Some thoughts on the Seahawks 31-17 victory over the Panthers in the Divisional Round

The Seattle Seahawks advanced to the NFC Championship game (the franchise’s second straight, third overall) with a 31-17 win over the Carolina Panthers at Century Link Field.  It was an impressive win that saw the Seahawks dominate the Panthers throughout the game, and then pull away in the fourth quarter thanks to safety Kam Chancellor. Seattle became the first Super Bowl champ to win a playoff game, the year after winning the championship, since 2005.

Chacellor put together one of his more memorable performances as he not only recorded a pick-six to clinch the victory; he also jumped the Panthers offensive line not once, but twice during their attempts at an end of the half field goal. The pick six came when Chancellor read Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton’s eyes, jumped the route, and took the ball back to the house. The pick pushed Seattle’s lead up to 21 points.

While his pick six was incredible, nothing highlighted the freakish athleticism of Chancellor like the end of the first half. Carolina was lining up for an end of the half field goal, when the safety jumped over the offensive line and nearly blocked the kick. The kick sailed through the uprights, but it was waived off because of a false start penalty. On the second attempt, Chancellor cleared over the offensive linemen and came within a nail of blocking the kick before he fell into the kicker. The third kick sailed through the uprights and the Panthers went into the locker room trailing Seattle by four at the half.

Tight end Luke Willson celebrates with wide receiver Jermaine Kearse after the latter caught a touchdown pass.  (Courtesy of KIRO 7)

Luke Willson celebrates with Jermaine Kearse after Kearse scored a touchdown. (Courtesy of KIRO 7 News)

While Chancellor was making plays, the team’s passing attack was completely on fire during Saturday’s game. Quarterback Russell Wilson put together another impressive performance in the playoffs, as he completed 15 of 22 passes for 268 yards (12.2 yards per completion), three touchdowns, and no interceptions. It was a sterling performance by the third year quarterback, that saw him playing at is best against a dangerous pair of line backers; and showed why Wilson is about to become the best paid quarterback in the NFL.

Wilson hit wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, as well as tight end Luke Willson, for his three touchdown passes. Of the three touchdown passes, the pass to Willson was the prettiest of the bunch; as the tight end ran a seem route in the middle of Carolina’s zone coverage to get open.

Seattle’s defense smothered the Panthers on Saturday night. As Carolina was only able to mount two drives of ten or more plays, and those two drives were the Panthers only scoring drives in the first half.

Carolina Drive Summaries
15:00 1 01:21 CAR 20 3 9 Punt
11:05 1 01:23 CAR 11 3 8 Punt
08:21 1 01:22 CAR 13 3 6 Interception
04:20 1 01:58 CAR 11 5 17 Fumble
00:56 1 08:12 CAR 21 14 79 Touchdown
04:54 2 04:54 CAR 21 13 62 Field Goal
11:26 3 04:59 CAR 12 9 39 Punt
14:55 4 02:02 CAR 20 3 -1 Punt
10:26 4 04:31 CAR 20 8 67 Interception
05:55 4 03:21 CAR 17 8 83 Touchdown

Carolina’s drive chart is courtesy of ESPN

Despite the fact that the Panthers ran 16 more plays than Seattle, Carolina’s offense never was able to get going. The Seattle defense held the Panthers to 6.1 yards per pass and 4.4 yards per carry, while intercepting two passes — nearly intercepting two more — and forcing three fumbles (while only recovering one). Seattle’s defense gave up a lot of yards on the ground, but was able to make up for it by containing the Panthers’ passing attack.

Seattle now moves onto to the NFC Championship game, and will face the winner of the Green Bay/Dallas game at Century Link Field in Seattle, Wash. The Seahawks will look to become the become the first team to make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances since the 2002, 2003 New England Patriots.

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