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Seahawks leave Panthers in the dust for 31-17 playoff victory

Sam Farmer
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Seahawks head to NFC title game

SEATTLE -- Cam, meet Kam.

Now, say goodbye.

Seattle safety Kam Chancellor intercepted a pass by Carolina’s Cam Newton on Saturday and ran it back for a 90-yard score, putting an exclamation point on a 31-17 victory by the Seahawks in a divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field.

It was the longest touchdown in Seahawks postseason history – four yards longer than Percy Harvin’s touchdown in last season’s Super Bowl – and it broke open a hard-fought game that was close for three quarters.

The Seahawks, looking to become the first team in a decade to repeat as Super Bowl champions, will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Dallas and Green Bay for the right to represent the NFC in the NFL’s marquee game Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.

Before Chancellor scored the touchdown that practically had the stadium swaying, Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes to give the Seahawks a somewhat comfortable lead.

It was the fourth time in three seasons the Seahawks and Panthers faced each other, with Seattle winning all four. The first three games were close, however, and were decided by a combined 13 points.

Saturday’s game was 17-10 through three quarters, but the Seahawks eased away with a field goal by Steven Hauschka followed by a 25-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to tight end Luke Willson.

Then came Chancellor’s touchdown, in which he jumped a route by tight end Ed Dickson, snared the ball in stride and ran uncontested almost the entire length of the field as the 12th Man crowd erupted in celebration.

Seattle led at halftime, 14-10, on a pair of Wilson touchdown passes. He floated a 16-yard throw to Doug Baldwin in the first quarter, and connected with Jermaine Kearse for a 63-yard score in the second.

The latter was the longest pass play in Seahawks postseason history, surpassing a 56-yard connection from Dave Krieg to Steve Largent three decades ago.

Seattle harried and hurried Newton throughout the first half, intercepting one of his passes and nearly picking off two more. Newton was also charged with a fumble on a bad exchange with running back Jonathan Stewart.

But Newton made his share of plays, too, forging a 7-7 tie midway through the second quarter with a 7-yard touchdown pass to rookie Kelvin Benjamin. Newton directed another scoring drive at the end of the first half, with the Panthers collecting a 35-yard field goal from Graham Gano.

The Panthers qualified for the playoffs by winning the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record, becoming just the second losing team in NFL history to reach the postseason. The first such team was Seattle in 2010, Pete Carroll’s first season, which won the NFC West at 7-9 then upset the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the first round.

The Seahawks were favored by 11 points in this one, among the most lopsided spreads in divisional round history.

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