The first test of the 2013 season for the Hawks will be traveling to Bank of America Stadium to take on the Carolina Panthers. The primary task for the Seahawks is taking care of dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton. Ideally, Seattle would like to completely shut down Newton, but that’s much easier said than done. Realistically, Seattle’s defense should focus on making Newton a one-dimensional threat.
Just like Seattle’s preseason numbers, you can’t take any of Carolina’s preseason statistics at face value. So for this Week 1 match-up, we’re going to look back on the 2012 statistics to get a better idea of Carolina’s perceived strengths and weaknesses.
Carolina finished last season with a 7-9 record and in a three-way tie for 2nd place in the NFC South. While the Panthers “tied” the Buccaneers and Saints in terms of a win-loss record, Carolina had the best finish, winning its last four games.
Running the football was Carolina’s strength last year. Averaging 130.5 yards on the ground each game was the 9th most and the Panthers 4.5 yards per carry tied them with the Eagles and Titans as the 8th best average. The team’s 21 rushing touchdowns were the 3rd most in the league.
Newton and DeAngelo Williams finished first and second in the majority of all significant rushing statistics. Williams ran for 737 yards, averaging 4.3 yards a carry and five TDs on the ground. Newton finished with 741 yards on the ground, averaging 5.8 yards per touch and eight TDs. Both men had one game rushing for 100+ yards.
The passing game for Carolina was mediocre at best. The Panthers averaged 230.2 yards per game, right in the middle as the 16th most. One of the reasons for being so middle-of-the-road was the lack of pass attempts. Just 284 passes were completed, the 4th least while attempting only 490 throws, the 7th least. Newton threw for all of Carolina’s 19 TDs, the 9th least, and finished the season with 12 INTs for a QB rating of 86.2.
Newton’s two favorite targets were wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen. Smith had 73 receptions for 1,174 yds. He averaged 16.1 yds per reception and had four TDs. Olsen pulled down 69 passes for 843 yards. He averaged 12.2 yards per catch and had five TDs.
The majority of Carolina’s offensive and defensive numbers were nothing spectacular, but nothing to scoff at either. The Panthers averaged 360.7 offensive yards a game, the 12th most in the NFL and gave up up 333.1 yards on defense, the 10th least. When it came to scoring, the offense and defense both finished 17th in terms of points scored/allowed. The offense scored 22.3 points and the defense allowed 22.7 points each game.
On defense, the Panthers were nothing special, but were consistently in the top half regarding least yards allowed. They gave up 223.0 passing yards and 110.1 rushing yards each game, the 13th and 14th least in the NFL, respectively and allowed 4.2 yards per rush, also the 14th least.
With all that said, this should be a great opening season match-up featuring two of the best athletic young quarterbacks. An Week 1 win will go a long way for either team.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.