This Week In Defense: Seahawks at Panthers

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Narrative:

Folks had some concerns going into this game and it wasn't about pass defense. The read option, Cam Newton's running ability and the Seahawks weakened pass rush were all over the airwaves and rightfully so. The fear was a bit more amplified as it was announced Brandon Browner, who had been so instrumental in last year's contest, would not play. So there was much anxiety.

1-10-SEA 49 (10:55 1ST Q) (Shotgun) C.Newton pass incomplete short right to G.Olsen.

The Seahawks dodge a bullet here as Greg Olsen drops a sure big gain catch. Dan Quinn makes his mark early by bringing pressure with Malcom Smith. K.J. Wright drifts back behind the pressure and Olsen winds up wide open.

This isn't how Dan and Pete want to have things unfold. Pete would like to be able to bring pressure and still control the big play. One thing this definitely shows is K.J.'s weaknesses in coverage. He has a zone sure, but once he sees Greg break he's gotta try and interrupt a throwing lane if he can or at least get into a position to make a tackle.

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3-2-SEA 41 (10:07 1ST Q) (Shotgun) C.Newton pass incomplete short right to S.Smith (R.Sherman).

Pressure was late but present on this play. Red Bryant uses a spin move. It took me three looks to realize fully that that's what I had seen. Cam gets rid of the ball late and Sherman missed a pick. Smith ran a lot of come backs and out pasterns in this game and this early play saw Carolina move Smith away from Sherman for most of the rest of the game. Sherman just continues to lock up guys in impressive fashion and it may become common to see teams just erase his area from their looks. He's not just physical he recognizes route concepts faster than anyone I have ever seen.

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3-7-CAR 38 (3:44 1ST Q) (Shotgun) C.Newton pass incomplete deep left to G.Olsen.

These are the downs that Dan Quinn and Pete Carroll rub their hands together. They have five men at the line of scrimmage; K.J. is lined up strong side with Schofield on the other. Schofield drops off, though, at the snap, but on the other side they bring a corner blitz with Thurmond, who is picked up.

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While the blitz did not bring him down, Cam looks like he's ready to throw hot instantly and this lets both Maxwell and Thomas to get a great jump on where Cam was going to throw. Though Olsen has the ball and drops it, he starts to protect as Earl Thomas is coming in for the hit.

Dan Quinn loves to show one thing and give you another and these are the plays folks need to watch many times to understand how showing blitz can affect how a QB approaches a throw. Also key is knowing it's going to be a throw for these plays to work.

3rd and long will be Christmas for the pass rush this year. Also don't underestimate the legend of the Legion Of Boom. Many receivers seem to just peak a bit more when they play the Seahawks.

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3-6-SEA 37 (6:07 2ND Q) (Shotgun) C.Newton scrambles up the middle to SEA 26 for 11 yards (B.Wagner).

Cam Newton runs for a huge first down. The Seahawk DTs had a tough game here, and with limitations because of injury, Michael Bennett was in on several downs. It's a run all the way and what seals it is Wagner's inexplicable pause in the wash of Michael Bennett being hooked and stood up. If he was reading Cam, his delay makes no sense. Trouble pulling the trigger was a problem in this game at times because I think everyone was trying to make sure not to be sucked in on an option play. It lead to explosive plays for Carolina in the running game and some mistakes in zone drops as guys tried to play both pass and run keys at once.

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2-2-CAR 33 (8:14 3RD Q) D.Williams right tackle to CAR 34 for 1 yard (T.McDaniel).

Tony McDaniel surges strong and forces a delay of the runner. Red Bryant - who looks as healthy as 2010 when he made the initial switch to DE and flashed his skill - comes all the way from the back side to make the tackle for a short gain. Tony had some nice short yardage stops or actually moved his man back a step or two. He and Red were the most notable against the run. I am in full panic mode about Brandon Mebane's injuries and lack of impact early in this football season, particularly with such a tough finish to a lackluster 2012.

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3-1-CAR 34 (7:30 3RD Q) D.Williams left guard to CAR 34 for no gain (T.McDaniel).

Very rarely do I highlight back-to-back plays. However, on this occasion it's key because it shows just how well new addition Tony McDaniel played in this second half. Carolina runs right. Seattle blitzes Malcolm Smith off the edge and he makes the initial contact.

McDaniel spits two blockers, finds the runner, and brings him down. What note I took from this was, while he is not the bag of chaos and guard destroyer that Alan Branch could be, he has an athleticism and awareness for plays that Branch does not. Mebane, again, is no factor against this play and is moved off the football effortlessly.

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1-20-CAR 32 (:04 3RD Q) C.Newton pass incomplete short right to G.Olsen.

One thing that can kill an aggressive, attacking defense, is screens. Carolina has one called but the oncoming rush of Mike Morgan and the awareness of Brandon Mebane to realize what was happening and sit in front of Greg Olsen, meant the call was dead. As painfull as his game against the run had been in this game, Bane never played frustrated or lazy like you see guys who are accustomed to just mauling their way to success do, and this was a huge blocked shot (to use a basketball phrase).

3-12-CAR 40 (14:15 4TH Q) (Shotgun) C.Newton scrambles left end to 50 for 10 yards (K.Wright).

The Seahawks don't send pressure but Cam escapes a near sack from Benson Mayowa, who had a tremendous surge and the tackle eventually had to turn him loose. Cam's ability to scramble is all that saves him from a sack here and Mayowa showed a strong motor on this play. I am giddy for this kid to get a head-start rush at the CLink because he could really impress. Carolina is forced to punt after Cam is tackled a yard short of the line to gain.

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3-7-CAR 23 (9:25 4TH Q) (Shotgun) C.Newton pass short left to M.Tolbert to CAR 17 for -6 yards (R.Sherman).

I can only imagine the scribbles on a white board when Dan Quinn and Pete Carroll discussed possible rush alignments. Check this baby out: Bennett is lined up outside and Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Benson Mayowa are bunched up. Wagner, he's just sitting in that vacated space. It's kind of a mess on first glance and you're not exactly sure what the hell just happened.

Let me walk you through step by step. First, Wagner rushes on a blitz, next, KJ Wright runs right in behind him, Bennett stunts in behind that and finally, Benson Mayowa flashes again. Unfortunately, Cam Newton scrambles and Michael Bennett grabs his face mask (note: kinda, maybe). It's a beautiful mess though and to be honest, I'm kind of scared for opposing QBs if we do this at home.

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2-2-SEA 24 (5:34 4TH Q) (Shotgun) D.Williams up the middle to SEA 8 for 16 yards (E.Thomas). FUMBLES (E.Thomas), RECOVERED by SEA-T.McDaniel at SEA 8. T.McDaniel to SEA 8 for no gain (D.Williams).

Earl Thomas forces a fumble with the help of Richard Sherman, and it's really because Michael Bennett missed a chance at DeAngelo Williams in the backfield. One interesting note is that Red Bryant was lined up over center here. It was strange enough to make note of it, but I think I'm going to have to get used to Dan and Pete moving starters around to different spots to give different looks. There were a ton of things I learned from this game and I need a few more before I can get a real feel for how Dan and Pete will operate together, but so far it looks interesting.

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Overall view of the game:

I liked some of the exotic looks that I saw. With the wealth of talent the Hawks now have in the front seven combined with Dan Quinn's use of multiple fronts, Cam Newton looked, at times, confused and frustrated. The Seahawks lived with six men at the line of scrimmage and only brought pressure three times from that particular look.

The pressure was late but still applied which was new on the road for this team. Tony McDaniel flashed as well despite some of the struggles against the run. Red Bryant looked strong and healthy, had two pressures I noticed and some nice work against the run in short yardage. A very consistent game for the defense, with Carolina having only two sustained drives.

Game Ball:

Earl Thomas. Safeties are tasked with a big job of controlling big plays or covering someone else's play. Earl put out a few fires and really helped stop Carolina's offense from exploding on a front seven who looked a bit in between with someone the likes of Newton as an opponent. Also, Earl's forced fumble, which was assisted by Richard Sherman, is a play that demonstrates his 'all out' mentality despite having originally taken himself out of that play with a poor angle.

Needs Improvement:

D-line. The whole crew. They need depth at DT. I'm hoping the issue with Mebane is just about this current injury and not a continuation of last years' tough finish. Otherwise the Seahawks could be looking at Earl Thomas having 125 or more tackles as he's forced to pick up some of the slack.

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