Get ready for something unusual Sunday.
It always seems to happen when Carolina and the Seattle Seahawks play — a cross-country rivalry that has been both magical and miserable for the Panthers.
Just take the past two games as an example. The last time Carolina played Seattle in Charlotte was in the 2015 postseason. Carolina took a 31-0 lead, and I’m still not sure I’ve heard the stadium any louder than when Luke Kuechly intercepted Russell Wilson and scored on a pick-six that day.
Then Wilson led the Seahawks almost all the way back, with 24 straight points.
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As Cam Newton would say about that stretch later: “There were a lot of guys playing with their butts tight. Coaches with their butts tight. At one point, the fans and myself with butts tight, too.”
Finally, linebacker Thomas Davis put an end to the madness by capturing a Seattle onsides kick inside the two-minute warning, and Carolina won 31-24.
Then, in the 2016 regular season, the Panthers were floundering and badly needed a victory at Seattle. Newton was healthy, which made it really perplexing when Derek Anderson trotted out to start the game. Anderson threw an interception on his first play, then departed.
It turned out Newton had been benched by coach Ron Rivera for not wearing a tie on the team flight to Seattle. He was unfit to be tied (go ahead, groan) and the Panthers were unfit in general that day, losing 40-7.
“If coach didn’t feel like I was dressed appropriately, then I wasn’t,” Newton said later, adding that several teammates had offered to let him borrow a tie but that he also hadn’t packed a dress shirt.
▪ I loved it myself, but don’t count Seattle coach Pete Carroll among those who really enjoyed the 54-51 Monday night victory by the Los Angeles Rams over Kansas City.
“I think it was an extraordinary game, as good a game as I can remember for the fans and for offense and all that,” Carroll said. “But for the defensive guys around the league and around the country, it made everybody kind of sick. It was hard to watch.”
▪ After last week’s rebuff of an extra point that would have tied the game 20-20 in favor of a missed two-point conversion, the Panthers kept alive one of their strangest streaks. They currently sport the NFL’s longest consecutive game streak without playing an overtime period. Carolina hasn’t gone into overtime for 51 straight games, dating back to the Panthers’ overtime victory over Indianapolis in 2015.
▪ Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner is No. 2 on the Seahawks’ all-time list for most tackles. Do you know who’s No. 1? Panthers radio analyst Eugene Robinson.
▪ Prediction time. I dropped to 7-3 on the season last week after incorrectly believing that the Panthers could beat a sorry Detroit team — a team that Chicago then beat with its backup quarterback five days later! — on the road.
Carolina is a different team at home and 5-0 this season in Charlotte, but unfortunately I think the Panthers are trending in the wrong direction.
I’d be happy to be proven wrong Sunday, but Wilson has tormented Carolina his entire career and he has a great running game at his disposal, too. The Panthers defense will need to make a number of big plays to win. I just don’t see that happening. My pick: Seattle 30, Carolina 27.