Seahawks/Panthers News & Notes

News, notes and quotes from the NFC's two remaining contenders. The Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers will meet in the NFC Championship game on Sunday, January 22, at 3:30 p.m. PST.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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While the Seahawks were basking in the glow of their berth in the NFC title game, right tackle Sean Locklear was sitting in the King County jail on a domestic-violence charge.

Details were sketchy, but the 24-year-old starter was having trouble getting a bail hearing because of a limited court schedule for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Police booked Locklear at 3:03 a.m. Sunday, less than 12 hours after the Seahawks defeated the Redskins in an NFC divisional-round game.
Coach Mike Holmgren had little to say on the matter.

"I have to wait for details on that," Holmgren said. "I'm aware of the situation but I don't know the details yet and so right now I have no comment other than to say as soon as we get some definitive answers, (the team) will release something."

Locklear started all 16 regular-season games and the team's playoff game. He became the starter after RT Floyd Womack suffered a triceps injury in the second-to-last exhibition game. Womack would start if Locklear were unavailable, but right now Holmgren does not expect the situation to become a significant distraction.

"From what I know about it so far -- again, I don't know anything -- it should not be," Holmgren said. Running back Shaun Alexander, himself in the news after suffering a concussion against the Redskins, was asked if he was aware of Locklear's situation and if it might become a distraction.

"Yep," Alexander said, "and no."

Alexander said he was off his game Saturday after taking medications to offset a sore throat and chest congestion. He joked that he hoped the medication was responsible for his unimpressive performance. On more serious matters, Alexander said he fully expected to practice this week and play in the NFC title game.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington laughed and danced while Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander was lying on the ground with a concussion. "They were excited and it gave them momentum and our crowd answered back in a great way with an 'MVP' chant," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "It was good for our offense. We actually felt we had the momentum after that. ... I think in some ways you wanted to do well for Shaun."

Coach Mike Holmgren noted that Alexander should be fine for the NFC title game against Carolina. "I think if I showed him a picture of a truck, he would say it was a truck and not a butterfly," Holmgren said. "They seem to think he's going to be fine for next week."

--Alexander said his brains were scrambled for about 20 minutes after taking an apparent knee to the head from Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington. "I thank everyone that prayed for me right when I got hit," Alexander said, "because for about 20 minutes there I didn't know whether it was me or whether I about to go back in the game or was I playing against the Auburn Tigers."

The team has not officially cleared Alexander for the NFC title game but all indications point to him playing. Alexander said he has suffered no residual effects, from headaches to nausea. "Healing went fast," he said. "I'd say probably by the second quarter at least I knew what was going on. Prayer does work. I was able to talk to people like I knew what was going on."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES


--WR Darrell Jackson (knee, back) could miss some practice time this week but the team expects him to play Sunday.

--LB D.D. Lewis (foot) could miss some practice time this week but the team expects him to play Sunday.

--Alexander said he was off his game Saturday after taking medications to offset a sore throat and chest congestion. He joked that he hoped the medication was responsible for his unimpressive performance. On more serious matters, Alexander said he fully expected to practice this week and play in the NFC title game after leaving the game with a concussion.

--WR Bobby Engram (back) could miss some practice time this week but the team expects him to play Sunday.

--CB Jimmy Williams might be relieved of his duties as a return man after a poor showing Saturday that included a muffed punt resulting in a turnover.

--RT Sean Locklear was arrested and jailed in a domestic-violence case less than 12 hours after the Seahawks defeated the Redskins in an NFC divisional-round game. He was initially having trouble getting a bail hearing because of a limited court schedule for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Police booked Locklear at 3:03 a.m. Sunday. Coach Mike Holmgren had little to say on the matter. "I have to wait for details on that," Holmgren said. "I'm aware of the situation but I don't know the details yet and so right now I have no comment other than to say as soon as we get some definitive answers, (the team) will release something." Locklear started all 16 regular-season games and the team's playoff game.

--RT Floyd Womack would start Sunday if RT Sean Locklear is unavailable. Right now it appears as though Locklear will remain the starter despite his arrest early Sunday on a domestic-violence charge. Womack was the starter in training camp until suffering a triceps injury.

REPORT CARD VS. REDSKINS

PASSING OFFENSE: A --
QB Matt Hasselbeck carried the load after the team lost RB Shaun Alexander to a first-quarter concussion. Hasselbeck topped 100 in passer rating for the fifth game in a row. His 29-yard touchdown strike to WR Darrell Jackson was thrown to the only spot where the play could have resulted in a score. Jackson caught 9-143-1 and WR Joe Jurevicius made a great adjustment to burn the Redskins for a 31-yard reception. Hasselbeck also audibled out of a Washington blitz on Mack Strong's 32-yard fourth-quarter run.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Hasselbeck's audible to a FB run on third-and-6 in the fourth quarter produced a 32-yard gain by 34-year-old Mack Strong. This was the play of the game. Seattle's overall rushing numbers were not impressive, but the ability to produce that kind of play in a key situation shows how dangerous this offense has become. RB Maurice Morris filled in for Alexander and made some tough yards against a very stout defense. Seattle finished the game with 119 yards on the ground. Hasselbeck also hurt the Redskins with two key scrambles, including one for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Redskins WR Santana Moss had a decent game but did not hurt the Seahawks with enough big plays to turn the outcome. His lone touchdown was a bit of a fluke as the ball bounced off the shoulder of Seahawks CB Andre Dyson. The Redskins' last-ditch effort ended with SS Michael Boulware batting away a pass in the end zone. Seattle's defensive line also played one of its better games in recent weeks. DE Grant Wistrom and DE Bryce Fisher got enough pressure to keep Redskins QB Mark Brunell on alert.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Redskins had virtually no running game as Seattle's speed kept RB Clinton Portis in check. Portis did not reach 50 yards rushing. MLB Lofa Tatupu was outstanding in getting Seattle's interior linemen in position before the snap.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- P Tom Rouen had an outstanding day. His punting dictated field position all afternoon. Two lost fumbles in the return game overshadowed Rouen's outstanding effort. CB Jimmy Williams was brutal on punt returns and the team was planning unspecified personnel changes as a result. RB Josh Scobey lost a fumble on a kick return. Special-teams coach Bob Casullo might want to think about updating his resume if the results don't change in a hurry.

COACHING: B -- Coach Mike Holmgren arguably should have replaced CB Jimmy Williams as the punt returner, a move he delayed until after the game. The overall plan was sound and Seattle did a nice job adjusting after Alexander left in the first quarter.


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CAROLINA PANTHERS
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Don't be surprised if fatigue and injuries play a factor this week when the Carolina Panthers meet the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. No fewer than seven players were forced to miss at least portion of Sunday's game in an extremely physical 29-21 win over the Chicago Bears.

With the exception of running back DeShaun Foster, who was lost for the remainder of the postseason with a broken ankle, most of the injuries are not believed to be serious.

The biggest question could be the shoulder of defensive end Julius Peppers, who left the game late in the second half after injuring his shoulder while diving to make a touchdown-saving tackle.

Peppers did not return to the game, even with the season on the line, so you know he had to be hurting. His shoulder was wrapped in ice after the game, but he joined is teammates in celebrations and didn't seem in much pain. He also vowed to play this week against the Seahawks.

Panthers coach John Fox was purposely vague when it came to the injury and, as he always does on Mondays, said he will wait until Wednesday to update the media on Peppers' status. Undoubtedly at that point Fox will list Peppers as "questionable" keeping everyone, including the Seahawks, guessing about the Pro Bowler's status.

The Panthers are hoping to become the first NFL team since the 1985 New England Patriots to win three straight road games to reach the Super Bowl. The Patriots got crushed by the Bears that year in Super Bowl XX 46-10 by the Chicago Bears.

The reason only one team has accomplished that feat is partially because of the wear and tear it takes on players.

Among the other Carolina players who left portions of the game with injuries included linebackers Dan Morgan and Brandon Short, fullback Brad Hoover and cornerback Chris Gamble. Of those, all but Gamble had pre-existing injuries and were listed on the team's injury report last week.

NOTES, QUOTES

"We don't talk with our mouths, we talk with our pads!" -- DE Mike Rucker shouted this as he left the field Sunday. It was in response to the Bears disrespecting the Panthers all week long in the media.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES


--RB DeShaun Foster broke his ankle on Sunday and will likely need surgery. That could complicate the team's effort to re-sign Foster, who will become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

--RB Nick Goings will carry the load for the Panthers this week against Seattle. He had just 37 carries during the regular season. However, he proved last year he's a pretty good fill-in, rushing for 100 yards in five of the team's final seven games.

--WR Steve Smith's 12 receptions were the second most in NFL playoff history. He had 218 yards receiving and 29 more on the ground.

--DE Julius Peppers injured his shoulder and his status for this week's game against Seattle is not known.

--DT Brentson Buckner was flagged for two defensive holding calls against the Bears.

--WR Drew Carter had two nice catches in the second quarter leading to a field goal.

--CB Ken Lucas came up with a key interception to seal the victory. The former Seahawks CB now has two interceptions in the playoffs.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. BEARS:


RUN OFFENSE: B --
After rushing for a combined 449 yards in their previous two games, the 123 yards on the ground against the Bears may have seemed like a bit of a letdown. But considering they had only 55 yards rushing against the Bears in the first game, it wasn't bad at all. DeShaun Foster ran for 54 yards on 16 carries before breaking his ankle and Nick Goings added 34 yards on 10 carries. Steve Smith chipped in 29 yards on two reverses. Goings and Jamal Robertson will have to carry the load this week vs. Seattle.

PASS OFFENSE: A -- Jake Delhomme has been absolutely awesome in his six previous playoff games (he's 5-1 with a quarterback rating of more than 100), and this was his best yet. Delhomme completed 24 of 33 passes for 319 yards with three touchdown passes. His lone mistake, an coming on a second quarter interception, was the result of an outstanding athletic play by the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Brian Urlacher. Delhomme thought he had a touchdown to Nick Goings on the throw, but Urlacher leaped high in the air to tip the pass and then snatch it on its way down. As Delhomme said, "They get paid to make plays, too." Overall Delhomme was incredible connecting on two long scoring tosses of 58 and 39 yards with playoff terror Steve Smith. Smith had 12 receptions for 218 yards and two touchdowns, giving him four touchdowns already in the playoffs.

RUN DEFENSE: C+ --
This could have been better. The Bears ran for 97 yards on 27 carries and scored twice on the ground, including once on a fourth-and-goal at the Carolina 1. Thomas Jones had 80 yards on 20 carries. Defensive tackle Brentson Buckner was hit with two defensive holding penalties, the same thing that plagued him earlier this season.

PASS DEFENSE: C+ -- Carolina shut down Rex Grossman early on, limiting to just 2 yards passing on his first 15 pass attempts. But then Grossman suddenly and inexplicably came alive, leading three touchdown drives in four possessions, beginning with the Bears final drive of the first half. Grossman finished with 197 yards on 17 of 41 passing with one touchdown and one costly interception. Carolina's defense did come up with two stops late in the game to salvage the victory. Still, the Panthers had trouble covering the likes of Bernard Berrian, who had 68 yards on five catches before leaving the game with a hip injury. Grossman was sacked just once and finished with a quarterback rating of 54.1.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A --
The Panthers clearly won the special teams battle, but that was not necessarily the result of anything they did. Bears punter Brad Maynard had three punts of less than 30 yards and two of few than 20. Jamal Robertson had a solid day returning kickoffs for the Panthers, averaging 25 yards per return. His 34-yard return on the opening kickoff gave the Panthers the ball at the 40 and led to the team's first touchdown two plays later. John Kasay improved to 92 percent on field goal attempts in the postseason (23 of 25) for his career, hitting from 20, 38 and 37 yards out. Jason Baker pinned three of his five punts inside the Bears 20, including one at the 6 at a key point in the game.

COACHING: B+ -- The Panthers scored only three points and gave up eight sacks in the previous meeting with the Bears, so Dan Henning did an outstanding job of making changes in the game plan coming in Sunday. The Panthers scored 29 points, racked up 434 yards and only allowed one sack against the league's No. 2 defense. The Panthers defense surprisingly struggled during the second and third quarters against Rex Grossman, but did bounce back to make two key stops in the final minutes, including an interception by Ken Lucas. Carolina's special teams were outstanding and head coach John Fox had his gang ready to play after the Bears trash talked the Panthers all week long.


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