Seattle Tops Carolina: Five Things We Learned
1.) The Seahawks' Offense Can Suffice Without a Big Day from Marshawn Lynch
Lynch ran the ball just 14 times against the Panthers, totaling 59 yards and recording no touchdowns, but the Seahawks' offense still had a fairly successful day, going 7-for-13 on third down. Russell Wilson completed 68% of his passes while averaging 12 yards per attempt and recording three touchdowns. With Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Luke Willson all showing up big-time, this offense has some firepower. It is reasonable to question whether this team has a true #1 target, but they definitely have enough talent to work with right now.
2.) No One Can Question the Seahawks' Defense
There was never much questioning of this unit, especially after holding their last three regular season opponents to a total of 19 points, but they showed up big-time to start off their postseason. A Panther offense that was praised due to the emergence of Jonathan Stewart and Kelvin Benjamin was held to just 17 points. The Panthers still converted 56% of their third downs and Kelvin Benjamin had two touchdown grabs on them, but what matters the most is that they kept them off the board.
3.) The Panthers Need More Reliable Pass Catchers
Kelvin Benjamin is a scoring machine and Philly Brown can be a nice speed threat in the near future, but the Panthers need a reliable, down-to-down player. The Panthers are able to make splash plays through the air, but have notable struggles when it comes to consistently moving the ball. While Cam Newton's accuracy has certainly contributed to that, some of the blame has to go to the receivers not being able to create enough separation. There is Greg Olsen, who is coming off of a 1000-yard season, but his game-to-game production has been anything but consistent.
4.) The Panthers' Defense Is Playoff Caliber
The Panthers had one of the league's best defenses last year, with a very talented front seven, but they seemed to take a big step back early this year. Their secondary was among the league's least potent while they had inexperienced players starting at key positions. They actually did a nice job containing the Seahawks' offense, holding Marshawn Lynch to just 59 yards and keeping the Seahawks from sustaining drives. Excluding Kam Chancellor's 90-yard interception return, the Panthers held the Seahawks to 24 points, that's an average of 14 points allowed per game in their last six.
5.) Jonathan Stewart Can Fuel the Panthers' Offense Next Year
Stewart had a nice season, recording 809 yards and averaging 4.6 yards per carry, but the seventh-year back was still dealing with some injury issues. Set to play his first full season since 2011, Stewart should have an excellent 2015. DeAngelo Williams, who was out for most of the year, is also healthy, but Stewart is expected to keep the lead back role.