Seattle puts end to recent trend of early losses by Super Bowl champs in getting past Carolina

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SEATTLE — In the buildup to their playoff opener, the Seattle Seahawks never acknowledged the history of flameouts that followed Super Bowl champions that made the playoffs the following season.

Then again, the entire second half of this season has been about the Seahawks putting history in the past and focusing on the present.

"Guys are playing selfless. There aren't any egos, there aren't any agendas, and guys just want to do whatever it takes to win," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.

"If that means making a tackle, then make the tackle; if that means catching the football, we're going to catch the football. Guys are playing for one another, they don't care about stats, nor do they care about anything else."

Seattle used a bevy of big plays in its 31-17 win over Carolina on Saturday night in an NFC divisional playoff game, becoming the first defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game since New England in January 2006.

The Seahawks used two of the longest scoring plays in franchise postseason history and a virtuoso passing performance from Russell Wilson to overwhelm the Panthers and advance to the NFC championship game for the second straight season.

Seattle will host Green Bay in the conference title game next Sunday, a rematch of the first game of the regular season when the Seahawks outscored the Packers 19-6 in the second half for a 36-16 victory.

"It's going to be one of those for the ages," Wilson said. "You look forward to that, and I definitely look forward to playing at home."

The biggest play of Seattle's victory was Kam Chancellor's 90-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Seahawks a 21-point lead. But that was just part of a night of big plays from the Seahawks, especially in the pass game.

Seattle had six offensive plays of 25 yards or more, five of those coming in the pass game. Jermaine Kearse had the best day of his career with 129 yards receiving, including a 63-yard touchdown where he pulled in the pass from Wilson with one arm while shielding the defender.

Kearse had two other catches of 33 yards, and Luke Willson had receptions of 29 and 25 yards in the fourth quarter, the second for a touchdown.

The five passes of 25 or more yards tied the most in Wilson's career. He threw for 268 yards, but 199 of those came on third downs where Wilson was a perfect 8 for 8 passing.

His passer rating of 149.2 was the fifth-highest in postseason history and Wilson now has a career passer rating of 109.6 in the playoffs, the highest all time for any QB with at least 150 pass attempts.

"Sometimes I think I'm made for these situations," Wilson said. "I just try to be prepared for us. When you're prepared, you're never scared. You just go."

One of the big questions with Green Bay revisiting is will the Packers challenge Sherman this time? In the season opener, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers did not throw to Sherman's side once, cutting off one-third of the field. Rodgers' passer rating of 81.5 in the loss was his second-lowest of the season.

That was long before Seattle started on its current run of defensive dominance. Carolina finished with 362 total yards on Saturday, with most of those coming in the fourth quarter with the Panthers trailing. They were the first team to top 300 total yards against the Seahawks since the New York Giants in Week 10.

Carolina was also the first team to score in the fourth quarter against Seattle since Kansas City in Week 11.

"We're mad about those seven points," defensive end Cliff Avril said.

Seattle will again have injury concerns going into the NFC championship game. Center Max Unger re-injured his ankle late in the fourth quarter. Saturday was Unger's first game since Week 11, having missed the final six games of the regular season with a high-ankle sprain.

Cornerback Byron Maxwell appeared on just four special-teams plays after missing practice during the week with an illness.

And Seattle will be without rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson as well after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Richardson had 13 receptions in the final three games of the regular season and one catch on Saturday before being injured landing hard on the turf jumping for a deep throw.

Richardson also tore the ACL in his left knee in college at Colorado.


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