It was nine years ago when the Carolina Panthers last went to Seattle for a playoff game. And no matter what happens Saturday, Panthers fans can rest assured about one thing: This Carolina team is closer to full strength than that one was.
Before the first quarter ended nine years ago, Carolina was down to its fourth-string running back. Stephen Davis and DeSean Foster were already out going into the game. Nick Goings, the third-stringer, sustained a concussion early.
“That was about the most difficult situation possible,” said Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme, who threw three interceptions that day in Carolina’s 34-14 loss. “Who’d we have – Jamal Robertson as our running back?”
That’s right. The forgettable Robertson was part of a rushing attack that gained only 36 yards. That left Delhomme throwing the ball constantly under pressure. Seattle often double- and triple-teamed Steve Smith, leaving Delhomme to try his luck throwing passes to Drew Carter, Ricky Proehl and Keary Colbert (who started but did not catch a pass).
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“I remember no one was open once and I scrambled out to the right one time to our sideline,” Delhomme said. “Foxy (John Fox) looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know what to tell you.’ I said, ‘I’m trying.’ And he said, ‘I know.’ ”
This Carolina team will be without defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and maybe wide receiver Philly Brown, but the Panthers are not down to their fourth-string anything. Robertson ended up having no NFL career to speak of, but he did have a good one in the Canadian Football League.
• Seattle has been to the playoffs nine times in the past 12 years. That’s the sort of record that the Panthers can only dream of at this point, but going 2-for-2 over the past couple of years is a good start.
• This is amazing: Seattle has not allowed a single point in the fourth quarter of its past six games (all victories). The Seahawks have led the NFL in scoring defense in each of the past three seasons, becoming the first team to do that since the Minnesota Vikings’ “Purple People Eaters” from 1969-71.
• I am 11-5-1 picking the Panthers’ games this season after getting the outcome right the past four weeks in a row. I explain my reasoning more fully in a column about this pick, but suffice it to say I don’t believe Carolina can get this very difficult job done. My prediction: Seattle 20, Carolina 10.