Countdown to kickoff

Greetings for a chilly Qwest Field, where the Seahawks can’t possibly lose to the Carolina Panthers today. Can they?

The bottom-line statistic when it comes to the Panthers is their record: 1-10. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his players spent the week deflecting questions about how to overlook the Panthers’ record, which includes losing their past five games and also being 0-5 on the road.

“That is exactly what I told them, that’s exactly what I told them – that’s what they’re going to hear; that people are going to look at the record and what’s happened in weeks past and all that,” Carroll said at midweek.

“We’re not playing weeks past. We’re playing them this week. That is all we can focus on.”

But still …

That’s the real problem: Every “but still …” can be trumped by a “yeah, but …”

The Panthers have not won a game on the road this season. Yeah, but the Seahawks have lost their past two games at Qwest by a combined score of 83-31.

The Panthers have lost their past five games. Yeah, but the Seahawks have lost four of their past five.

The Panthers have scored the fewest points (140) in the league this season. Yeah, but they scored 23 in last week’s one-point loss to the Browns in Cleveland to match their single-game high – from their only win.

The Panthers have scored the fewest first-quarter points (22) in the league. Yeah, but the Seahawks have scored 27 – third fewest.

The Panthers offense ranks last in the league, averaging 259.2 yards per game. Yeah, but they can run the ball – as evidenced by their 151-yard effort against the Browns, and the return of Jonathan Stewart after missing two games because of a concussion. Yeah, but – Part II – the Seahawks suddenly can’t stop the run. After allowing an average of 70.4 yards in their first five games, they have surrendered 270 (to the Chiefs), 197 (to the Giants) and 239 (to the Raiders) in their past five games.

The Panthers defense ranks 25th against the run, allowing an average of 130.5 yards per game. Yeah, but the Seahawks have rushed for 20, 58, 49 and 47 yards their most-recent losses. Yeah, but – Part II – the Panthers rank seventh against the pass, allowing an average of 157.8 yards per game. And that is how the Seahawks have had to move the ball recently – through the air, with Matt Hasselbeck passing for 282, 366 and 333 yards in the past three weeks.

The Panthers are starting a rookie QB – Jimmy Clausen, who is 0-5 in his previous starts. Yeah, but Clausen passed for a season-high 195 yards last week. Yeah, but – Part II – the Seahawks have allowed three of the past four QBs they’ve faced to fashion passer ratings of 129.3 (the Chiefs’ Matt Cassel), 106.9 (the Saints’ Drew Brees) and 125.8 (the Giants’ Eli Manning).

The Panthers have committed 29 turnovers, second most in the league. Yeah, but the Seahawks also have fallen victim to what Carroll considers the most important stat in the game. They have 14 of their 19 takeaways in their five wins, and five in their six losses.

But still, the Seahawks can’t lose to the 1-10 Panthers today. Can they?

“I think in years past maybe that’d be something that mattered,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said when asked about how hard it is to not focus on the Panthers’ record. “But I think just the way we’re training our minds right now to just make every single play, every single practice, every single thing that we do, kind of make it a championship game.”

Ah, a championship game. The last time the Panthers played at Qwest was in the 2005 NFC Championship game, and the Seahawks spanked them 34-14 to advance to the franchise’s only Super Bowl. Yeah, but only seven members of that title team will be on the field for the Seahawks today – Hasselbeck, center Chris Spencer, right tackle Sean Locklear, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, cornerback Marcus Trufant, defensive tackle Craig Terrill and defensive back Jordan Babineaux.

We’ll be back shortly, with updates on leading receiver Mike Williams and nose tackle Colin Cole, as well as the lists of inactive players for both team …

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