When the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers headed into the locker room during halftime, the Panthers had themselves a 31-0 lead in front of a sellout home crowd. And everyone at that moment thought the Seahawks stood no chance the next two quarters.
But Seattle wouldn’t back down.
They scored 24 unanswered points in the second half, but their poor effort during the first 30 minutes of the game was just too much to overcome, as the Panthers, who finished 15-1 in the regular season, advanced to their fourth NFC Championship Game in franchise history, and the first one they will be hosting.
On the first play from scrimmage, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart ran 59 yards to put them inside the Seahawks 10 yard-line. A couple plays later, Stewart punched it in to give them the 7-0 lead. The veteran finished the afternoon with 19 carries for 106 yards. But things quickly got worse for Seattle when linebacker Luke Kuechly intercepted a pass from Russell Wilson and took it all the way to the end-zone.
And in the blink of an eye, it was 14-0.
In all three phases of the game, Carolina was dominating a Seahawks team that rejuvenated after starting 4-5 in the regular season. Seattle’s star running back, Marshawn Lynch, had his worst game in months, rushing for only 20 yards on six total carries, as they had to abandon the running game when the game got too out of hand for them to handle.
Over the course of the last two quarters however, two impressive touchdown throws to Jermaine Kearse and one to Tyler Lockett cut the lead to just seven, and it seemed as if the Seahawks could actually pull off what would have been a record-setting comeback.
But thanks to Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis Jr. catching the subsequent onside kick, Carolina no longer had to worry, and the stage has been set for next Sunday: the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers for a trip to Super Bowl 50.
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)