Seahawks look to rebound vs. reeling Panthers
The Seattle Seahawks look at their small sample of shortcomings and figure things will turn around.
While the Seahawks have room for error, that has just about expired for the Carolina Panthers.
When the teams meet Sunday night in Seattle, it nearly qualifies as a must-win situation for Carolina, which is running out of second chances.
"We'll just keep fighting, keep playing," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "Now we still have an opportunity. We'll see what happens. There's no reason for us to look any other way, but there's a glimmer of hope. That's all you need sometimes."
The Seahawks (7-3-1) are coming off a puzzling 14-5 loss at Tampa Bay. Despite the setback, there's no sign of panic from the Seattle side.
"I'm not worried about it a bit," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Not one bit. Let's go back to work and get right. ... I don't think this is a trend. We'll get this thing fixed."
Seattle holds first place in an otherwise weak NFC West. Carolina (4-7) occupies last place in the NFC South, though that division isn't exactly a powerful group.
"We are just trying to win a game," Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said. "We will let all that sort itself out."
The Panthers remained on the West Coast following Sunday's 35-32 loss at Oakland. They've held practices at San Jose State before heading to Seattle.
Even with that, there have been significant developments. Center Ryan Kalil (shoulder) and his backup, Gino Gradkowski (knee), were placed on injured reserve. To replace them, the Panthers signed free-agent center Ryan Wendell and added tackle Dan France from the Cleveland Browns practice squad.
"The health of this football team is very frustrating," Rivera said.
Wendell played seven seasons with the New England Patriots from 2009-15, starting 49 regular-season games and seven postseason contests.
Kalil, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, started all eight games he played this season, but missed three contests with the shoulder injury.
The Panthers also signed offensive tackles Tyrus Thompson and Jake Rodgers to the practice squad.
"It's probably a positive thing that we aren't traveling back to the East Coast," said Carolina's A.J. Klein, who was the primary replacement for All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly last week.
Klein noted the need to recharge after the last outing. While it's unclear if Kuechly will be available after suffering an apparent concussion Nov. 17, the encouraging aspect was that he traveled with the Panthers to the West Coast and was on the sideline (though not in uniform) for the Oakland game.
Also among those on Carolina's injury list as late as Wednesday were safety Kurt Coleman (head) and receiver Kelvin Benjamin (shoulder)
The Seahawks have roster movement as well.
Linebacker Mike Morgan (sports hernia) should be back after sitting out on injured reserve, while the status of Michael Bennett, who has been out five weeks with a knee injury, remains in question. The Seahawks have used four players to start in Morgan's spot at strongside linebacker during his absence.
The situation on safety Earl Thomas is more in doubt after he missed a game with a hamstring aliment.
Meanwhile, Seattle brought back receiver Kevin Smith to the practice squad. He played in 2015 for the team and was in training camp this summer before a hamstring injury derailed his hopes of landing on the roster at the start of the season.
Don't expect major changes to how the Seahawks operate even following a loss.
"I'm going to go with what we know and how we know to be," Carroll said. "We'll get back on track."
The Seahawks are 5-0 at home, though three of Seattle's home victories have come by six points or less. While the Seahawks have been far from dominant at CenturyLink Field, it will be another hostile environment for the Panthers.
"This is why you come into the league, to play these type of games," Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said.
The nature of close defeats is wearing on the Panthers.
"Now it's five games where you've lost virtually in the last few minutes," Rivera said. "It's frustrating, but that's the nature of this game."
Despite the Seahawks' sluggish offense from time to time, they're continuing to find different ways to move the ball. Quarterback Russell Wilson's running ability is something that Carroll said has been encouraging as Seattle heads into the Carolina game.
Wilson has kept his normal unwavering demeanor for the most part.
"It's pretty simple," Wilson said, "we've just got to find ways to make plays and we will. We have before."
This will mark the seventh meeting during a five-season span as the teams met in the postseason each year of the last two seasons.
In last January's divisional playoff round, Carolina scored the first 31 points and held on for a 31-24 victory.