A LOT OF RESPECT FOR SEATTLE: When the Panthers and Seahawks meet, everyone knows to expect physical, grind-it-out, defensive-minded football.
Carolina, built a lot like the two-time defending NFC champions from the west coast, has a lot of respect for the way Seattle approaches the game.
"We respect the heck out of those guys," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "Being a defensive guy, I love those type of games. They play similar to the way we play, and maybe that's why we have such affinity for the way they play."
Affinity might not be right word to use for offensive coordinator Mike Shula, whose unit has to find ways to score against the vaunted Seattle defense.
Including last year's NFC Divisional Playoff defeat, the Panthers have lost four consecutive games to the Seahawks in the last three seasons. Carolina averaged just over 11 points per game in those contests.
"We all know they are good and they are even better at home," Shula said. "It's a huge challenge."
The Seahawks have uncharacteristically started the season 2-3, but Shula doesn't believe they're any weaker defensively than they've been in the past several years, especially with dynamic safety Kam Chancellor back in action after missing the first two games.
"I think they are as good or better," Shula said.
NEWTON PLAYING WINNING FOOTBALL: After taking some time to do some self-scouting during the bye week, Shula offered his thoughts on quarterback Cam Newton's impressive performance in the first quarter of the season.
He likes the way the fifth-year quarterback is directing the offense and putting teammates in position to succeed.
"On game day he has had a real good sense of ownership – getting our guys in the right position, seeing some one-on-ones or the soft parts of coverage," Shula said.
And when things don't go as planned, Newton has been using his athletic talent to keep the chains moving.
"He's bailed us out. He's just made some unbelievable plays," Shula said. "His poise when things maybe aren't quite the way you draw them up – his poise is much better."
The completion rate is an area that clearly needs improvement, however. Newton is completing 55.4 percent of his passes, which ranks 34th in the NFL.
"We need that to go up. That's got to be better," Shula said. "We all need to do our job a little bit better."
SOUND START FOR DEFENSE: McDermott was encouraged by a lot of what he saw when he reviewed the first four games of the season.
"The number one thing – we are keeping people off the scoreboard, for the most part," said McDermott, whose defense ranks fourth in points allowed per game (17.8) and 10th in yards (339).
But he was particularly disappointed with a touchdown Carolina allowed in the final minute of the 37-23 victory against the Buccaneers. Many of the starters had been pulled from the game at that point, and McDermott felt there was too big a drop-off.
"I wasn't happy with the last score we gave up in Tampa Bay and how they drove the ball on us," McDermott said. "The guys that come in the game have got to play at the same caliber of level that we start the game with. That has got to improve."
It all starts with fundamentals and technique for McDermott, and in that regard, his unit is off to a strong start.
"Fundamentally, I think we are doing the right things," he said. "We are tackling better at this point in the season, I feel like, than we've done in other years. We are getting off blocks. We are catching the football when we have opportunities."
View top photos from the first four games of the season by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.