Seahawks secure entry into NFC Championship with 31-17 win over Carolina Panthers

The Seahawks earned a 31-17 win over the Panthers to secure a spot in the NFC Championship game next week.

First Quarter

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What Happened:** Seahawks 7, Panthers 0. The Panthers won the coin toss and elected to receive, but the Seahawks' defense forced a three-and-out. The Seahawks moved to the Panthers' 44 on the ensuing possession, but Marshawn Lynch was stopped for no gain on third-and-1. The defense then forced another three-and-out as Cliff Avril pressured Cam Newton into throwing the ball away on third-and-2. The Panthers didn't go three-and-out on their next possession, because Richard Sherman intercepted Newton's third-down heave at the Seahawks' 38. The Seahawks then drove to the Panthers' 31, but a fumbled snap on first down, a poor throw by Russell Wilson on second down and a 15-yard penalty on Ricardo Lockette for flipping the ball into the face mask of Bene' Benwikere after catching the third-down pass took them out of field-goal range. The Panthers got their initial first down on the ensuing possession, but two plays later Michael Bennett forced Jonathan Stewart to fumble and Tony McDaniel recovered at the Panthers' 28. Four plays later, Wilson went to Doug Baldwin for a 16-yard touchdown pass.  

Player of the Quarter:Earl Thomas. The Seahawks' All-Pro free safety forced a fumble that went out of bounces on the first play of the game and finished the quarter with five tackles as the Seahawks forced two three-and-outs and got Sherman's interception on the Panthers' first three possessions.

Play of the Quarter: Bennett's fumble-forcing play to setup the quarter's only score. Stewart barely had time to take his first step before Bennett was on him to knock the ball loose. It fell to the ground right in front of McDaniel. The official scorer later changed the ruling to a fumble for Newton on the handoff, but that didn't diminish Bennett's effort.

Number to Note: 116.9. Wilson's passer rating, as he completed 7 of 11 passes for 83 yards and the TD to Baldwin.


Second Quarter

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What Happened:** Seahawks 14, Panthers 10. The Panthers' 14-play, 79-yard drive that started in the first quarter ended on the 12th of the second quarter when Cam Newton passed to Philly Brown on third-and-6 for a 7-yard TD that tied the score with 7:44 left in the half. Newton was 3 of 5 for 31 yards. But the Seahawks answered emphatically on a 63-yard TD pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse with 4:54 to play. The Panthers then drove 62 yards in 13 plays to a 35-yard field goal by Graham Gano on the final play of the half. After a punt-fest of a first quarter, the Panthers scored twice in two possessions and the Seahawks once in their only possession in the second quarter.

Player of the Quarter:Kearse, for his efforts on what was the longest TD pass in franchise playoff history. He made a one-handed grab of the pass from Wilson against Bene' Benwikere and then lunged to the pylon with Tre Boston trying to prevent him from reaching the goal line. The 63-yarder topped the 56-yard pass from Dave Krieg to Steve Largent in a Dec. 29, 1984, game against the Dolphins in Miami.

Play of the Quarter: On third-and-8 from the Seahawks' 24 on that final drive of the half, Newton passed to 245-pound fullback Mike Tolbert. But Kam Chancellor dropped Tolbert after a 7-yard gain to force the Panthers to settle for a field goal.

Number to Note: 31. That's Chancellor's uniform number, and you saw it as he jumped over the line twice on Gano's field-goal attempts at the end of the half. On the first, the Panthers' Chris Scott was called for a false start. On the second, Chancellor was called for running into the kicker. But it didn't lessen the impressiveness of seeing Chancellor do his jack-be-nimble thing that he had worked on in practice during the week.


Third Quarter

What Happened: Seahawks 14, Panthers 10. The Seahawks got the ball to start the half and got to the Panthers' 49, thanks to Russell Wilson's 21-yard pass to Paul Richardson on third-and-3. But Wilson was sacked on the next third down play and the Seahawks had to punt. The Panthers then drove to the Seahawks 41 as Cam Newton hit four consecutive passes for 41 yards. But Cliff Avril then sacked Newton and his second- and third-down passes were incomplete to force the Panthers to punt for third time in the game. The Seahawks had driven to the Panthers' 7 as the quarter was ending, but Wilson was sacked for a 12-yard loss on third down on the final play of the quarter.

Players of the Quarter:The defenses, as neither team scored in the quarter. Luke Kuechly had three tackles to lead the Panthers and Kam Chancellor and Tharold Simon two each to pace the Seahawks.

Play of the Quarter: Lynch's 25-yard run to the Panthers' 34 on the drive to Hauschka's field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Number to Note: 39. Total yards in the quarter for the Panthers.


Fourth Quarter

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What Happened:** Seahawks 31, Panthers 17. Steven Hauschka kicked a 37-yard field goal on the first play of the quarter to cap a 12-play, 69-yard drive. Marshawn Lynch carried twice for 30 yards and Russell Wilson three times for 25 yards. The defense then forced a three-and-out and the Seahawks got the ball at Seattle 42. The Seahawks used two huge plays from Wilson to Luke Willson to push their lead to 24-10 with 10:26 left. First, it was Wilson to Willson for 29 yards on third-and-6. Then, it was Wilson to Willson for 25 yards on third-and-10 for the TD that capped the six-play, 58-yard drive. The Panthers then drove to the Seahawks' 13, but Kam Chancellor intercepted Kam Newton's second-down pass to Ed Dickson and returned it 90 yards for a TD that made it 31-10 with 5:55 left. But the Panthers then drove 83 yards in eight plays to Newton's 15-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 2:34 to play. Newton was 5 of 6 for 61 yards.

Player of the Quarter:Willson. The kid from Canada came up beyond big on the two receptions in the TD drive that made it 24-10, and scored his first touchdown in the postseason.

Play of the Quarter: Chancellor's pick six, of course. It not only sealed this deal, it was the longest TD in franchise playoff history – bettering the old mark of 87 by Percy Harvin with the kickoff to open the second half of Super Bowl XLVIII in February.

Number to Note: 8. Playoff wins in a row at home for the Seahawks, who will host the NFC Championship game next Sunday against the winner of Sunday's game between the Cowboys and Packers in Green Bay.

Game Action photos of the Seattle Seahawks 31-17 divisional playoff win over the Carolina Panthers.

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