Dec 28, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) is sacked by Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (98) and defensive end Wes Horton (96) during the second half against the at the Georgia Dome. The Panthers defeated the Falcons 34-3. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The Carolina Panthers will be without defensive tackle Star Lotulelei for Sunday’s NFL playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks due to an injury.
According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the Panthers will be without nose tackle Star Lotulelei for Saturday’s playoff game in Seattle. He has a broken bone in his foot, and won’t be available for the rest of the playoffs even if Carolina is able to upset the Seahawks.
The injury was reportedly suffered in practice on Tuesday. He was not at practice on Wednesday, leading to speculation that the injury might be severe. That speculation has apparently turned out to be accurate.
Lotulelei is a big piece of Carolina’s interior run defense, much like Brandon Mebane was for Seattle in 2013 and earlier this season. He eats blocks on the interior of the line helping to keep linebackers like Luke Keuchley free to make plays. When opposing teams don’t double-team him, Lotulelei can be extremely disruptive.
Losing Lotulelei is huge for Carolina as they try and stop Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s rushing attack. The interior of the Panther’s defense appeared to be a major challenge for Seattle’s inside-zone runs before the injury.
That likely won’t be the case any longer, especially with the Seahawks getting center Max Unger back for Saturday’s game. Seattle should now be able to lean heavily on their rushing attack throughout the game and have success. Seattle’s inside zone plays also set up the read-option runs for Russell Wilson, as well as the bulk of Seattle’s play-action game.
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