle defenders to know that the ball had been knocked out and that the play was still live. Both fumbles included at least three Seahawks to pounce on the loose ball and in both instances it was not even a question as to which team recovered the ball. I was very impressed by the instincts the Seahawks defense showed this week.

Penalty Watch: The Seahawks had 9 penalties for a total of 99 yards this week; 6 of them coming in the second half. Most of our penalties occurred at inopportune times, such as on third downs that instead of stopping Carolina drives, extended them. As sad as it is to say, the number of penalties is improving from where we were in the preseason but needs to get a lot better in a big hurry or else it will cost us these close games.

Thoughts on Carolina: I think that the Carolina Panthers have a defense that the coaching staff can rely on all season long. It is a unit that is capable of getting them to the playoffs. Having said this, the Panthers will go only as far as Cam Newton and the offense takes them. The Panthers running game was impressive this week but they do not have a solidified feature back given that Jonathan Stewart is out with an injury. Cam Newton was held to 125 passing yards this week and that will definitely not cut it over the course of the season. If Newton improves and shows stable, consistent improvement, the Panthers could be a dark horse pick for an NFC wild-card berth this season.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks haven’t won in week one on the road since 2006 when the Seahawks beat Detroit 9-6… The heat didn’t play as big of a factor later on in the game as I thought it would… We stayed healthy throughout the course of the game. I always love to see that… Where was Christine Michael???… The Seahawks wore grey pants with their blue jerseys this week… I am running on pure adrenaline as I’m writing this. Sunday Night Football is currently on and I’ve been up since 6am… I’ve always thought Bank of America Stadium is one of the most boring looking stadiums in the NFL. It’s just a bowl with three levels. No notable decorations either… The Seahawks have 4 more 10am kickoffs this season. Good thing we showed we can win on the road early on in the season… My fantasy team is going to struggle this season… I say it every season and I’ll say it again. Thank God for NFL Red Zone. I got to watch every NFC West team this week since the 49ers, Cardinals, and Rams all played in the 1:25pm slot after the Seahawks game… Speaking of the 49ers, I’m disappointed they pulled out a win over Green Bay but my attitude could be a lot worse if the Seahawks had lost… Next week is going to be HUGE. Nothing I say will convince you otherwise. With sole possession of first place in the NFC West potentially on the line, I am already getting excited thinking about next week’s game.

If you hate the San Francisco 49ers like I know you do, make sure you check back Tuesday for a very special post. With the 49ers coming to town next week for our home opener, I take you into my past as I explain where my hatred of the San Francisco 49ers comes from. I promise you, it will definitely be a must-read for any true Seahawks fan.

I will publish my preview of next week’s Sunday night home opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday. Thanks for reading everybody. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Panthers Preview

6 Oct

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers

Site: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

The Seahawks are looking to shake off the disappointment of a loss last weekend. This week, they head to North Carolina to take on the Panthers. The Seahawks are 2-2 and in last place in the NFC West while the Panthers are 1-3 and are in a three way tie for second place in the NFC South. Last week the Panthers lost a tough game to the Atlanta Falcons 30-28, thanks in large part to a couple of big Atlanta gains with under a minute to go which set up the Falcons game winning field goal. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Panthers 3-2. The last meeting was a 31-14 Seahawks win in Seattle in 2010. The last time the Seahawks played in Carolina was in 2007, when the Panthers defeated the Seahawks 13-10. Here is what I will be focusing on this week against Carolina.

The Panthers have one of the most explosive offenses in the National Football League. Since Cam Newton has been drafted, there have been many big plays made between him and wide receiver Steve Smith. The Seahawks have a stout run defense and because of this I do not see a problem containing DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, or Mike Tolbert. My concern this week is the pass defense getting torched by Newton and Smith. On the road, at least thus far, the Seahawks do not have nearly as good of a pass rush as they do at home. Unfortunately because of this, I am expecting Newton to buy a lot of time and be able to make big plays down the field. Brandon Browner among others needs to step up and have a huge game this week since he will be lined up against Smith. If we can stop big plays, especially on third down, the Seahawks defense will be in excellent shape.

One of the underlying struggles on defense has been our tackling ability. Cam Newton may be the biggest quarterback and athlete the Seahawks will face this year. If we can put pressure on him, we need to make sure we do a good job of wrapping him up and bringing him down to the ground. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are also large and physical. Solo tackles will not be the norm against the Panthers. Like in the games at home, the Seahawks have shown that if only one guy goes to make a tackle and can slow him down, that gives the rest of the defense enough time to swarm him and assist in tackling the ball carrier. This is the way the Seahawks will have to play defense this week. If proper tackling is not executed, we will be giving up huge chunks of yards and even points that should never happen in the first place.

The Seahawks are averaging close to 150 yards per game on offense. We have scored only three touchdowns in the red zone this season. This NEEDS to change. Unfortunately for Russell Wilson and the offense, this week we are once again on the road against a defense that has good talent. Having said this, the Panthers are allowing an average of 27 points per game but when you are at home that can always change. I will spare analysis of the running game, since Marshawn Lynch is the NFL leading rusher at this point in the season. This week it is all about Wilson in my eyes. Russell needs to limit turnovers while being aware of everything that is occurring around him. He needs to look down the field and take chances. Wilson has been known to look past wide open receivers for safer options and smaller gains. Part of me thinks Wilson may be afraid to spread the entire length of the field. Whether it is because of a fear of turning the ball over, or not turning down a sure play in the flat, watching our offense is not that exciting. It would be great for Wilson’s confidence to be able to score touchdowns on drives that get the ball into the red zone. Unfortunately Wilson still looks very raw especially on the road. Because of this, I am not convinced anything will dramatically change this week and that we may greatly struggle once again on offense this week.

My one bit about the Carolina Panthers will be their defense. I am putting the spotlight this week on rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly was the Panthers first round draft pick this year and has been playing on the outside this season. This week however, it is looking like Carolina will be without pro-bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason due to injury. Kuechly will most likely shift to the Mike spot this week, the position that he was to move to after Beason left. Kuechly will most likely be calling the defensive packages this week and it will be interesting to see how he does. He will be in a similar spot as Bobby Wagner, who has been calling the plays for the Seahawks on defense this season as a rookie middle linebacker. I think Kuechly will handle the sudden responsibilities with great poise and leadership. Will he struggle at times? Sure. Most players always do but if the Panthers can get into a groove, the Seahawks may be in trouble.

Random Thoughts: Sunday’s game marks the start of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness month recognition. The Seahawks and Panthers will both wear pink gear which includes gloves, shoes, and wristbands among other items. I love what the NFL and the players do for breast cancer awareness month but some of the players go overboard with the pink apparel… The Seahawks have never beaten the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Time for that to change… The Seahawks are playing a rare 1:05 pacific start east-coast game this week. I prefer these games over morning games ten times out of ten… I think the Seahawks leading receiver on Sunday will be tight end Anthony McCoy. Just a hunch… Steve Smith is on my fantasy team. Like I say time and time again to my friends, I would much rather have a Seahawks win over a fantasy win. That being said, I hope the rest of my team scores touchdowns so Steve Smith doesn’t… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call on FOX this week. They are one of the lower play-by-play pairs but I actually like Myers. At least these commentators will not be biased during the broadcast… The Seahawks will be wearing blue jerseys this week. This is because the Panthers have elected to wear white. No word on what color pants we will wear but we have only worn the blue pants with the blue jerseys thus far. If we win, the entire NFC West will be over .500. That is pretty amazing given where the division has been over the past decade.

Prediction: When the schedule came out and I started thinking about this game, I immediately thought about the fact that Cam Newton is at home early in the season. Unfortunately Seahawks fans, I don’t think this game is going to be very competitive. I get the feeling the Newton will rip us apart for the majority of the game. I say Newton scores a rush touchdown and throws for two. This will be the worst performance by the Seahawks defense all season long. The Seahawks will head home and start preparing for the New England Patriots with a 2-3 record.

Panthers 34, Seahawks 17

Look for my review post most likely on Monday evening. Enjoy the game everybody! Go Seahawks!

#ClausenCrusaders You like that Nat?