Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers coordinators: Despite struggles, Seattle Seahawks ‘a huge challenge’

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 22 times this season, but he also leads all NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 22 times this season, but he also leads all NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards. TNS

Another week in the NFL saw another collapse by the Seattle Seahawks defense during the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks blew a 24-7 lead to lose 27-24 to the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime on Sunday. It was the third time this season Seattle has had a fourth-quarter lead and lost the game. It may have been a fourth had Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson not fumbled at the goal line in Week 4.

Are we witnessing the end of Seattle’s time as a dominant team just as the Panthers prepare to travel there this weekend?

Not so fast.

“You know what’s ironic? In my opinion they’re as good or better (than previous years),” Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula said Monday. “(Sunday) was a tough day. Cincinnati just hung in there. If you turned the game off at the start of the fourth quarter, you’re saying that’s as good a defense as you’ve seen play, especially against Cincinnati the way they’ve been moving it. Then Cincinnati made some plays. There were some near misses on both sides and they ended up making the plays to win the game.

“We all know they’re good, and they’re even better at home. That’s going to be a huge challenge.”

The Seahawks (2-3) are one controversial Monday Night Football play away from 1-4. A seven-point lead in the fourth quarter of Week 1 turned into a 34-31 loss to the Rams. A one-point lead against Green Bay became a 27-17 loss.

And this past Sunday, leading by three scores and with a win probability of 98.1, according to ESPN, the Seahawks petered out again.

It’s the way this league is. You saw the scores (Sunday). They’re back-and-forth all the way and you just hope you can live through it and come out on top.

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott

Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said it’s tough to pinpoint why Seattle hasn’t put teams away like the Seahawks usually do.

“It’s the way this league is. You saw the scores (Sunday). They’re back-and-forth all the way and you just hope you can live through it and come out on top,” McDermott said. “It’s hard to put a team away in this league. The quarterbacks are so good. The offenses are so good. Typically the other side of the ball has three or four players that are dangerous, play-making type players. So it’s hard to do that.”

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is completing 70 percent of his passes, but he’s been sacked a league-high 22 times. Seattle has finally started integrating tight end Jimmy Graham into its offense, but the team has also been without running back Marshawn Lynch the past two games because of injury.

That has limited the offense, which has only posted 27 points in the past two games combined.

Wilson has had to deal with a porous offensive line, but his scrambling ability has extended plays. He has rushed for 198 yards this season, more than any other quarterback.

“That quarterback still makes things happen,” said Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who is 0-4 against Seattle with the Panthers. “I’ve watched him now for a number of years. In this league it’s always been about winning. And I bet he’s one of the top winners, and yet we don’t hear a lot of people talk about him deserving some awards. It’s just amazing.

“I think sometimes we get caught up in numbers too much. I know his numbers aren’t flashy. But the one that seems to matter is he’s winning. I think he’s a special player.”

I think sometimes we get caught up in numbers too much. I know his numbers aren’t flashy. But the one that seems to matter is he’s winning. I think he’s a special player.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson

The Panthers are still hopeful middle linebacker Luke Kuechly will be back. Kuechly has been in the concussion protocol since suffering a head injury in Week 1, and he was scheduled to meet with an independent neurologist, the final step in the protocol, Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile the Seattle defense got a boost two weeks ago when safety Kam Chancellor returned from a contract holdout. Shula said the difference between Seattle’s defense with and without Chancellor is “really obvious,” even though Chancellor struggled in coverage against the Bengals.

He allowed nine catches on 11 targets for 102 yards and a touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus, which graded him as the worst safety in the league for Week 5.

But it’s tough to imagine he’ll play that poorly for two consecutive weeks. His size (6-foot-3, 232 pounds) and speed make him rare, and his ability to cover all parts of the field can be terrorizing for an offensive coordinator.

They play similar to the way we play and maybe that’s why we have such affinity for the way they play.

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott on the Seattle Seahawks

Even though the Seahawks have had a few hiccups, the Panthers are still expecting the kind of close game that has defined this series. In the three regular-season contests since 2012, the games have been decided by a combined 13 points, and no team has scored more than 16 points.

“Just being a defensive guy, I love those types of games. They play similar to the way we play and maybe that’s why we have such affinity for the way they play,” McDermott said. “They hustle to the football, we hustle to the football. They take pride in their fundamentals, as do we. I think they take a lot of pride in just who they are when they put the Seahawk helmet on, as do we.”

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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