Gridiron Gab Week Thirteen Preview: Carolina at Seattle

Eleven games into the season, Pete Carroll and his Seattle Seahawks find themselves owning a share of the lead in the NFC West standings. They also welcome in the Carolina Panthers – the National Football League’s worst team this season – for a Week 13 matchup at Qwest Field, yet the head coach isn’t sitting easy.

“It’s as tight as it can get,” said Carroll during his Wednesday press conference from the Seahawks’ Renton, Wash. training facilities of the state of the NFC West where the last place Arizona Cardinals at 3-8 are just two games out of a share of first place.

“Each game matters so much.”

Injuries and inconsistent play have plagued Seattle (5-6) as of late, a team that’s lost four of its last five games, but those same issues have wreaked havoc on Carolina (1-10).

Four quarterbacks have lined up under center so far for the Panthers and three of them have been sidelined to some extent. The team’s starter coming into the season, Matt Moore, is on Injured Reserve. Brian St. Pierre, brought in off the street two weeks ago, dealt with a sore arm after one start and rookie Jimmy Clausen is one game removed from a concussion.

“That would challenge anybody,” said Seattle’s head coach.

The running back position, too, hasn’t been able to sidestep the injury bug, yet Carolina’s current tandem of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson were able to do something last week in Cleveland that hasn’t been done often this season by the team – collectively run for over 100 yards. In fact, the pair’s 151 combined rushing yards last Sunday were the team’s best total in 2010.

“He’s matured into this monster of a running back,” said Carroll of Stewart whose University of Oregon team played Carroll’s University of Southern California squad while the two called the Pac-10 home.

“But the other kid, Michael Goodson, is a guy that – man – he was on my radar. I’ve known this kid for a long time. I knew him as he was growing up through high school and he was one of the top, if not the top guy we were recruiting at the time, so for him to be such an explosive running back doesn’t surprise me one bit.”

While Carolina is coming off its best rushing performance, Seattle isn’t. Headlined by Marshawn Lynch’s team-leading seven carries, the Seahawks managed just 20 rushing yards as a unit.

“I’m really, I’m so uncomfortable with the fact that we’re not running the football in a better fashion and I’ve said to you [reporters] weeks and weeks that ‘we’re going to get better, we’re going to improve,’ and we have – you know – we still have been in this mode of flux and we have not got it to the point where we need to get it,” said Carroll.

Part of the reason for that is the way Seattle’s lost four of their last five games. With an average final deficit of just over 24 points, the Seahawks haven’t had the luxury of developing a ground attack.

A more even mix might be the key to a Seattle victory Sunday over visiting Carolina because Mike Williams, the team’s top aerial threat with 52 receptions for 654 yards and a touchdown, isn’t expected to take the field.

“There’s a presence that a big receiver gives ya,” said Carroll. “You can just throw the ball at ‘em whenever you need to and they’ll likely make a play for you and that, that’s not existent in – you know – guys that aren’t 6-5.”

Kickoff at Qwest Field for Sunday’s matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks is set for 4:15 p.m. Eastern.

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