Goodbye Super-Cam, Hello Clark Kent.
This season has been quite the roller coaster ride for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Over the first four weeks of the season, Newton’s QBR has been 34.5, 88.3, 15.6, and 68.7. With 50 being the average in the QBR rating system, you can see how Cam’s numbers fluctuated week by week.
The Panthers are far from the electrifying offense they were last season, and the Seahawks must capitalize on that.
Coming off of a tough loss in St. Louis, the Seattle offense looked terrible – aside Marshawn Lynch‘s 118 yards with a touchdown. Russell Wilson‘s three interceptions have already began the “Bring in Flynn!” eruptions from the 12th man.
I urge the fans to put down their pitchforks and torches, and let the rookie get comfortable.
Wilson’s interceptions were not terrible throws, but miscommunications between the quarterback and receiver – and even a slip by tight end Anthony McCoy that ended the chance for a late game rally.
Wilson is still in the midst of a learning process, and more than capable to travel to Carolina and put the Panthers away. Here is what I am watching for this Sunday.
Feed the Big Boys
The Panthers averaged a league-best 5.4 yards per carry last season on the ground. They also led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 26. Yes, Newton’s rookie numbers were beyond impressive and record-breaking. However, without a running attack their passing game isn’t nearly as potent.
As previously noted, Newton’s performances have been very inconsistent. In the first week (34.5 QBR), the Panthers rushed for 10 yards on 13 attempts in a loss to Tampa Bay. That was as a team. 10 yards. I could get 10 rushing yards in a game.
In week two (88.3 QBR), the running game trounced the New Orleans defense for 219 yards and punched it in the end zone 3 times.
Week three (15.6 QBR), they got an unimpressive 60 yards on 20 carries.
Finally, in week four (68.7) they had another impressive showing with 199 yards and 2 scores.
As you can see, Newton’s performance heavily relies on the rushing attack. The Seahawks may not be the best team on the road – might even be one of the worst – but these big boys up front for the Seattle defense are hungry week-in and week-out.
Holding the 2nd best rush defense in the league, the front seven for the Hawks are going to need to keep Jonathan Stewart, Deangelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, and yes, Cam Newton from breaking free in the ground game. If this happens, I predict victory for the Seahawks and several belly dances from my man Brandon Mebane.
Boom Goes the Dynamite
Over the past few weeks, the Seahawks’ secondary has garnered the nickname “Legion of Boom.” This is because of their unusual combination of size and speed. Between Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, andBrandon Browner, the average height is 6’3″.
That is ridiculous. And they HIT.
With the big boys up front feasting on the remains of Newton and his gang of RB’s, the Legion of Boom will be roaming the secondary, waiting for a not-so-uncommon Cam Newton miscue.
Whether it is an interception, a big hit, or just solid coverage, the Seattle secondary is going to have a field day if the front seven can keep the running game grounded.
Wilson Ya Gotta Stay Calm
Too often this season Russell Wilson has felt pressure in the pocket and instinctively used his feet to get out of trouble and attempt to find a receiver down field on a roll-out.
This can be a great thing, and a terrible thing.
Wilson’s athletic ability is obvious.
Dude’s got wheels.
Yet he cannot continue to run out of the pocket whenever he feels the slightest amount of pressure coming. This forces receivers to break off from their routes and run towards the side of the field Wilson is scrambling to.
It turns an offensive scheme into backyard football (great game) and eliminates the offensive coordinator.
I’m sure Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell has spoken to Wilson about this already. With the NFL’s leading rusher in your backfield, you don’t always need to run around and make the big plays.
A simple throw away could lead to a five-yard gain from Lynch on the next play.
As Wilson matures, he will learn that it is imperative to rely on your arm more than your legs in the NFL. If he can stay in the pocket, he has the ability to pick apart the Panther’s 22nd ranked pass defense.
Taste the Rainbow
The Panthers have the 22nd ranked pass defense, and the 25th ranked rush defense. They are flat out awful. And with the announcement that their two best players – John Beason and Chris Gamble – will miss the contest, you might as well put Lynch on a segway and let him coast to the end zone.
Lynch has been very impressive this season, rushing for 423 yards with a 4.6 yard-per-carry average. He will definitely carry the load for the Seattle offense on Sunday, and has very feasible back ups in Robert Turbin and Leon Washington.
Wilson will be the delivery man between the center and the running back for most of the game, as the Hawks could very well run the ball over 40 times. If they are efficient and Wilson manages the game, Lynch will be making it rain with Skittles on the sideline.
Open the Flood Gates
These of course are all hypothetical situations.
IF the offensive line creates holes, Marshawn will have a big day. IF Wilson can stay calm and not make mistakes, he will be productive.
And yes, IF the Seahawks can stop the Panthers’ run game, the pass rush will unleash a storm on Newton.
After an outstanding performance on Monday night with 8 sacks in the first half on Aaron Rodgers, Seattle went to St. Louis and left Bradford nearly untouched.
The defense still played great – being fooled only on a fake field goal for a touchdown – but the pressure just was not there.
This Sunday the defensive focus will be on Cam Newton and the Panthers’ run game. Yes they have Steve Smith, but our secondary can lock him up, forcing other receivers to make plays (Brandon LaFell? Please don’t…).
Our pass rush can be lethal, but they seem to thrive off of crowd noise and are much more efficient playing at Century Link with the 12th man.
They need to get their home-game killer instinct and establish it on the road, opening the flood gates and creating a bad day for poor Mr. Newton.