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Seahawks vs Panthers preview: 5 Qs, 5 As with Cat Scratch Reader

Divisional Round - Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

When the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers meet on Sunday night, it’ll be their seventh game since 2012, a really high mark for two teams who aren’t in the same division. However, because the Panthers are having a tough season following their Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos and sit at 4-7, the game doesn’t carry the same amount of cache that NBC thought it would when it was scheduled for primetime.

That doesn’t mean we won’t get to see a hell of a game.

To find out what’s new with Carolina and how they could have fallen on hard time so quickly, I sent 5 Qs to Jaxon from Cat Scratch Reader. In kind, he sent back 5 As. Here they are:

Q: I guess my number one question would be: What's the main difference between 15-1 and 4-7? What changed to cause this down year for Carolina?

A: That question requires a complicated answer as it hasn’t been one aspect of the team that led to the slide. The Panthers seem to find new ways to lose by three points every weekend. Early in the season it was a lack of a running game and lackadaisical pass rush, and poor secondary play. Then injuries started to pile up, particularly on the OL. A lack of depth at OT finally bit us hard as the OL is now a complete dumpster fire. The SB loser hangover is real. Ron Rivera tried very hard to prevent it but he couldn’t.

Q: Cam Newton was hit a lot in the beginning of the season with accusations that he wasn't being protected by the letter of the law. I heard that a lot in the first few weeks and it certainly looked like a legitimate argument, has it cleaned up or is it still ongoing? Do you think those hits have thrown Cam off his game? With Kelvin Benjamin back in the fold, how come his numbers have gone down instead of up?

A: He has still taken a number of shots and not gotten the call since that time. In fact he just got his first roughing the passer call this past game against the Raiders. I will say though the hits haven’t been as bad as those we saw early in the Denver and Minnesota games.

Q: Kawann Short is terrifying to me. However, from a distance, I see his sack totals are way down -- is that a sign of anything or is he as much of a terror as he was last season? The Panthers seem to have a very spread out pass rush with a whole lot of guys having 1-3 sacks but nobody taking that 13-15 sack type season. Is it just a new guy blitzing on every down or is someone generating the most pressure?

A: Short is still getting pressure and doing his job but I agree he hasn’t finished the play as much as he did last season. I think a lot of offenses are resorting to quick passing schemes to slow down our pass rush on early downs. Our DEs haven’t got the edge pressure as much as we would like in spite of being blocked one on one. To compensate DC Sean McDermott has been bringing more blitzes from different players and positions. The Panthers are still good at bringing pressure up the middle as DT Star Lotulelei still requires a double team or he will be in the QBs face.

Q: The decision to part ways with Josh Norman ... How did you feel about it when they gave him the franchise tag? When they rescinded the franchise tag? When he signed with the Redskins? When the Panthers drafted a few cornerbacks? When the season started? When Bene Benwikere got hurt? When he makes headlines for on-field fights with receivers? Today? (These can be quick fire answers of course)

A: I just didn’t understand the reasoning on why they couldn’t meet in the middle. What was so terrible about letting him play for the tag amount for a season and then letting him walk? Would he really be that much of a distraction? I doubt it. I think if GM Dave Gettleman had it to do over again he would get a deal done. I think Norman has shown this season that he was worth the money even if he is a loud mouth prone to getting 15 yard penalties. While the Norman fiasco did haunt us a good bit early in the season (especially when Julio Jones torched us for 200 yards) we have moved on at this point. We think we have a couple keepers in rookie CBs James Bradberry and Darryl Worley. In due time they will be solid starters.

Q: What are the top five needs for the Panthers next year?

A: With a projected $50M in cap space available we might have a riot if Gettleman doesn’t land at least one free agent OT this offseason. I prefer him to find a LT and a RT. We have no guarantee Michael Oher will be back and RT Mike Remmers (who’s been playing LT since game 3) is an average RT at best. Beyond OT we need a safety in a bad way and we could also use a nickel CB as well.

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