Ron Rivera on how Seahawks, Panthers have become familiar foes

Jan 13, 2016, 3:22 PM | Updated: 3:27 pm
“I tell you, just playing them every year is hard enough,” Panther coach Ron Rivera sai...
"I tell you, just playing them every year is hard enough," Panther coach Ron Rivera said of the Seahawks. (AP)
(AP)

RENTON – The Seahawks and Panthers are familiar foes, having met five times since 2012 heading into Sunday’s playoff game in Charlotte.

Given the frequency with which the teams have played and the familiarity they have developed with one another, Panthers coach Ron Rivera agreed that their upcoming matchup has the feel of a divisional game.

“It does, it really does,” Rivera said on a conference call Wednesday. “I tell you, just playing them every year is hard enough. They’re a good football team obviously. When you play them twice in one year two years in a row, it most certainly does feel like a divisional game.”

The Seahawks and Panthers have met in each of the last four regular seasons, with the first three being Seattle victories in Charlotte and the fourth a Carolina win at CenturyLink Field in October. Sunday’s game will be the second straight year in which the teams have played in the divisional round. The Seahawks’ 31-17 win in Seattle last January was the only one of those five meetings decided by more than five points.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for what Coach Carroll and his staff have done with that football team,” Rivera said.

Praise for Seahawks CBs

Ask pretty much any coach about the most important aspect of run defense and he’ll tell you that it begins up front, with the defensive linemen who get penetration into the backfield and either make the plays themselves or free up the linebackers to do so.
But it takes an entire defense, including cornerbacks who are willing and able to tackle. That’s what Rivera sees with Seattle’s Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead.

“I also think that they have very aggressive defensive backs,” he said when asked about Seattle’s run defense, which allowed a league-low 81.5 yards per game this season.

“A lot of people say, ‘OK, we’ll make their corners tackle.’ Well, from what I’ve seen I think their corners are very physical players. I don’t think those guys shy away from contact and I think when you do that, you do have the ability to play with an eight-man box.”

Jonathan Stewart, Tedd Ginn Jr. on track

Carolina will likely get two starters back on offense for Sunday’s game with running back Jonathan Stewart and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. on track to return, Rivera confirmed.

Stewart, a native of Lacey, Wash., missed Carolina’s final three regular-season games with a foot sprain. The Panthers then had a first-round bye, which means Sunday’s game will be Stewart’s first in exactly five weeks.

Rivera isn’t worried about rust, noting how Stewart’s return to the starting lineup after an extended absence last year coincided with Carolina winning four games to close out the regular season.

“He had a good day of practice today, ran really hard, ran real well with the football, so pretty comfortable with him back out there,” Rivera said. “It’s interesting, people said, ‘Oh, the layoff is going to hurt him.’ I said, ‘No, not really.’ Because if you go back to what happened last year, Jonathan was off for six weeks, then when we started our run he was our starting tailback and finished the season for us. So we feel pretty comfortable and confident having him back on the football field.”

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Ron Rivera on how Seahawks, Panthers have become familiar foes