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Seattle took a huge step in defending their Super Bowl title with a 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Quarterback Russell Wilson led the Seahawks with his arm as the usually strong running game was stifled by the Carolina defense.
Wilson, who was 15-of-22 for 268 yards passing with three touchdowns, finished with a 149.2 rating in an outstanding performance.
Seattle ran the ball 28 times for 100 yards with Marshawn Lynch toting the ball 14 times for 59 yards.
Carolina had more success on the ground grinding out 132 yards on the night; Jonathan Stewart led the way with 70 yards on 13 carries.
Cam Newton, who was 23-of-36 for 246 yards passing, rushed for 37 yards on 11 carries. He attempted to put the Carolina offense on his back, but unfortunately, his two interceptions and botched handoff proved costly.
The first quarter was a struggle in offensive futility; the teams traded possessions until a pair of Carolina turnovers swung the pendulum Seattle’s way
It took the third Panthers possession for Newton to test the “Legion of Boom”; it wasn’t what he hoped for. Newton launched a ball down the right sideline intended for Philly Brown; Richard Sherman made an outstanding snag going high in the air. Seattle couldn’t capitalize and was forced to punt.
Following the Seattle punt, Newton and running back Stewart fumbled the exchange on a read-option play. That led to the first touchdown of the game, an 11-yard pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin.
On the next possession, Carolina answered with a 14-play, 79-yard drive to tie the game at seven. Kelvin Benjamin caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Newton to even the game.
Wilson and the Seahawks wasted no time, as they took five plays to go 77 yards and take a 14-7 lead on a 63-yard strike from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse.
Carolina ended the half with a 35-yard Graham Gano field goal to cut the Seahawk lead 14-10.
Seattle extended their lead 17-10, on a 37-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka to open the fourth quarter.
Carolina was forced to punt following a three and out on their 10-yard line, giving Seattle good field position. Seattle took advantage, taking six snaps on their way to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Luke Wilson for a 24-10 lead.
Safety Kam Chancellor sealed the deal for the Seahawks, scoring a 90-yard interception return for touchdown on a short pass he anticipated and made a play on. The touchdown was Chancellor’s first and the longest in Seattle’s postseason history.
A meaningless touchdown placed the final score at 31-17.
The Seahawks host the winner of the second NFC Playoff contest, Dallas or Green Bay, next weekend in the NFC Championship.