Until the Seattle Seahawks can find an offense thats as productive as their defense is destructive, theyre going to stick with what has worked so far.
The Seahawks are 2-2 (cynics may quibble over their controversial referee lockout-ending victory against Green Bay almost two weeks ago) and have established themselves as one of the NFLs most imposing defensive units.
Seattle ranks second to Houston in total defense (275.8 yards per game), second in rushing yards allowed (62.8), ninth in passing yards (213.0) and second in points allowed (14.5). No opponent has scored more than 20 points on the Seahawks this season.
By contrast, the Seahawks rank 29th in total offense (281.5), dead last in passing yards (130.8) and 27th in scoring (17.5).
Its clear what the Seahawks will rely most heavily on Sunday when they visit the Panthers for a 4:05 p.m. game at Bank of America Stadium.
There are two big aspects to our defense. Were really big and solid up front for the running game and our secondary is real active. Theyre very big and cause problems, coach Pete Carroll said.
Im hoping it can remain sort of a double edge for us because we want to continue to play the running game, and if our guys can continue to battle with all the receivers we have to face, it at least makes us a challenging defense to go against.
Defensive end Chris Clemons has 27 quarterback sacks in his past 36 games and had four in the first half of the Seahawks victory over Green Bay when Seattle sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, former Clemson linebacker Leroy Hill and cornerback Brandon Browner are among the defensive leaders for Seattle.
They do some really good things physically. I think they get after people. I like their approach to the way they do things. They are a physical bunch, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
I think their front four is as good as anybody in the league in terms of rushing the passer. I like the physical play of the safety (Kam Chancellor), and I think they have two big corners (Richard Sherman and Browner) that can run. When you have big corners that can run, you eliminate big throws. You watch them on tape, they really havent given up big throws.
Carroll has studied Panthers quarterback Cam Newton extensively, both prior to the 2011 draft and in getting ready for Sundays game.
The dynamic style of play that he brings because hes so big and so fast and hes tough enough to carry the load, hes just one of a kind. Hes different than RGIII. Just trying to tackle the guy, hes an amazing football player, Carroll said.
Offensively, the Seahawks arent one-dimensional, but rookie starting quarterback Russell Wilson has leaned heavily on running back Marshawn Lynch to drive the offense. Lynch leads the NFL in rushing with 423 yards and is coming off a 118-yard performance against St. Louis last Sunday.
While Wilson has struggled to create big plays to receivers Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards and Doug Baldwin, Lynch has been a consistent force.
For us, he is a big deal, Carroll said. Hes such a leader and such a tough competitor. He has such style to him.
Hes demonstrated such consistency starting last year. From the midway point on, he just tore it up. Hes a marvelously conditioned athlete. He just brings a lot. Hes a big deal to us. Were lucky to have him.
Wilson, who threw a season-high three interceptions last week, will face a Panthers defense that had some of its best and worst moments last week. Carolina sacked Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan seven times but also surrendered a handful of big plays, the biggest being a late-game breakdown by safety Haruki Nakamura that allowed a 59-yard reception by Roddy White, setting up the game-winning field goal.
Though Wilson has worked primarily in short, quick drops, the Panthers will attempt to pressure the former N.C. State quarterback while showing him different defensive looks.
They have a tremendous front seven getting to the quarterback. You have to block it up and get the ball out on time with rhythm and an accurate ball. They have talent on the back end as well. Theyve made some plays, Wilson said.
In watching tape of the Panthers 30-28 loss at Atlanta Sunday, Carroll said the Panthers did enough to win until the end.
It was a really good football game for them. They made the big plays when they had to to get back in it, Carroll said.
The big rush they had, too, on Atlanta. That was uncommon for (Atlanta). Theyre usually a very good protection team. They had seven sacks in that game. All of those things added up. I can only imagine how hard a game it was for them to take because they had it. Ninety-nine yards away, you think youre going to be able to figure that one out.