On Saturday night, in front of a sold-out CenturyLink Field crowd of 68,524, the Seahawks found success with a formula they've used to edge out opponents all season long.
They rode a stifling defense, sound special teams, and [offense that led the League in explosive plays](/news/articles/article-1/When-it-comes-to-explosive-plays-Seahawks'-offense-leads-the-way/81f75044-0a9d-4e05-a835-bc12dc3d8e4b "/news/articles/article-1/When-it-comes-to-explosive-plays-Seahawks'-offense-leads-the-way/81f75044-0a9d-4e05-a835-bc12dc3d8e4b
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Doug Baldwin, the team's leading receiver in 2014, hauled in the first of Russell Wilson's three touchdowns against the visiting Panthers. It came with the Seahawks facing 3rd-and-9 from Carolina's 16-yard-line with a minute to play in the first quarter. After approaching the line of scrimmage, Seattle checked out of its initial play call, as Baldwin and Wilson recognized a vulnerability in the opposing side.
"If you watch me you see me point to the guy knowing that he's about to blitz," Baldwin said of the Panthers defender who was lined up against him. "Russ saw it before I did and threw a beautiful ball and gave me a chance to go up and get it."
The Panthers were in cover-zero, a blitz-happy man-to-man coverage that left Baldwin alone to work one-on-one against Panthers rookie safety Tre Boston. Baldwin took advantage, opening the Seahawks' playoff scoring with a 16-yard touchdown.
"They actually brought cover-zero against us the last time we played them in Carolina, and they got me on it," Wilson explained of the Seahawks' Week 8 meeting with the Panthers. "I wanted to make sure I was prepared for that, and sure enough they showed it and we capitalized on it."
Baldwin likened his score to a similar no-help-over-the-top alignment the Seattle offense faced in the club's Week 14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. That play produced [a 23-yard touchdown from Wilson to Baldwin](/videos-photos/videos/Doug-Baldwin-23-yard-TD-from-Russell-Wilson/06abb042-c136-47bf-aab4-a95bfe379a5e "/videos-photos/videos/Doug-Baldwin-23-yard-TD-from-Russell-Wilson/06abb042-c136-47bf-aab4-a95bfe379a5e
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"We got the same protection," Baldwin said. "The same look."
Each of Wilson's three scoring strikes against the Panthers came on third down and on plays of 16 yards or more. On top of his early connection with Baldwin, Wilson hit wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for a Seahawks postseason passing play record 63-yard score and found tight end Luke Willson from 25 yards out in the game's final quarter.
"It just comes down to us," said Kearse. "We put the work in and we know what we're capable of and when an opportunity shows, we just make the most of them."
Head coach Pete Carroll wasn't concerned when asked about the recognition - or lack thereof - that Seattle pass catchers have received for their big-play ability this season.
"I don't care about credit," said Carroll. "I don't care about that. That's something that we really cherish, explosive plays, because we know that those determine scores in drives, so it's a big deal.
"For us to continue to see that in our game, it makes us hard to defend."
Game Action photos of the Seattle Seahawks 31-17 divisional playoff win over the Carolina Panthers.