Four games into his playoff career,
Emphatically backing up their superb regular season with one of the most dominating halves in football history, the
"The playoffs bring out more than any other time the impact of 'Big Mo,' " Newton said after Carolina (16-1) moved into
"We can't wait for no one to make plays for us."
The Panthers, winners of 12 straight at home, made all the right plays in building a 31-0 lead, then were dominated by the two-time defending NFC champs in the second half. So if Carolina wins its first NFL championship, it can credit the lesson learned from the Seahawks (11-7).
"We have to find a way to complete a full game of football," the All-Pro quarterback added. "We have been known to take our foot off the throttle and we have to find that killer instinct."
Newton noted how players, coaches and even the fans were feeling the pressure in the final 30 minutes as Seattle staged a relentless comeback.
"It was a tale of execution. We needed a little more of that in the second half. You just have to find ways to get your groove back on."
"That's what this game is going to teach us," said All-Pro linebacker
Then, Seattle showed its pedigree and climbed back within seven points.
"We made a mess of it in the first half," Seahawks Coach
Not before they got two touchdowns in the first 7:20 of the third quarter. Finally with time to throw,
When the Seahawks succeeded on a fake punt from their 23-yard line, an epic comeback seemed possible. That drive stalled, but with Carolina's offense sputtering, Seattle later got closer on Kearse's three-yard catch of a jump ball against All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman.
With Newton waving the crowd into frenzied cheers on the sideline, the Panthers' defense couldn't stop a 60-yard drive capped by
At 31-24, All-Pro linebacker
"In the second half, we had to go for it," Wilson said. "We had to come out swinging. That was our mentality, and we did a great job of that. "
This will be the Panthers' fourth trip to the NFC championship game, and their first time as host.
Carolina, which scored an NFL-best 500 points this season, stormed into the lead thanks to Stewart. He burst through the middle on the first snap and nearly outran everyone, getting tackled at the Seattle 16 by
His return from a foot injury that cost him three games was far more distinguished than
Kuechly was far more alert, grabbing the interception and sprinting 14 yards to make it 14-0 only 3 1/2 minutes in.
The scoring barrage continued as Stewart leaped in from the one-yard line to make it 21-0.
Wilson was picked off under relentless pressure again, this time by
But that ended the onslaught, and the Seahawks who returned for the second half were an entirely different team, energetic and efficient.