As Kam Chancellor entered the locker room after contributing several exclamation-point plays to the Seahawks' latest follow-the-formula victory, the first person to greet him was Dan Quinn.
The team's All-Pro strong safety and defensive coordinator shared a hug that was even bigger than the smiles on their faces.
The Seahawks are heading back to the NFC Championship game after their convincing 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers in a divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night. They will host the winner of Sunday's game between the Dallas Cowboys and Packers in Green Bay next Sunday at noon.
And of all the plays that pushed the Seahawks into the conference championship for the second consecutive season, none was bigger – or longer – than Chancellor's 90-yard interception return in the fourth quarter for the touchdown that made it 31-10 with six minutes to play.
"I don't know that a strong safety can have a better game than Kam had tonight," coach Pete Carroll said after Ring of Honor strong safety Kenny Easley got the raucous rolling by raising the 12 Flag above the south end zone just before kickoff.
"He was all over the place. All the big hits that he made and all the things he did tonight. It was just an amazing football game he was able to get done."
But so many things went right for the Seahawks as they ran their winning streak to seven in a row.
Russell Wilson was a portrait of precision as the third-year quarterback completed 15 of 22 passes for 268 yards, including touchdown passes of 63 yards to Jermaine Kearse, 16 yards to Doug Baldwin and 25 yards to tight end Luke Willson. All of that allowed Wilson to fashion a passer rating of 149.2 – the second-highest of his career.
Kearse, who was back after missing the regular-season finale with a hamstring injury, caught three passes for a career-best 129 yards.
The All-Pro trio of free safety Earl Thomas (11), Chancellor (10) and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (nine) combined for 30 tackles as the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense generated three turnovers – setting up one TD and scoring another.
And then there were the 12s, who turned out 68,524 strong and turned up the din to playoff intensity.
"That was really an extraordinary night here at CenturyLink," Carroll said after the Seahawks had run their home playoff winning streak to eight in a row. "I don't know how you describe the power of the 12s and what the fans did tonight. That was amazing."
So was Chancellor's pick-six, the longest play in franchise playoff history.
"I looked back and just saw Cam (Newton) under pressure. It looked like he was about to get tackled," Chancellor said. "He looked under duress, like he just wanted to get rid of the ball fast. So I just stayed next to my guy (tight end Ed Dickson) and he just turned and threw it blind."
And then? "I saw green," Chancellor said. "And green means go."
While all eyes were on Chancellor as he raced toward the north end zone, defensive lineman Michael Bennett had his eye on the other Cam – the Panthers' quarterback.
"I just liked the look on Cam Newton's face as (Kam) ran," Bennett said. "It was like a child who had lost his puppy."
So was Kearse's 63-yard TD reception, the longest passing play in franchise playoff history. First, he made a one-handed grab against tight coverage from Panthers cornerback Bene' Benwikere. Then, he dove to the pylon as free safety Tre Boston was doing his best to get to Kearse before he reached the goal line.
"Jermaine had a phenomenal game," Wilson said. "You think about Jermaine's catch, that 60-plus yard touchdown that he had. How good was that?"
So was Wilson – especially on third downs, when he was 8 of 8 for 199 yards and all three of his TD passes. You shouldn't be able to do that in the NFL playoffs, or against a defense as good as the Panthers.
"He was phenomenal tonight," left tackle Russell Okung said of the other Russ. "Everybody knows how good he is. He's taking care of the ball. He's finding guys downfield. He's balling out."
In the end, it was the same script that has carried the Seahawks to 10 wins in their past 11 games. A suffocating defense. An opportunistic offense that thrives on explosive plays. Solid special teams play.
"One of the big things about our team is the trust," Okung said. "There's a trust the special teams will come through. There's a trust the offense will come through. There's a trust the defense will come through. Even when one unit is down, there's the trust that the others will pick them up."