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January 7, 2015 at 9:17 PM

Catching up on Carolina

A few things to pass along on Seattle’s opponent Saturday, the Carolina Panthers.

  • Carolina QB Cam Newton met the media in Charlotte today and sounded pretty confident about the Panther’s chances. ” I’m predicting it to be loud, but I’m predicting us to play well as well,” he said. “If we execute, it’s going to be hard for them to cheer, but if we don’t, it’s going to be easy for them to cheer.”
  • Here’s more on how the Panthers will replace Star Lotulelei, specifically with former Seahawk Colin Cole, who played for Seattle in 2009-10 and figures to renew what were undoubtedly lots of practice clashes with Seattle center Max Unger, who has been with the Seahawks since 2009.
  • The Panthers may have to turn to former second-round pick Stephen Hill as a replacement for the injured Philly Brown.
  • ESPN breaks down Seattle’s hex on Newton the last three years.
  • All of the Charlotte Observer’s Panthers’ coverage here.

Finally, here’s the transcript of what Carolina coach Ron Rivera had to say to the Seattle media today:

(On the house fire) We were very fortunate—the whole thing was kind of a scary situation, but at the end of the day nobody was hurt. I’m sure we had some damage, but truth of the matter is that we’re going to rebuild so we’re fine. Other part is that it happened on a day off so it wasn’t disruptive as far as football preparation.

(On having momentum coming into the playoffs) I think so, but we have to be honest—the Seahawks have momentum as well. They’ve done some really good things as of late and I expect this to be a good football game.

(On what’s changed since the last meeting) Well just like them—the health. I think we’ve gotten healthier; a lot of our key components are back on the field. I also think part of it is that we’ve settled on our offensive line, we’ve settled on our secondary, and I think our young wide receivers have matured a little bit and have come together with our quarterback.

(On why he is playing two rookie cornerbacks) I think the need for speed—we had some veteran guys that were solid football players that did things the right way, but I think we needed to be more athletic, a little more aggressive, and that was kind of the thought behind that decision.

(On Star Lotulelei injury status) No—he will not play this week. He broke a small bone in his foot and he had to have surgery this morning to repair it. It’s one of those things where hopefully we get a chance to move on and if we do, he’ll get to play.

(On Colin Cole getting a bigger role) Yes—Colin will assume a bigger role and Kyle Love, who we saw a few weeks back will get an opportunity as we’ll go forward, we’ll see.

(On what Colin Cole means to the Panthers defense) He’s been such a solid stay force—he’s a space eater up inside, he handles the doubles very well—holds the point of attack, and he helps to allow our linebackers to run.

(On the Panthers having a moment of truth like the Seahawks had during the season) Yes—especially on the defensive side I saw it to be even more evident. We got back after the Green Bay game and the defensive players got together, and said, ‘Hey look! This isn’t us; this isn’t the way we play.’ I think part of it was also the realization that Greg Hardy wasn’t coming back anytime soon. I think that was something that the defensive guys were kind of looking over their shoulder and they came to the realization that, ‘Hey it’s time to move on fellas.’ I think that’s helped them, I think they’ve put that to the side, and really done a good job as far as the defense is concerned. I think offensively, we really came together during the Minnesota game—even though we didn’t play as well as we’d like too, we gave up to two touchdowns on the block punts, offensively we moved the ball very well and we scored points early. We just put ourselves in a hole, but it was also the first time that this group of offensive linemen have started a game together.

(On Jonathan Stewart) Well I think what we’ve seen since he’s been healthy and rolling, with Mike Tolbert back, we’ve settled on our offensive line—we’ve been effective running the ball. He grinds it out, he’s a physical runner. He really belongs in the same veins as Marshawn Lynch, who I really think is one of the best in the league right now, but it’s good having a guy that’s comparable to Marshawn. Again, he controls the tempo for us as far as running the ball.

(On Stewart being good when healthy) Yes—we’ve always known what he can be—all you have to do is go back to 2008 season when he and DeAngelo [Williams] both rushed for 1,000 yards together. This is a group of running backs that I think are two of the better tandems in the league—it’s just right now the hot hand is Jonathan.

(On questioning Jonathan Stewart’s health) Well the thing that’s helped us more than anything else is that we have DeAngelo [Williams]. While Jonathan was struggling with the injury, DeAngelo was out and he had played welldid some really nice things for us. He was able to carry the load and then this year, with the injuries to the group, it was one of our position disaster—we had gotten down to our 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th running back. We brought in two guys off the street, who both at one point, end up starting for us—that’s how crazy it got, as far as that position was concerned.

(On how different is Seattle’s offense) Well just watching them, they’re a lot more effective running the ball. I mean you see them grinding it out even more, I think the quarterback has something to do with that. The thing about these triple threat quarterbacks—it’s one thing to be able to throw the ball or hand the ball off, but now you have the extra development of the potential for the quarterback to run it. Now all of a sudden, it changes things—it changes the dynamics of the game, it puts a lot of pressure and burden on the defense, it puts a lot of pressure on the defensive coordinators.

(On Jonathan Stewart being excited about coming home) I think so—he’s aware of it. He’s aware that he’s going back to the West Coast, back to his home area, and he’ll have fun with it. He’s solid—I don’t know if it’s really playing that much into him, but I know that he’s aware of it.

(On Seattle/Carolina’s linebackers) Oh gosh I tell you what—we’re going to see some really good ones. I think you’re going to see two really good defenses as well. It’s a good group of guys; both teams are very active, as far as I’m concerned—both teams start with their inside linebackers. I think Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly will be two of the better ones on the field in terms of middle linebacker. Then you throw in the combination of Bruce Irvin and K.J. Wright on the outside and you compare that with what we got with Thomas Davis and there is going to be some exciting guys on the football field.

(On how the Panthers defense got better) Well I think the improvement in the secondary really help to settle things down, but if there is a guy who’s been playing well for us, it’s been Charles Johnson—he’s been very effective. Then the other thing you’ve seen is that we’ve gotten the push inside we’ve gotten—I think that helps. Then on occasion, I think bringing into the mix—a fourth pass rusher and that’s Kony Ealy, he’s really come along very well. In four of our last five games, Kony’s had a sack—he’s a rookie for us, but he’s kind of found his footing. I think he’s becoming a good complement to Charles.

(On referencing the 7-9 Seahawks victory over the Saints to his team) Yes—believe me, that’s been all a part of the conversation. I’ve had to deal with that for the last five weeks as we’ve started to get on a little bit of a roll and people talking it. I said, ‘The truth of the matter is—it doesn’t matter guys how you get in, just get in, and then see what happens.’ It’s what happened to Seattle a few years back—they got hot. They got hot—they won a game, that’s kind of the way we look at it. We got hot, we won a home field playoff game, but we just go from there. So it’s something that’s been talked about and that’s been mentioned.

(On the Panthers coming in as underdogs) I’m not really concerned about the line, whatever that is, but why not us is a good question. We have every opportunity to win, but again, you have to show up and play—that’s what dictates it more than anything else is what happens during the game. So we’re not bothered by it, we have a lot of respect for who they are, we do know that they’re the defending champs, and we do know that they have a tremendous amount of good football players on their team. Defensively, they’re as good as anybody if not better and I seriously think that their quarterback should be considered for league MVP. All he’s done is win as far as I’m concerned, I love the running back—I really do. I think Marshawn is a solid football player—he did go to Cal so that’s a huge plus for me.

(On how different are Russell Wilson and Cam Newton to game plan for) I think they’re very similar—I really do. I will say this—I think Russell has this innate ability to pull back and throw at the last second and throw the ball. Whereas our guy, if he commits, he’s going to run and I think that’s one of the differences. The other difference is—I don’t see Russell Wilson ever taking any really big hits. I have not seen it, I’ve watched tape of him, I’ve seen the tape, and I’ve seen tape of stuff he’s done—he’s exciting to watch.


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