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Up Next: Carolina Panthers

Posted Sep 3, 2013

The Seahawks will open their 38th regular season on Sunday in Charlotte against a Panthers team that they also played – and beat – last season.

A look at the Seahawks’ opponent in their regular-season opener this Sunday:

When: Sunday, 10 a.m. PDT, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

Record: Carolina 3-1 in the preseason, their first winning preseason record since 2006; 7-9 last season

TV: Q13 FOX, Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jennifer Hale

Where they rank: No. 12 on offense last season (9th rushing, 16th passing); No. 10 on defense (14th rushing, 13th passing)

Series: Seahawks lead 3-2 during the regular season after their 16-12 victory in Week 5 last season, their first win in Charlotte after losses in 2000 and 2007. The Seahawks also beat the Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship game in Seattle.

Star Power

Luke Kuechly. With apologies to QB Cam Newton, the second-year middle linebacker is the Panthers’ best player. And the proof is in Kuechly’s production. He led the NFL with 164 tackles last season and was voted NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The 235-pounder from Boston College had double-digit tackles in 10 of the Panthers’ 16 games, including a season-high 16 against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14 and 11 in the loss to the Seahawks – which kicked off a six-game stretch where Kuechly averaged 12 tackles and had no fewer than 10. “I’m a big fan of ‘Luuuuuuuke’ Kuechly,” Newton, mimicking the way Panthers fans salute Kuechly after a big play, told FOX Sports last month. “He’s just a person that holds himself to a standard that failure is not an option for him.”

Unsung Hero

Ted Ginn Jr. If the name sounds familiar, it should. The Seahawks had grabbed the momentum, and were on the verge of grabbing the lead, late in the fourth quarter of their 2011 regular-season opener against the 49ers in San Francisco. That’s when Ginn, playing for the 49ers at the time, broke a 102-yard kickoff return and a 55-yard punt return for scores in a 59-second blur to turn a 19-17 game into a 33-17 49ers’ victory. Ginn is with a new team this season, but up to his old tricks. During the preseason, he returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown, on his only return of the preseason, and also caught an 87-yard TD pass.

On The Spot

Jon Beason. Say what? Beason was the Panthers’ stud middle linebacker before Kuechly became their stud middle linebacker. But he’s coming of microfracture knee surgery last October that sidelined him for the final 12 games and also all of training camp this summer. And he tore his left Achilles in the 2011 opener. This summer, Beason played just 26 snaps during the last two preseason games. And he’s also lining up at weak-side linebacker after playing so well the middle that he was voted to three consecutive Pro Bowls (2008-10). Just don’t expect Beason to offer any apologies or excuses. “Me, I get stronger as I go, and I’m accustomed to not coming out at all, ever,” he told Panthers.com. “So it’s going to be an adjustment. I’m in a situation with the knee and coming back where taking pressure off that is going to be the best thing, especially early. It’s a good situation actually.”

Burning Question

Will the Seahawks be able to discombobulate Newton and the Panthers’ read-option as well as they did last season? In that game, the Seahawks used cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner to deal with Newton’s pitch options to the outside, leaving the linebackers to help clog the inside gaps that Newton is so good at exploiting. The Panthers had 190 yards in the game, and 156 of that came on two possessions. On their other nine possessions, the Panthers average 3.8 yards – not per play, but per possession.

Familiar Faces

Backup nose tackle Colin Cole played for the Seahawks in 2009-10. Assistant special teams coach Bruce DeHaven was the Seahawks’ special teams coordinator from 2007-09. Wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl played the position for the Seahawks in 1995-96. Secondary/passing defense coordinator Steve Wilks went to training camp with the Seahawks in 1992.

Numbers To Know

10, interceptions by the Panthers during the preseason, when they also were plus-8 in turnover differential. … 1, player remaining from their eight-man 2011 draft class, with No. 1 (Newton) being the only one.

The Last Word

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

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks