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Panthers vs. Seahawks 2015 results: 3 things we learned from Seattle's 31-17 win

A turnover-hungry defense and a gem of a game from Russell Wilson punched the Seahawks' ticket to the NFC Championship.

Another game, another suffocating performance by the Seattle defense. The Seahawks limited the Carolina Panthers to 5.3 yards per play, forced three turnovers and walked away with a 31-17 win to advance to the NFC Championship for a second consecutive year.

It's only fitting that a defensive play sealed the deal. With the Panthers driving and threatening to cut it to a one-score game late in the fourth quarter, Kam Chancellor jumped in front of a hitch pattern and raced 90 yards back to the house. The Panthers managed another late touchdown, but it was already over.

For the most part, the Panthers defense, which held the Cardinals to a playoff record 77 yards last week, played a good game themselves. But the Seattle offense converted when it needed to. Russell Wilson completed every one his first eight third-down passes, three of which went for touchdowns.

The back breaker came with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Clinging to a seven-point lead and facing a third-and-10, Wilson beat the blitz to find tight end Luke Willson, who knifed down the seam for a 25-yard touchdown.

Wilson was brilliant, completing 15 of his 22 passes for 268 yards and three scores.

Seattle now awaits the winner of Sunday's game between the Cowboys and Packers.

1) Carolina stopped the run but got burned on the deep pass.

Even without run-stuffing defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, the Carolina defensive front was able to jam up Marshawn Lynch for most of the game (14 carries for 59 yards) by stacking the box and bringing heavy pressure. But that aggression allowed Wilson to repeatedly land shots over the top.

Facing an all-out blitz late in the first quarter, Wilson floated a deep ball to Doug Baldwin, who slipped past single coverage from a safety and hauled the pass down in the end zone for a 16-yard score.


Facing a similar look five minutes before halftime, Wilson lofted an absolute dime deep downfield to Jermaine Kearse, who made an equally impressive one-handed grab and raced to the pylon for a 63-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.


2) The Seahawks secondary was swarming.

Shocking, huh? The Legion of Boom was on its A game, sticking to receivers like glue and making aggressive plays on the ball. With no room to throw, Cam Newton tossed a pair of interceptions. His first went to Richard Sherman, who tiptoed on the sideline to haul in a pick that led directly to Seattle's first score. The second was the game-ender to Chancellor.

It could have been ever worse: Sherman had one clang off his hands in the second quarter, and Earl Thomas had a pick overturned by replay review just before halftime.

3) Kelvin Benjamin is really good.

As well as the Seattle secondary played, they had no answer for Benjamin. The rookie caught seven balls for 75 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in the red zone. His 6'5, 240-pound frame allowed him first to seal off a defender for a scoring grab on a quick slant, then let him sky for an impressive fingertip grab on a fade route late in the game.

The season didn't end how the Panthers wanted it to, but the final game did provide another example of Benjamin's bright future in Carolina.