Thursday, October 27, 2016

Could Bruce Irvin be a difference maker against the Panthers . . . again?


The Seattle Seahawks travel to Charlotte on Sunday to face the Carolina Panthers in the most anticipated match-up of the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. If you have been a reader of us for some time, you would know that Bruce Irvin loves seeing Cam Newton line up across from him. This weekend is no different.

Last season, these two teams met twice. Once during the regular season and again in the same round of the playoffs, but in Seattle. In Week 8 at Carolina, Irvin sacked Newton twice late in the game to allow Russell Wilson to drive down for a hard-fought 13-7 win for the then defending Super Bowl Champs. Later in the playoffs that season, a late-game sack from Irvin on Newton helped the Seahawks seal a 31-17 win on their way to a Super Bowl appearance.

Earlier this season, the two teams met again. In the same place. Same rabid, screaming crowd. Irvin got to Newton again, but this time, the Panthers came from behind in the second half to prevail 27-23.

Irvin has 22.5 career sacks. Of those, seven have come against Cam Newton. If you watch how Irvin gets to the bigger Newton, he usually makes a deep push on the let tackle (this year that player will be Michael Oher), swings around and comes in from behind.

“He’s bigger than most of our D-line,” Irvin said of Newton this week. “He’s like 6-5, 260. So he’s a really big dude. Big lower body, big legs. You’ve got to really wrap him up and just take him down man-to-man.’’

Throughout his career, Newton has used a combination of using his arms and legs to propel the Panthers down the field. This season, he has taken his game to likely MVP levels.

How does Irvin and the Seahawks plan to contain Newton?

“You’ve really got to be disciplined in your rushes,’’ Irvin said. “Because with Cam you want to make him one-dimensional. You can’t give him a choice where he feels like he can beat you with his legs and his arms. That’s when you are under pressure.

“But when you get a little pressure on him and make him throw — he has a really strong arm and guys with strong arms feel like they can fit balls into tight windows or spaces that are not really there. So I feel if we rush him and stop the run and get him to really try to force throws then I really fee like we’ll have a lot of success against him.’’

If and when the Seahawks season comes to an end, Irvin will be a free-agent. If he doesn’t stay in Seattle, he could sign with his hometown team in Atlanta where he would reunite with former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. That would place Irvin just a few hours down I-85 from Newton and the Panthers.

Do you think Irvin would like to see Newton and Carolina twice a season?



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