In a bit of a scheduling quirk, the Seattle Seahawks keep finding their way to Charlotte to play the Carolina Panthers.
And that's just fine with the Seahawks.
Russell Wilson has led fourth-quarter comebacks in each of the past two seasons to help the Seahawks nip the Panthers on their home field. They'll go for a third straight win at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.
"They've been absolute battles," Wilson said. "They've come down to the end every time. ... We know it is going to be loud and intense and come down to the end of the game where we are going to have to make the plays."
The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks (3-3) have had trouble making plays when they need them this season, and have lost two straight to fall two games behind Arizona in the NFC West.
The Seahawks and Panthers finished first and second, respectively, in defense last season, but both have struggled this year.
Carolina, in particular, has fallen on hard times, surrendering 37 or more points in four of its last five games. The Panthers are 1-3-1 during that span.
Despite a 3-3-1 record, the Panthers remain in first place in the NFC South where the Saints (2-5), Falcons (2-5) and Buccaneers (1-6) have done little to capitalize on Carolina's recent slide.
"We're No. 1 in the division right now, but if we continue to play the way we have it won't last long," Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said.
Some things to watch entering Sunday's game:
OFFENSIVE FLOW: Seattle had no other choice than to get its offense going trailing 21-3 to St. Louis last week. But the way the offense clicked against St. Louis, especially in the second half, lends optimism that Seattle might have discovered a successful formula. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on their final three drives, all of them of 80 yards or more.
They gained 273 total yards in the second half.
Wilson was the catalyst for the offensive spark, but Seattle also committed to giving Marshawn Lynch his carries and wide receiver Doug Baldwin had one of the best games of his career with seven receptions for 123 yards.
"I think we're a little more positive because we felt like there was some growth in our offense," Baldwin said.
SACKLESS IN SEATTLE: Last season, Seattle used its deep defensive line rotation to consistently get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and make 44 sacks. The pressure created also led to 39 takeaways. This season, Seattle has just seven sacks and as a result only five forced turnovers. Michael Bennett has 11 quarterback hits but only three sacks.
"In my mind it's going to happen, and we'll just keep working until it does because we know it's there," coach Pete Carroll said.
The perfect elixir for Seattle could be Carolina's banged-up offensive line. Left guard Amini Silatolu is out and left tackle Byron Bell's status is uncertain because of an elbow injury.
NICKEL CHANGE: The Panthers parted ways with struggling veteran nickel back Charles Godfrey on Tuesday. Rookie Bene Benwikere is the regular starter there, but he remains hobbled with a leg injury, so the Panthers could turn to James Dockery to fill in.
Look for Wilson to target him.
Carolina has been awful on third downs and has allowed 15 touchdown passes in seven games after surrendering just 17 all of last season.
STARTING FAST: The Panthers' offense will be looking to start fast after going three-and-out on their first three possessions last week at Green Bay. That resulted in a 21-0 first quarter hole they couldn't claw out of at Lambeau Field. Look for the Panthers to use more read option plays with Cam Newton running the ball more. Two weeks ago Newton ran a career-high 17 times for 107 yards and a touchdown, but he didn't run as much against Green Bay.
"Last Sunday was unacceptable," Newton said. "It's my job to make plays and make sure that ship is driving straight."
ON THE RETURN: With Philly Brown likely out with a concussion, the Panthers will turn to Brenton Bersin as their returner. Bersin doesn't have much experience as a returner, but is a hungry young player eager to keep his spot on the roster.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.
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