Carolina Panthers

Doom & gloom

CHARLOTTE -- It's actually sort of a shame that "A Series of Unfortunate Events" was already taken as the name of a group of children's books.

Because it would be a perfect title for the ill-fated, albeit brief, history between Carolina and Seattle.

Like a bad penny, the Seahawks keep turning up in some of the sorriest chapters of Panthers lore.

The most obvious was their defeat for the 2005 NFC Championship. Since that loss, the Panthers are 13-16, and haven't since looked like a team capable of getting back.

That game essentially ended in the first quarter, when Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu (we'll get back to him in a moment) knocked out Panthers running back Nick Goings, a thunderous shot which left Goings with a concussion that would keep him in a Seattle hospital overnight.

After that, the Panthers were reduced to handing it to returner Jamal Robertson, their offense lost any semblance of balance, the Seahawks ganged up on Steve Smith and were off to the Super Bowl.

The Panthers were also waylaid by it being their third straight road game, a flu bug was roaring through half the intestinal tracts in the locker room and they were exhausted by a day-before flight and the grueling week of practice they went through beforehand.

But the oddities tied to the Seahawks are numerous, and all end up looking bad for the Panthers.

Tatupu is a good case in point.

The Seahawks were locked in on the middle linebacker from Southern Cal to fill a need, so they called the Panthers during the 2005 draft. The Panthers were picking 45th, Seattle 54th.

The Seahawks agreed to send a pair of fourth-round picks to the Panthers for the right to move up nine spots, so they could get the defensive leader they coveted.

The Panthers, looking for depth at running back (they must have seen the future), drafted Louisville's Eric Shelton with the Seahawks' pick, and he looked like a sure thing after averaging 6.4 yards per carry his final season, and amassing 30 touchdowns in 33 career games. He was stashed on injured reserve his rookie year after failing to grasp the offense, then carried another year before his eventual release.

Back to draft day '05 -- the Panthers traded one of the Seahawks' fourths and their own to Green Bay for the 89th overall choice, so they could get athletic Missouri defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison. He'd go onto become the highest-drafted player cut that season. The fourth-rounder of Seattle's which they kept was used on quarterback Stefan LeFors, who'd be released the following year.

What might be looked upon as the biggest swindling came when the Panthers thought they trumped the Seahawks, beating them out for the guy they both wanted. Now they're holding a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.

When quarterback David Carr was looking for a rest stop in his tumultuous career last spring, his final choice came down to the Panthers and Seahawks, backing up either Jake Delhomme or Matt Hasselbeck.

Looking back, Carr's probably a better fit in the Seahawks' West Coast scheme, where his mobility and accuracy would serve him better. Also, Hasselbeck has started all 13 games, so Carr wouldn't have had to walk back into traffic when he obviously wasn't ready to.

But there's been plenty of other broken-mirror/black-cat action to go around when these two get together.

The Panthers were in good shape to win the last regular-season game between the teams in 2004, but that's when bad luck and bad personnel struck again.

Down 7-0 early in the second quarter, Hasselbeck hit Darrell Jackson for a 10-yard gain deep in Panthers territory. But Panthers corner Artrell Hawkins knocked the ball away, leaving it lying alongside the right sideline.

Safety Colin Branch went in to swoop it up, with plenty of open field ahead in which to run.

The problem? Branch forgot for a moment he had broken his right thumb and was wearing a huge cast which looked like a bowling pin.

The resulting attempt looked more like he whacked the ball with a polo mallet, with Branch clubbing it out of bounds, giving the Seahawks the ball again, and they quickly turned it into a 14-0 lead en route to a 23-17 decision.

"I wasn't even thinking about the cast," a downcast Branch said that afternoon, as he struggled to zip his luggage one-handed. "I was thinking scoop-and-score. And then it goes out of bounds, they get it and score again.

"It's one of those things I've got to learn from. I've got to learn what I can and what I can't do."

Maybe the Panthers do as well -- avoid the Seahawks at all costs.

Related stories from Rock Hill Herald