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EDITOR’S NOTE: The initial version of this story included the word “upset” in the headline. It was written by Kelton Sears, who tells me “I thought ‘upset’ was just, like, a sports word for winning. The Panthers were probably really upset that they lost, right?” It’s an adorable mistake, when you think about it. Still, apologies for the confusion. – Matt Driscoll
The Seattle Seahawks dominated the Carolina Panthers 31-17 Saturday night in Seattle to advance to the NFC Championship game for the second consecutive year.Quarterback Russell Wilson and safety Kam Chancellor carried the team easily past the Panthers. Wilson threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns with three separate receivers. Doug Baldwin went first, catching a 16-yard pass in the first quarter. Jermaine Kearse followed in the second quarter, pulling down a 63-yard bomb, while Luke Willson finished off Wilson’s night with a 26-yard pass in the fourth.
The effort resulted in Wilson’s second-highest passer rating of his career to date, at 149.2But it was Chancellor’s spectacular late-game pick that sealed the game, sending the 68,000+ CLink crowd into an absolute frenzy. The safety made an excellent read on Carolina’s quarterback Cam Newton, cleanly picking the ball from the air and returning it 90 yards to the end zone (a new post-season record).
The Hawk’s game-play was a marked change from the ground-heavy, Beast-Mode centric style that has largely carried the team into the NFC-top seed during the regular season. A vigorous Carolina defense was largely to blame, keeping the Hawks’ total rushing stats to only 100 yards combined. The Panthers came to Seattle as significant underdogs, making it into the playoffs with an underwhelming 7-8-1 regular season record. They beat the Arizona Cardinals in last week’s wildcard race (though depending on who you ask that wasn’t entirely a fair match up). Despite the long odds, the team still managed to put together a decent showing. Quarterback Cam Newton threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns on 36 attempts with 23 completions. Running back Jonathan Stewart impressed as well, bouncing off Seahawk defenders for 70 yards.
Yet Carolina couldn’t seem to keep the ball in their possession long enough to do any further damage. The team repeatedly fell victim to a sharp Seattle defense as the Hawks forced three turn overs (one fumble, two interceptions). On two of those three Seattle managed to convert the opportunity into more points on the board.Combine it all together and you’re left with the eighth consecutive post-season win at home.
The Seahawks will face either the Dallas Cowboys or the Green Bay Packers next weekend in Seattle. The Hawks beat Green Bay in regular season play, 36-16, but fell to Dallas in week six, 30-23, at home.