Comparing the Coaches – Panthers at Seahawks

Terra’s Take on Ron Rivera and Pete Carroll

 On Saturday when the Seattle Seahawks host the Carolina Panthers, everyone will be looking at the individual matchups on the field. It may be the head-to-head matchup on the sidelines that decides this game though.

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll have met each year over the past three seasons and the results have been close. The total of those three games was 41-28, that’s an average of 14-9 which was basically how the matchup went earlier this season.

What few people remember though is that Carolina was about to beat Seattle. It took a last minute touchdown pass to tight end Luke Willson to give Seattle not only the win, but their first lead of the game. Now this was in Carolina, as were the other two, and these two teams have a different feel about them now. For Carolina though,

Seattle escaped Charlotte thanks to Wilson to Willson.

Seattle escaped Charlotte thanks to Wilson to Willson.

they should look at that game as a positive. They were blown out by Green Bay the week before and this was their best game during their six game losing streak.

Going into the Divisional round, everybody is picking the Seattle Seahawks to blow the Carolina Panthers out of the water. One person who isn’t so quick to look ahead to the NFC Championship game is Carroll, whose Seahawks were in a similar place in 2010.

They were an under .500 team who people thought shouldn’t be in the playoffs going against the defending World Champions. That is exactly the same position Carolina is in and it’s happening on the same field that Seattle pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the NFL. Now there are some obvious differences being that Seattle was the home team both time and after Seattle’s win in the Wild Card win they were eliminated in the Divisional Round.

If there is any coach that sees an under .500 team as a threat in the playoffs it is Carroll who has been there before.

Carroll and the Seahawks have a huge edge seeing as they have plenty of playoff experience. While Rivera and Carolina were in the postseason last season, that was their first time under Rivera and they were out in the first game against San Francisco. Seattle is in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years and hold a record of 5-3. What Pete Carroll has done to that team is very similar to what Bill Belichick did when he first got to New England in 2000. Carroll has his players buying into his system and that is the first step in building a successful team.

Seattle has the edge in coaching staffs and are led by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn is seen as one of the next coordinators to make the step to head coach in the coming offseason and has interviewed with a couple of teams. Quinn and the Seahawks have played well against Cam Newton in the past and as Newton turned the ball over twice in their previous matchup and once in the red zone. Quinn will have to account for the flexibility of DeAngelo Williams who missed the first game. The tandem of Williams and Jonathan Stewart could be a deciding factor.

On offense, both of these coaches call similar games. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and Panthers QB Cam Newton ranked first and second respectively in the amount of option reads they run. Wilson and Newton have two different run styles that their coaches like to use. Wilson is more of the elusive runner that tends to slide a lot and the Panthers prefer to let Cam run and bowl over people using his size as an advantage. Pete Carroll likes to be a little more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball and having a player like Wilson who led all quarterbacks in rushing yards and led any position in yards per attempt.

The Panthers won't back down.

The Panthers won’t back down.

Defensively, Carolina might have the best player in this game in Luke Kuechly. Kuechly led the NFL in tackles for the second straight season, but can also get after the quarterback or drop into coverage and defend the pass. Look for Rivera to utilize Kuechly heavily in trying to stop Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. Kuechly has been getting rave reviews for the amount of time he spends studying his opponent and he has great instincts which could be a deciding factor. Kuechly caught one interception and set up a second one in last weekend’s Wild Card game against Arizona.

Carroll and Seattle have their own game changing linebacker in Bobby Wagner who is expected to play a huge roll. Wagner is also good in both coverage and will be charged with helping stop the Panthers run game. Carolina has three viable running options, so the Seahawks will need Wagner to have a good game. Seattle’s defense changed dramatically without Wagner and he missed the first matchup between these two teams. He’s back healthy now and look for Carroll to turn him loose and hit hard, especially against Newton who has been banged up all season.

One differing aspect between these two head coaches is the physicality of their teams. One of the byproducts of Seattle’s physicality is the amount of penalties they take. This is the second straight year that they have led the league in penalties against. Carroll doesn’t seem to be concerned with the amount of penalties called against their team because he sees it as how they establish and set the pace of the game. They will take a few penalties if it sends a message to the other team that they aren’t afraid to hit hard and often. That doesn’t mean that the Panthers are physical, but they are a little more reserved.

Rivera has to make sure the Panthers don’t fall for the Seahawks’ physical style. Seattle wants to get under your skin and make you play with emotion. Carolina was one of the least penalized teams and Rivera has to make sure that they don’t try and reciprocate. The fact that Carolina no longer has a hot head like Steve Smith

Sherman carries out Carroll's plan of attack.

Sherman carries out Carroll’s plan of attack.

could be a benefit this year as he and Sherman would have been an interesting matchup. Kelvin Benjamin offers a better matchup as he caught four passes for 94 yards and was able to get some separation against the Seahawks secondary.

Looking at the teams, this could be a pretty even game. Both of these teams like to play in a similar way and are built to do the same things. Carolina has the better passing game, Seattle has the better running game, Seattle has the secondary, but Carolina may have the better front seven.

This should be a great game on Saturday and these coaches are a big reason of their team’s respective turnaround.


FanRag Sports Wants to Know:

Will the Seahawks or Panthers win on Saturday night?

Which head coach will have his team more prepared?

What will “Riverboat Ron” have up his sleeve?

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