Following a thrilling win in Detroit, the Seahawks are back home in Week 3 to host the Carolina Panthers, who are off to an 0-2 start. While last week's game was all about bouncing back from a disappointing loss in the opener, the focus this week is on taking the lessons from a win, and especially how the team finished in overtime, and have it carry over. The Seahawks also know they need to get back to winning at home if they're going to have the type of season they believe is possible.
"We need to get going here at home and coming back to Lumen is a big deal to us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We didn't get off to the right start and we get another chance at it. Our focus is to regain the mentality that got us the kind of finish that we had last week. We do things right all the way through the end of the game and give ourselves that chance to win a football game. We know we see a very hungry team coming in here. Carolina is hungry to get their win, get going. They're tough and they're physical up front, they like to run the football. They play really good up front in run and pass, terrific pass rush. This is a huge game for us. I'm really hoping that we can find the feeling and capture the feeling of how you finish, regardless of what happens earlier in the game, and you do a good job at the end so that you have a chance to win. That really the focus for us this week."
Here are five things to watch as the Seahawks host the Panthers on Sunday:
1. Can the current team harness the energy on a big day and make the 2013 team proud?
Lumen Field is always rocking on game day, but this particular Sunday should feature a little something extra as many members of the 2013 team are honored on the 10th anniversary of their Super Bowl-winning season.
There is, of course, always the concern when extra things are going on during a gameday, but Bobby Wagner, the one player from that 2013 team who suit up for Sunday's game, is confident he and his teammates can put the weekend's festivities in their proper place and still keep their focus in the right place.
"I think there's a balance," Wagner said. "As you get older, you have to enjoy some of the things. Obviously, I'm going to be locked in, I'm going to be focused, so I won't do everything. I definitely want to be around those guys, but a lot of those guys live in Seattle. I see them pretty often. It's not going to be any different. It's just I have a jersey on, and they don't."
The current Seahawks came into this season with high expectations, and if they're going to take this season to where they think it is capable of going, then a good way to get things going would be to emulate the best team in franchise history with a big victory in front of many of the players who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy a decade ago.
2. Is this the week the Seahawks get the running game going?
Two games into the season, the Seahawks have done a lot of things well on offense, but they have not yet found the productivity in the running game that Carroll and everyone else involved would like to see. There have been good moments, to be sure, including long runs by Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet, and a pair of touchdown runs for Walker last week, but the overall numbers, both in terms of attempts and yardage, aren't up to par for a Seahawks offense.
"We need to keep working," Carroll said. "We're not where we need to be. We're not there, we have a lot of work to do. This is going to be very difficult against these guys as well. But we're not there yet. Our consistency is not there. We just have to keep at it."
Running the ball could be paramount this week against a good Panthers defense that has pass-rushers capable of making things difficult on a team, and with a secondary and scheme that will challenge Geno Smith and company. Through two games, Carolina is allowing just 149.0 passing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the NFL.
"They keep an umbrella coverage to where they make you get tired of taking the underneath routes or taking the check-downs to get tired and make you want to force the ball deep," receiver DK Metcalf said. "I know Geno's not going to do that and Shane's (Waldron) not going to put us in the position to do that. So, we're going to take what they give us and at the end of the day, they still have to guard us. They have to account for our 11 and not the other way around."
One way for the Seahawks to beat those coverages is to take what the Panthers are giving them in the passing game; another is to start hitting explosive plays in the running game if they're harder to come by through the air.
"We're still waiting on that explosive run to help with the yards-per-carry thing, but in terms of Week 1 to Week 2, we still have had those positive runs, we've had the efficient runs," offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said. "Just not the big run, so to speak. We'll keep working on that, keep working on the timing and the rhythm between the running backs and the offensive linemen, tight ends, receivers in the blocking game so that we can get some of those runs to be more than three, fours and five (yards) as we go."
3. Will the tackles repeat last week's impressive performance?
One of the best things to come out of last week's win in Detroit was the play of Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan, who were filling in for regular starters Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, and who played very well in a tough environment.
With Lucas on injured reserve and with Cross ruled out, the expectation is that those two will start again, and when that does occur, their coaches and teammates will have the utmost confidence in their ability to get the job done again.
"Really happy with the way those guys performed," said quarterback Geno Smith. "I thought they did a phenomenal job. Looking back at the tape, when you watch the film, you see all 11 guys playing connected, really just executing the gameplan. I think when you have as much depth as we have and you have a bunch of guys who are capable, you see guys stepping up and making plays. I was really happy for those guys. I had a great feeling about it and it was good to see it happen on Sunday."
It won't be easy, however, with the Panthers featuring a dangerous pass rush, led by two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Brian Burns, who has 2.0 sacks so far this year after recording 12.5 last season, and former WSU standout Frankie Luvu, who currently leads the team with 2.5 sacks after recording 7.0 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in 2022, his first season as a full-time starter.
"They're really tough up front," Carroll said. "They're tough up front on the run and rushing the passer. Their technique is solid and scheme-wise good, they look for chances to highlight their guys in the rush. They have a fantastic rusher in Burns. It's just a good group in every way… They're loaded. This is a really good group."
4. Does the run defense keep it up, and can the pass rush build off last week's encouraging second half?
The Seahawks have played outstanding run defense through two games, holding opponents to just 2.9 yards per rush attempt, but maintaining that success won't be easy against the Panthers, who have rushed for 254 yards in two games, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. The scheme has changed from when the Panthers had a big game against Seattle last year, but the Seahawks still expect a tough challenge from Carolina's running game.
"They've always been a downhill football running team," outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu said. "So it's going to come down to us just being physical at the line of scrimmage knocking guys back, getting off blocks, leveraging the football, and killing the run."
And while the Seahawks have played two games of good run defense, they have only seen the pass rush come alive the past two quarters of action, recording six quarterback hits and two sacks in the second half against Detroit after no sacks and two quarterback hits through the first six quarters of the season. Not surprisingly, the defense enjoyed more success when it was pressuring Jared Goff, and they know that if the pass rush can continue to trend in the right direction as new players on the defense get more comfortable together, that can make a huge difference for that unit's overall performance.
"I think a lot of guys continued to rush together, get on the same page with it," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "It was frustrating in the early part of the year, and as the guys get accustomed to rushing together, especially with a new group, guys like Jarran (Reed), Chenna (Nwosu), DT (Darrell Taylor) with Mario (Edwards Jr.) or Dre'Mont (Jones), guys are getting accustomed to rushing together in the game. When you get training camp practices you really can't dig in because you've got to be smart around your own quarterbacks, there's a little bit attributed to that. But the season is under way so we don't have time to be patient with that. We've just got to keep pushing and we've got to get that part worked out and figured out faster. It was good to see it come alive in the second half. We've got to continue to build on that in the upcoming weeks."
5. Does the defense prevent Andy Dalton from enjoying more success against the Seahawks?
The Seahawks began the week thinking they would be facing No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, but the rookie quarterback unfortunately suffered an ankle injury on Monday Night Football, and will not play. That means veteran quarterback Andy Dalton will take over, and while the 35-year-old is no longer a regular starter, the Seahawks will know not to take lightly the longtime Bengals starter, who has a 3-1 record against Seattle as a starter, including a win in New Orleans last year.
"Nothing changes in terms of my mentality where we know what we got to do, which is stop the run," Nwosu said of facing Dalton. "They're a very physical team, we know that's what they came in the building to do. That's what they did last year, so we expect to see that same thing again. Andy Dalton of course is a more experienced quarterback. He might be able to make certain reads that Bryce (Young) wasn't able to make yet. He's not as mobile as he used to be back in the day so, it always helps the pass rush, and he's a smart quarterback. It's going to be a good challenge, we faced him last year when he was with the Saints. We got some get back to give to him."
Through two games, opposing quarterbacks have put up impressive numbers against the Seahawks, but if, as mentioned above, the pass rush can build off of last week's second half performance, the defense will expect to have a better showing against the passing game this time around.
The Seahawks and Panthers face off on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Panthers.