SEATTLE (AP) — This weekend, the Seahawks will celebrate their history by honoring the team that brought Seattle its only Super Bowl championship 10 years ago.
But not everyone can fully participate in the celebratory part of the weekend.
Pete Carroll is still coaching. Bobby Wagner is still playing linebacker. And while they expect to appreciate this weekend’s events, they still have to focus on Sunday’s task of facing the Carolina Panthers.
“I think there’s a balance. As I get older, you have to enjoy some of the things,” Wagner said. “Obviously, I’m going to be locked in, I’m going to be focused, so I won’t do everything. I definitely want to be around those guys, but a lot of those guys live in Seattle. I see them pretty often. It’s not going to be any different. It’s just I have a jersey on, and they don’t.”
It was Wagner’s passionate speech last week that helped Seattle (1-1) refocus after its opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks ultimately pulled out a 37-31 overtime win at Detroit last Sunday.
It’s the same kind of leadership Wagner showed a decade ago when he was in his second year and an anchor to that Super Bowl-winning defense.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal when you have your 10-year anniversary of something like this. He’s those guys, they’re the same,” Carroll said.
The Panthers (0-2), meanwhile, are focused on their future.
It’s been a rocky start for Carolina in its first season under Frank Reich as the only team in the NFC South without a win. Much of it has to do with injuries. No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young is unlikely to play on Sunday due to an ankle injury. Young played the entire game in Carolina’s 20-17 loss to New Orleans last Monday, but came out of the game with the ankle issue.
If he doesn’t play, 13-year veteran Andy Dalton would make his fifth career start against the Seahawks. Dalton is 3-1 in those previous starts, including last season when he led New Orleans to a 39-32 win.
“I’m just going to operate like I know that I can. I think for me it starts with being myself pushing guys, pushing the tempo, doing everything that we need to do to give ourselves a chance,” Dalton said.
After a shaky performance in the opener, Geno Smith was terrific in Week 2, throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions. Smith was able to open up an intermediate passing game that was absent against the Rams and allowed the Seahawks to push the ball downfield a little more.
“We played one bad half of offensive football, and just for us to answer and just come out and put up the amount of points that we did, for Geno (Smith) to have the type of day that he did, then the O-line to play the way that they did just really speaks volumes of the type of offense that we can have,” receiver DK Metcalf said.
Shaq Thompson has been a mainstay for the Panthers at linebacker for the last nine seasons. But Carolina will be without its emotional leader on defense for the remainder of the season after he broke his leg in Monday night’s loss to the Saints. Kamu Grugier-Hill, who has been in the league since 2016 and has spent time with five other teams, will take Thompson’s spot.
Linebacker Frankie Luvu said losing Thompson, who played collegiately at Washington, was an emotional blow for the Panthers because his impact goes beyond his production on the field.
“He kind of does everything for us,” Luvu said. “He’s kind of like that glue for the team. Losing a leader like that just hurts.”
The Seahawks are fortunate to have depth at cornerback, especially with standout Riq Woolen unlikely to play after suffering a chest injury last week against the Lions. Rookie first-round pick Devon Witherspoon stepped in at Woolen’s spot and Tre Brown — finally healthy after injuries derailed his first two seasons — had a sack and an interception return for a touchdown.
It’s likely Witherspoon and Brown will start against the Panthers.
RUNNING THE ROCK
The Panthers would like to recommit to running the ball in the loud environment at Seattle, which likely means a healthy dose of Miles Sanders. The free-agent pickup from the Philadelphia Eagles has just 115 yards rushing in two games despite coach Frank Reich saying he expected Sanders to be the team’s three-down back.
Chuba Hubbard will also see action.
One of the problems for the Panthers on offense has been “getting behind the sticks,” Reich said. With two inexperienced guards in rookie Chandler Zavala and Cade Mays, Carolina hasn’t been able to establish the run and put itself in second- and third-and-short situations.
CAROLINA (0-2) at SEATTLE (1-1)
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EDT, CBS
BETTING LINE: Seahawks by 6, according to FanDuel Sportsbook
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Carolina 0-1-1; Seattle 1-1
SERIES RECORD: Seahawks lead 10-5
LAST MEETING: Panthers beat Seahawks 30-24 on Dec. 11, 2022, in Seattle.
LAST WEEK: Panthers lost to Saints 20-17 on Monday night, Seahawks beat the Lions 37-31 on Sunday.
PANTHERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (26), RUSH (9), PASS (32), SCORING (t-30)
PANTHERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (8), RUSH (25), PASS (4), SCORING (13)
SEAHAWKS OFFENSE: OVERALL (25), RUSH (26), PASS (17), SCORING (13)
SEAHAWKS DEFENSE: OVERALL (31), RUSH (13), PASS (30), SCORING (29)
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Panthers minus-3; Seahawks plus-3
PANTHERS PLAYER TO WATCH: DE Brian Burns. Although he only has two sacks, Burns has been a force so far this season. Carolina has eight sacks through two games and many of those are because Burns’ pressure has forced the opposing quarterback to step up in the pocket or change direction resulting in one of his teammates corralling him for a sack.
SEAHAWKS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Kenneth Walker III. Walker was injured and did not play last season when the Panthers beat the Seahawks. That day, Seattle managed just 46 yards rushing against Carolina’s defense. Walker’s first two weeks of this season have been rather quiet, although he had two rushing touchdowns against Detroit. Seattle would like to get more from its run game and that starts with giving Walker a heavier load which could come this week.
KEY MATCHUP: Burns and the rest of Carolina’s pass rush will be facing backup tackles Jake Curhan and Stone Forsythe for Seattle. The duo stepped in last week against Detroit and performed better than most expected. Thanks to some creative designs in the pass game, Geno Smith wasn’t impacted much by Detroit’s pass rush. If Curhan and Forsythe can play that well this week, Smith could have another solid day against Carolina’s depleted defense.
KEY INJURIES: The Panthers have been hit hard by injuries, with four starters on injured reserve and QB Bryce Young (ankle) is unlikely to play, according to the team. Andy Dalton is expected to start in his place. Also, inside linebacker Shaq Thompson broke his leg when two players landed on him awkwardly Monday night against the Saints and is expected to miss the entire season. In Week 1, the Panthers lost cornerback Jaycee Horn (hamstring) and guard Brady Christensen (torn biceps) to IR. Horn will be out at least six weeks and Christensen is done for the season. Guard Austin Corbett started the season on IR as he looks to rebound from a torn ACL in Week 18 of last season. .. Seattle is likely to be without starting CB Riq Woolen (chest) after he was hurt in the first half last week against Detroit. DK Metcalf will play with sore ribs, but LT Charles Cross seems still a week away because of a sprained toe. It may also still be another week before S Jamal Adams makes his season debut after getting hurt in the 2022 season opener.
SERIES NOTES: The Seahawks have dominated the series, winning eight of the past 11 matchups, including two of three in the postseason.
STATS AND STUFF: The winless Panthers haven’t had a winning season since 2017 and are already two games behind Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay in the NFC South. Both of Carolina’s losses have come within the division. … Carolina has only scored two TDs this season, both coming on Young TD passes. … QB Andy Dalton is 3-1 in four starts vs. Seahawks. … RB Miles Sanders has been limited to 115 yards through two games and is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. … WR DJ Chark (hamstring) is expected to see more extensive action against Seattle after being on a pitch count last week. … LB Frankie Luvu leads the Panthers with 2 1/2 sacks. … K Eddy Pineiro has made 23 consecutive field goals, the second-longest streak in team history behind only Graham Gano (28). Pineiro’s field goal rate is 90.5%. The highest field-goal rate in NFL history among players with at least 100 attempts is Baltimore’s Justin Tucker at 90.3%. Pineiro has 75 attempts. … The Panthers are 25th offensively in third down efficiency. However, they have a chance to get right against a Seattle defense that is the worst in the league on third downs, allowing opponents to convert 60.7% of opportunities into first downs. … Seattle coach Pete Carroll can tie Mike Holmgren for 15th on the NFL’s career wins list with one more victory. Holmgren had 174 victories between regular season and playoffs. … QB Geno Smith had his eighth career 300-yard passing game last week. Five of the eight have come in the past two seasons. … WR Tyler Lockett had his 10th career game with two TD catches last week, sixth most among active players. … TEs Noah Fant, Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson combined for nine catches for 132 yards vs. Detroit. … The Seahawks are third in the league in allowing only 2.9 yards per rush through two games. Seattle had the 30th ranked run defense last season. … LBs Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks each have had double-digit tackles in the first two weeks. … K Jason Myers has missed three of his past four attempts. He missed three kicks all of last season.
FANTASY TIP: It’s not a big sample size but Seattle’s DK Metcalf has a TD catch in each of his previous two meetings against the Panthers. With injuries in the Carolina secondary it seems a good bet that Metcalf could find the end zone again.