A recap of the Seahawks' 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers in their divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night:
PLAYER OF THE GAME: KAM CHANCELLOR
In a game of big plays, no one had a bigger one – or longer one – than the Seahawks' All-Pro strong safety.
But Chancellor's 90-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter – the longest play in franchise playoff history – was just the icing on his multi-layered cake of an evening. He also had 10 tackles, including dropping 245-pound fullback Mike Tolbert after a 7-yard gain on a third-and-8 play in the second quarter that forced the Panthers to settle for a field goal; stopping wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery for no gain on a pitch play; and fighting off a block by 310-pound guard Andrew Norwell to stop running back DeAngelo Williams for a 2-yard gain.
And then there was his jack-be-nimble routine in an attempt to block a field goal (more on that below).
How good was Chancellor? Even Russell Wilson, the other leading candidate for Player of the Game honors, had to give it up to Chancellor.
"Kam Chancellor had one of the best games I've ever seen, honestly," Wilson said after fashioning the second-highest passer rating of his career (149.2) by completing 15 of 22 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
Linebacker K.J. Wright seconded that notion, offering, "Kam was on fire, man. That's our captain. I love the way he plays. He brings so much energy. Big hits. Pick-sixes. Everybody looks up to that guy. He had a hell of a game."
UNSUNG HERO: MAX UNGER
Game Action photos of the Seattle Seahawks 31-17 divisional playoff win over the Carolina Panthers.
Back in the middle of everything for the offense after missing six games with a high ankle sprain, the Pro Bowl-caliber center seemed to settle things down against a Panthers' defense that was sacked to stop leading rusher Marshawn Lynch – even when the Seahawks went with an empty backfield and used spread formations.
"We really clicked on all cylinders," Wilson said. "I'm excited to have Max Unger back in there. You have to give credit to the other guys. … But Max Unger played a phenomenal game tonight."
Those other guys are the players who started at center when Unger was out the past six games – Patrick Lewis (three games) and Lemuel Jeanpierre (three games); and also Stephen Schilling, who started three games when Unger was out earlier in the season with a foot injury.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense:** Jermaine Kearse's 63-yard touchdown reception, which topped the 56-yarder from Dave Krieg to Steve Largent in a 1984 AFC divisional game against the Dolphins in Miami for the longest passing play in franchise playoff history.
Kearse took the pass from Wilson with his right hand against tight coverage and then lunged to the pylon for the biggest play in his three-catch, 129-yard outing.
"It's just the work that we put in – the whole receiver group, not just me," Kearse said. "A lot of people doubt us and we just constantly put the work in and we just constantly prove people wrong."
Defense:** Chancellor's pick-six, which was the longest play in franchise history – three yards longer than Percy Harvin's kickoff return to open the second half of Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Seahawks had two other turnovers – Richard Sherman's interception and a fumble-forcing hit by Michael Bennett. But when asked which turnover was the most impressive, linebacker/rush-end Bruce Irvin offered, "It had to be Kam's."
Special teams: The aforementioned plays where Chancellor bounded over the middle of the Panthers' line in an attempt to block a field goal. He had two chances, because there was a false start against the Panthers on the first. Chancellor then was called for running into the kicker on the second attempt.
But that did not diminish the impact of seeing the 232-pound Chancellor pop over the line like, well, jack-be-nimble.
"I did that one other time, but it was a failed mission," Chancellor said. "I fell over the center. I hit his back and just fell over."
Not his time – or these times. "When we did our film study, we just saw that the guard and center stay low," Chancellor explained. "So we just wanted to jump them. It looked good all week. It looked good in the game, actually. He just happened to kick the ball far left because he saw me."
INJURY REPORT: BYRON MAXWELL SURPRISE SCRATCH
|YOU DON'T SAY|
"They call me 'Batman,'
so he can have the 'Superman.' They call me 'Batman, The Dark Knight.'"
Strong safety Kam Chancellor when asked if he had out-Supermaned Panthers QB Cam Newton, who does a Superman poise after scoring touchdowns
Tharold Simon started at right cornerback because Maxwell was experiencing shortness of breath.
"Byron just didn't feel well enough," coach Pete Carroll said. "We thought he would come out of it. He was sick during the week. He just didn't get well enough to contribute on a steady basis, so he participated on special teams. But really, he just didn't feel well at all."
Rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson sprained a knee and will have additional tests to determine the seriousness of the injury.
Late in the game, Unger rolled the same ankle that forced him to him to miss the last six regular-season games. "He felt pretty good once he got into the locker room," Carroll said. "So maybe it's just a scare. We'll see."
The victory extended the Seahawks' current winning streak to seven in a row and their home playoff victory streak to eight, while the loss snapped the Panthers' five-game winning streak.
The Panthers actually had more rushing yards than the Seahawks, 132-100, as Lynch had 59 yards on 14 carries – and 25 came on one carry.
Both teams had success on third downs, as the Panthers converted 56 percent (9 of 16) and the Seahawks 54 percent (7 of 13).
The Panthers had more first downs (21-16), plays (68-52) and yards (362-348), and also held the edge in time of possession (34:03-25:57).
There was the nucleus of a pretty good Seahawks alumni team in attendance – quarterbacks Dave Krieg and Warren Moon; defensive linemen Cortez Kennedy and Jacob Green; safeties Kenny Easley, Eugene Robinson and Paul Moyer; left tackle Walter Jones; linebacker Dave Wyman; fullback Mack Strong; and wide receivers Nate Burleson, Ricky Proehl and Steve Raible. Easley raised the 12 Flag above the south end zone just prior to kickoff.
After India.Arie sang the national anthem, Lynch made his way to midfield to shake hands with her.