Scott Fowler

One way for big play? Get Seattle’s Michael Bennett to jump first

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett is one of the NFL’s best pass rushers – but also prone to jumping offsides, a weakness Carolina and Cam Newton should exploit.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett is one of the NFL’s best pass rushers – but also prone to jumping offsides, a weakness Carolina and Cam Newton should exploit. TNS

Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett is an extremely good player, but he can’t seem to curb a tendency to be overeager and will jump offsides in a heartbeat on a hard count. The Carolina Panthers always have a problem finding enough big plays on offense against Seattle, so Cam Newton would do well to exploit that tendency Sunday.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers taught the graduate-level course in how to get that done earlier this season. Three times he managed to get Bennett to jump offsides before the play began. Then the ball was snapped. And Rodgers – playing with house money because he knew he had a 5-yard penalty regardless of what happened – would throw the ball long.

On one play, Rodgers got a 29-yard touchdown. On another, he drew a 52-yard pass interference penalty on Seattle.

Bennett is one of the most-penalized players in the league. He has been called for defensive offsides five times already this season, as well as unnecessary roughness twice and a neutral-zone infraction once. He also clinched the Super Bowl loss against New England.

After the New England interception, Tom Brady couldn’t simply kneel down because the ball was at his own 1 and he didn’t want to risk a safety. No problem: He simply got Bennett to jump, and the Patriots’ win was assured.

▪  Lots is made of the difficulty of winning an NFL game in Seattle, which the Panthers couldn’t do in their most recent playoff game. But if you really want to see a hostile environment, you need to go see “The Martian.” It’s a cool movie and sticks closely to the book.

One of my pet peeves is when a movie doesn’t do that. I still haven’t forgiven Stanley Kubrick for what he did to Stephen King’s book in the grossly overrated 1980 film version of “The Shining.”

▪  I get the feeling Russell Wilson doesn’t really trust Jimmy Graham yet.

▪  OK, prediction time. Like the Panthers, I am 4-0 this season, as I have picked Carolina to win each week. After Sunday, one of us won’t be undefeated anymore.

I think Seattle at home is a little too difficult for the Panthers. The two teams have drawn closer since their last meeting in the playoffs, and on a neutral field I would probably pick the Panthers. But it’s very hard to beat Seattle at home as long as Russell Wilson is healthy.

My pick: Seattle 17, Carolina 13.

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler

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