Seahawks pull away, beat Panthers 31-17

After their last three games against the Panthers were decided by a grand total of 13 points, the Seahawks broke away in the second half of their divisional playoff to win 31-17. The victory was highlighted by two of the longest scoring plays in Seattle's post-game history and sets Seattle up next week for an opportunity to qualify for their second consecutive Super Bowl.

10. Much of this contest was a slugfest but Seattle broke the game open when Kam Chancellor returned an interception for a Seahawks' post-season record 90 yards and a score midway through the fourth quarter. The throw was Newton's second interception of the game and one of several big plays by Seattle's massive strong safety. Appropriately enough, by scoring the touchdown, Chancellor gave Seattle 31 points, matching his jersey.

9. While Chancellor's big play was the dagger, the most aesthetically pleasing play of the game came in the second quarter when Russell Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse for the longest offensive touchdown in Seattle's playoff history. Wilson's throw couldn't have been better - a beautiful bucket throw that hit Kearse in stride over his shoulder. Kearse's catch was equally spectacular, as he was able to pin the ball to his chest with just his right hand as his left was tied up with trailing Carolina cornerback Bene Benwikere, who was in good position. The touchdown gave a 14-7 lead and provided a resounding answer after Carolina had driven the ball 79 yards on 14 plays for their first touchdown of the game.

8. Chancellor nearly made another incredible play when he timed the snap to leap over the middle of the line of scrimmage to force a missed field goal by Graham Gano. Chancellor appeared to tip the ball, which would have negated his running into the kicker. Unfortunately, the referees did not agree, giving Carolina additional opportunities.

7. While there wasn't much drama when it came to either club's Inactives list prior to the game, Byron Maxwell was a surprise non-participant in the first half. Later, it was announced that he was sidelined due to shortness of breath and was probable to return. He did - for at least one snap on special teams - but Tharold Simon started and remained at cornerback opposite Richard Sherman throughout the game. Simon's great height made him a logical matchup against Carolina's 6-5, 240 pound Kelvin Benjamin, but the Panthers' rookie consistently used his height and quickness to out-maneuver and haul in tough grabs, catching both of the Panthers' touchdowns.

6. Seattle is one of the NFL's best at halftime adjustments and this was proven yet again when the team started complementing swing passes to Marshawn Lynch in the flat with tight end Luke Willson running underneath. The adjustment directly resulted in Willson's 25-yard touchdown with 10:26 remaining in the game than extended Seattle's lead to 24-10. The touchdown looked very similar to the 29-yard catch and run Willson had just three plays on 3rd and 6 to extend the drive.

5. Carolina did a nice job of gumming up the line of scrimmage. While the Panthers are without former Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Star Lotulelei, quickness from fellow defensive tackle Kawann Short and defensive Charles Johnson gave Seattle's offensive line trouble and Carolina's speedy linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis were every bit as active as expected. Other than one terrific 25-yard run by Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks were largely unable to run the ball and finished with "just" 100 rushing yards.

4. Dumb penalties continue to plague the Seahawks. Two of Seattle's most frequent offenders - cornerback Jeremy Lane and wideout/gunner Ricardo Lockette - each cost the Seahawks 15 yards. Lane drove a Panther into the turf 10 yards out of bounds. Worse, Lockette cost Seattle a chance at their points, tossing the ball into the face of a defender after catching a pass that put the club in position to kick a field goal. Instead, Seattle was forced to punt.

3. Carolina, in fact, won in many of the statistical categories that usually result in wins. Carolina won in time of possession (34:03 to 25:57), total yards (362 to 348) and first downs (21 to 16).

2. Of course, the most important statistic (other than the final score, of course) is the turnover battle, which Seattle won three to zero, powering their victory. Wilson continues to amaze with his quick hands to recover his own (and teammates) fumbles. We often acknowledge how baseball has helped him slide gracefully, but Wilson's soft hands to scoop up "grounders" is an underrated element to his terrific play.

1. While Seattle's victory was sweet, it didn't come without concern. Max Unger was rolled up on late in the fourth quarter and gingerly walked off the field. Rookie receiver Paul Richardson suffered a knee injury in the third quarter and was quickly ruled doubtful to return. Maxwell's situation bears watching too.

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