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Kam Chancellor's interception makes it a breeze for Seattle

Seahawks return to NFC championship after cruising past Carolina, 31-17

It was a brief encounter when Cam met Kam, sort of a hello-and-goodbye affair.

Carolina's Cam Newton threw the pass, Seattle safety Kam Chancellor picked it out of the chilly air and ran it back for a 90-yard interception.

“Kam Chancellor,” teammate Richard Sherman said, “damages people's souls.”

And Saturday, the 232-pound sledgehammer crushed the Panthers, putting an exclamation point on Seattle's 31-17 victory in a divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field.

The Seahawks are one step closer to becoming the first NFL team in a decade to repeat as Super Bowl champions. They will play host to the winner of Sunday's game between Dallas and Green Bay for the right to represent the NFC in the league's marquee game Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.

The Seahawks played both Green Bay and Dallas at home this season, beating the Packers in the Kickoff Opener, 36-16, and losing to the Cowboys, 30-23, in Week 6.

“It's going to be one of those for the ages, you look forward to that,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “And you definitely look forward to being at home, rather than one of those two places.”

Seattle's home-field advantage is significant, with the 12th Man crowd locomotive-loud throughout the game.

The volume reached ear-splitting Saturday on Chancellor's pick-six. 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.

And the big man knew that he had a touchdown as soon as he wrapped his hands around the football.

“All I saw was green,” he said. “Green means go.”

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.

In the first half, Wilson floated a 16-yard scoring toss to Doug Baldwin, and connected with Jermaine Kearse for a 63-yard score, the longest pass play in the club's postseason history, seven yards longer than a completion from Dave Krieg to Steve Largent three decades earlier.

Newton was hurried and harassed throughout, finishing with a pair of interceptions and a fumble to go with his two touchdown passes.

“Teams, they can't come in here and beat us,” Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said. “You've got to do something real special, real spectacular to come in here and beat us.”

But Newton made his share of plays too, forging a 7-7 tie midway through the second quarter with a seven-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 only the second losing team in NFL history to reach the postseason. The first such team was Seattle in 2010, Pete Carroll's first season, when the Seahawks 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.

“Kam doesn't get the respect he deserves,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Any time you say another strong safety is playing better than him, then you're not watching tape. Who else is playing better? Show me the tape. Show me the playoff tape. Show me in a big game that somebody else played at a higher level, and I'd appreciate it.”

Chancellor showed his athleticism by leaping over the defensive line twice in an effort to block a field goal late in the first half. The Panthers made the kick, but the Seahawks' safety made them work for it.

“He's a ridiculous athlete,” Sherman said. “You should see some of the stuff he does in practice. I'm glad I'm on his team.”

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