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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

October 6, 2012 at 1:08 PM

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What to watch for: Seahawks at Panthers


Keys to Seahawks victory

1. Contain Cam Newton.
The Panthers are 6-4 when Newton rushes for more than 50 yards, and 1-9 when he doesn't reach that threshold. That speaks pretty clearly just how important his legs are to this offense. Carolina is one of the more explosive offensive teams in the league in large part because of the threat Newton poses as a rusher, and if Seattle can squash that, it mutes a huge part of the Panthers' offense.

2. Force turnovers.
The Seahawks have forced five turnovers so far this season, but none in the past two games. Carolina's offense depends so much upon the quarterback that the Seahawks are bound to have opportunities this game. Coach Pete Carroll believes he has a ball-hawking defense, it just hasn't gotten the opportunities and this game will certainly provide that given how much of Carolina's offense flows through Newton.

3. Give 'em the third degree.
Seattle has had 20 third-down plays the past two games. The Seahawks have converted four all via a rush. Russell Wilson is 1-for-10 passing for 3 yards on third down the past two games, and he has been sacked twice. That needs to improve if Seattle is going to win on the road, and Seattle can start by looking downfield. Wilson didn't complete a pass for more than 17 yards last week.

pan-mark-1-cl.gif Keys to Carolina victory

1. Make Russell Wilson uncomfortable.
Seattle's rookie quarterback has shown the tendency to flee the pocket at the first sign of pressure, and the Panthers had seven sacks in their last game. As well as Seattle has run the ball this season, pass protection has been a problem, and the No. 1 way for Carolina to keep Seattle from finding an offensive rhythm is to flush Wilson from the pocket.

2. Keep Seattle's return game contained.
Seattle has 13 scoring drives this season, and four began with Leon Washington returning either a kickoff or punt that put the ball in the opponent's territory. One other scoring drive was set up by a fumble Seattle forced on a kickoff return. That points out the importance of keeping Seattle's special teams from giving the offense a shortcut to the end zone.

3. Find a way over the top of Seattle's defense.
The Panthers have put a ton of money into running backs Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but the first four weeks have shown Seattle is pretty unyielding. Newton has a big arm, though, and is exceptionally accurate downfield and with big-play threats like Steve Smith, the Panthers must challenge the Seahawks over the top.

Matchup microscope

Seahawks LT Russell Okung vs. Panthers DE Charles Johnson
Carolina had seven sacks last week against Atlanta, a team that had given up four sacks in its first three games combined. Johnson had 3.5 sacks last week alone, which means Okung is going to have his hands full. He has been penalized six times this season, though one of those was declined. He has four false starts.

Series history

The franchises have split their four meetings, the home team winning every time. Carolina and Baltimore are the only two current NFL cities where Seattle has never won. The Seahawks are 0-2 at Carolina, scoring a total of 13 points in those two games.

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