Carolina Panthers: Survive and Advance to NFC Championship

Jan 17, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) and Jonathan Stewart (28) celebrate Davis
Jan 17, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) and Jonathan Stewart (28) celebrate Davis /

The Carolina Panthers will face the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Title Game after defeating the Seattle Seahawks.

The Carolina Panthers won today over the Seattle Seahawks 31-24. An outside observer seeing that score might get the impression that it was a long back and forth scoring affair, but it was not. The Panthers came out on fire in the first half and built a 31-0 lead by the break. Then it was time to sweat it out in the second half as the Seahawks came all the way to an onside kick with 1:20 to go in the game.

Thomas Davis secured that kick and the Panthers were able to kneel the ball out.
It seemed like the story from much of the season from the Panthers. The team that saw Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, and Eli Manning bring their teams all the way to back to thrilling finishes now did the same with Russell Wilson.

The Seahawk comeback was a product of just really nice ball placement by Wilson. He threw balls where only his guys could get them. Add that to a fake punt, a few sideline catches, and the occasional scramble and Wilson got them back as close as he did.

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However the Panthers defense really did not surrender the Seahawk comeback willingly. Every drive took more time and again was the product of really nice finds by Wilson. Those key touchdown catches were not designed so much as discovered with the Panthers line applying smart coverage most of the time against potential Wilson runs.

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On offense the points dried up but the offense did not give many three and outs which meant more clock coming off. Jonathan Stewart might have blitzed to 84 in the first half, but he grinded to become the first hundred yard rusher in twenty games against the Seahawks. Greg Olsen extended some drives by finding the last chain in the yardage markers. In the end 31 was too much for the Seahawks to overcome.

So the Panthers preserved a heck of a first half. Stewart scored twice, including a 59 yard rumble. The book on the quick throwing game of Wilson produced two picks including a touchdown run by Luke Kuechly. The defensive line also brought heat on Wilson, while Newton was sacked for the first time in the third quarter. That made the offensive line big players in the game as well.

So the Panthers move on to welcome the Arizona Cardinals next week in the first NFC Championship game in Charlotte.