Seahawks advance to NFC title game with 31-17 win over Carolina

Jan 10, 2015, 8:33 PM | Updated: Jan 12, 2015, 6:08 pm
Tony McDaniel recovered a fumble to help the Seahawks defeat the Panthers 31-17 in the NFC playoffs...
Tony McDaniel recovered a fumble to help the Seahawks defeat the Panthers 31-17 in the NFC playoffs. (AP)

Kam Chancellor spent the first three quarters hammering away at Carolina’s offense.

In the fourth quarter, Seattle’s designated hitter nailed the game shut, returning an interception 90 yards for the longest touchdown in Seahawks’ postseason history that also erased whatever doubt was remaining in Seattle’s divisional playoff game.

Seahawks 31, Panthers 17 at CenturyLink Field, Seattle simply running away from Carolina in the fourth quarter. That was true on Chancellor’s interception, as he jumped a route by tight end Ed Dickson, running untouched the other way for a touchdown. It was also true earlier in the period when Luke Willson caught a pass on third-and-10 and ran past three different Carolina defenders en route to a 25-yard touchdown.

That eliminated any sliver of doubt inspired by a second quarter in which the Panthers ran 24 plays to Seattle’s five, scored 10 points and trailed by only four points at intermission.

That turned out to be the Panthers’ best shot, though. As tough as Carolina played against Seattle’s rushing attack – holding Marshawn Lynch to 59 yards on 14 carries – the Panthers weren’t able to overcome the Seahawks’ big, from the 63-yard touchdown pass in the first half from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, to Willson’s touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, and through Chancellor’s interception return.

Carolina rookie Kelvin Benjamin caught his second touchdown pass of the game with 2 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game, but it affected only the final score. Seattle recovered the onside kick and the Panthers never got the ball again as the Seahawks won their eighth straight home playoff game.

They will now play the winner of the Sunday morning game between Dallas and Green Bay.

Wilson completed 15 of 22 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Newton was 23 for 36 passing for 246 yards, but he was intercepted twice. The Panthers committed three turnovers while Seattle didn’t turn the ball over.

Seattle’s first touchdown came courtesy of a Carolina turnover, Tony McDaniel recovering a botched handoff between quarterback Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart.

More coverage of the Seahawks’ playoff win over Carolina

Stats | Photos | Interviews | Carroll Show
O’Neil: What we learned
O’Neil: Kam Chancellor helps put away Panthers
Henderson: Third-down success for Wilson
Henderson: A ‘hard night’ for Simon
Moore: Luke Willson burns Panthers again
Stecker: Newton can’t reverse fortunes

Four plays later, the Seahawks scored on a 16-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin, who caught safety Tre Boston flat-footed and flew right by.

Seattle’s second touchdown took even less time, a 63-yard pass from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, who fought off cornerback Josh Norman with one hand, caught the ball with the other and dove to the end-zone pylon for the longest scoring pass in Seattle’s franchise history.

That was one of only five plays Seattle ran in the second quarter. That’s right – five plays. Just 2 minutes, 50 seconds time of possession.

The Panthers controlled the ball for the rest of a second quarter that was reminiscent of the Seahawks’ early-season losses to the Cowboys and the Chargers.

The Panthers scored one touchdown on a 79-yard drive, converting two third-and-1 plays and ultimately scoring on a 7-yard pass from Newton to Benjamin. It was Carolina’s second touchdown scored in its last 33 possessions against the Seahawks, going back to the previous three regular-season meetings.

The Panthers scored on a field 35-yard field goal on the final play of the half, culminating a 10-play drive that included a fourth-down conversion. Seattle nearly forced a miss, Kam Chancellor hurdling over the line of scrimmage twice on field-goal attempts. The first try was nullified by a false-start penalty against Carolina. The second – an attempt the Panthers missed – was nullified because Chancellor was penalized for running into the kicker.

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Seahawks advance to NFC title game with 31-17 win over Carolina