Countdown to kickoff: Seahawks at Panthers

Posted Sep 8, 2013

Greetings from Bank of American Stadium, where the moment that couldn’t arrive soon enough is almost here: The opener of the Seahawks’ season of unprecedented expectations.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Greetings from Bank of American Stadium, where the moment that couldn’t arrive soon enough is almost here: The opener of the Seahawks’ season of unprecedented expectations.

There have been other highly anticipated openers:

In 1976, when the Seahawks played their first season opener, only to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 30-24 at the Kingdome to kick off a five-game losing streak in what would be a 2-12 season.

In 1985, when the Seahawks were the trendy pick to win the AFC after going 12-4 in 1984 despite losing leading rusher Curt Warner in the first half of that opener. The Seahawks won their ’85 opener at Cincinnati, 28-24, and also the following week at San Diego, 49-35. But that was just the start of a win-two/lose-two pattern that produced an 8-8 record.

In 2006, the Seahawks were coming off the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, but the Chicago Bears were the favorites to win the NFC that season – and the Seahawks eked out a 9-6 victory in their opener against the Lions in Detroit on their way to a 9-7 record.

So there’s a reason everyone has been so geeked for so long about today’s matchup with the Panthers – a Panthers team the Seahawks beat here 16-12 in Week 5 last season.

But the Seahawks also are about to find out that all the offseason hype and preseason predictions regarding just how good they might be this season has made them an opponent of opportunity for other teams looking to make a statement.

“I guess they’re the poster boy of the NFL right now,” cornerback Josh Norman, who had four of the Panthers’ NFL-high 10 interceptions during the preseason, told the Charlotte Observer this week. “They’re doing a lot of really good things. But so are we. … It’s going to be a great matchup.”

This Panthers team is out to prove it’s better than the Panthers team that went 7-9 last season. And what better way to make an opening statement than to knockoff a Seahawks team that is being picked by many to win the NFC or at least challenge for the conference title?

Add to this toe-stumping possibility the fact that the Seahawks’ home opener next week is against the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers and it could increase the chances of tripping over the Panthers today.

Until, that is, you talk to the players. They’re the ones who were so successful last season at taking the one-game-a-time approach that coach Pete Carroll preaches to heart – and to the field on game day. A 4-4 start? No worries, they went 7-1 in the second half of the season. In fact, the players even developed a one-play-at-time mentality. Fall behind the Washington Redskins 14-0 in the wild-card playoff game? No problem, as they rallied to win 24-14 for the franchise’s first road playoff win since 1983.

So the talk of expectations hasn’t softened their resolve, because the expectations that are the highest belong to the Seahawks’ players.

“We are a talented football team and we have done some good things,” quarterback Russell Wilson said this week. “We haven’t done anything great yet though. That’s the thing I always think about. That’s the same thing that Richard Sherman thinks about or Earl Thomas or Marshawn Lynch. We’ve done a lot of good things, but we haven’t done anything great yet.

“To do that, we have to play one week at a time, one game at a time, and one opportunity at a time. When we can do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to do something great one day.”

If Wilson showed anything during his rookie season, it’s that you cannot dampen – and should not doubt – his determination.

So sit back and enjoy what we’ve all waited so long for – the 2013 regular-season opener, with kickoff and televised coverage on Q13 FOX set for 10 a.m. on the west coast.