CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sporting Alert — The Carolina Panthers jumped out to a big first-half lead and then held off the charges of Seattle in a 31-24 victory over the Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Playoff game on Sunday.
In the AFC Divisional Playoff game on the same day, the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, although Peyton manning failed to through a touchdown pass for the first time since 1999 in his first career postseason game.
PANTHERS GET GOING EARLY
Jonathan Stewart rushed 19 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns and Cam Newton went 16 of 22 on completed passes for 161 yards and one touchdown without an interception for the Panthers, who lead 31-0 at halftime.
Greg Olsen took all six of his catches for 77 yards and one touchdown for Carolina (16-1), which will be making its first trip to the NFC Championship since 2005.
They will now play hosts to the second-seeded Arizona Cardinals, who defeated the Green Bay Packers 26-20 in OT on Saturday.
Newton was happy with the win, but the quarterback warns that that top seed must close out games like those.
“We have to find a way to complete a full game of football,” he said. “We have been known to take our foot off the throttle, and we have to find that killer instinct.”
Meanwhile, Russell Wilson recovered from a weak first half to go 31 of 48 on completed passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns.
Wilson, who was under a lot of pressure in the first half, threw two interceptions, including a pick that was ran back into the end zone.
Jermaine Kearse took 11 of his targets for 110 yards and two touchdowns, with Tyler Lockett also taking a catch for a score and finished with 75 yards from three receptions.
Marshawn Lynch returned for the Seahawks from an abdominal injury, but, as expected, struggled from the get-go and wasn’t effective after tallying just 35 total yards.
The Seahawks made a run and scored 24 unanswered points in the second half, but couldn’t recover from the poor first half display.
“We made a mess of it in the first half,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We look at this game as a microcosm of the season.
“We struggled so much early in the season to get going, and it took us a long time. When we finally did, we caught fire and got rolling. Everyone in here just feels like we ran out of time.”
BRONCOS BOOK THEIR PLACE IN THE AFC
Brandon McManus made five field goals, including one from 45-yards with 53 seconds left to help the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16 in the AFC Divisional Playoff game.
Manning completed 21 of 37 passes for 222 yards, but failed to throw a TD pass for Denver, who scored 11 straight points in the 4th quarter.
C.J. Anderson ran for 72 yards and a score and Emmanuel Sanders took five catches for 80 yards for the Broncos, who will now face the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 339 yards on 24 of 37 passing attempts for the Steelers.
Martavis Bryant caught nine passes for 154 yards and Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for a score for Pittsburgh in the defeat.