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Kam Chancellor, Seahawks put clamps on Panthers

*SEATTLE -- Despite plenty of uncertainty surrounding the potency of Seattle's offense, Saturday night's headliner was expected to be a blowout from the opening kickoff. Carolina came into the game 8-8-1 with a barely-convincing win over the Ryan Lindley-led Cardinals. But Ron Rivera and his team deserve plenty of credit for keeping this game at nail-biting status into the fourth quarter. Here's what we learned from a 31-17 Seahawks win: *

  1. Seattle still looks somewhat beatable. From where we're sitting, the Percy Harvin trade (and letting Golden Tate bolt in free agency) will be a fascinating case study on team harmony versus the overriding benefit of other-worldly skill position players. Russell Wilson certainly has a telepathy developed with some of his receivers, seen clearly on Doug Baldwin's opening touchdown, but what would Saturday's score have been with another X-factor drawing the defense's top cornerback? While it hasn't caught up with Seattle yet, we wonder how long they can survive on Marshawn Lynch's power and Wilson's sheer magic.
  1. Wilson was impressive Saturday, but especially in tight situations where he needed to match up against charging defenders with a serious height advantage. Seattle had the bootleg game open Saturday night but that meant Wilson one-on-one with an unblocked linebacker or defensive end. With the deft precision of a hook shot, he was consistently able to pick up first downs.
  1. I don't think we needed to see Kam Chancellor crush Mike Tolbert -- one of the toughest backs in the NFL to tackle -- in order to reaffirm our belief that he is quite possibly the most intimidating safety to play the game since Troy Polamalu was in his prime. But it was still something. Chancellor also hopped the offensive line twice in a row and nearly blocked two kicks at the end of the first half. Oh yeah, his pick six just happened to be the longest score in Seattle postseason history. He was, once again, unbelievably impressive.
  1. Carolina's game plan hinged on the ability to jump start their running game, but you have to appreciate the fact that Mike Shula built in plays that kept Cam Newton interested, and aggressive. This did not always work out, once ending in Newton airing a ball to Philly Brown (Richard Sherman picked it off) and once ending in another under-thrown pass to Kelvin Benjamin (Earl Thomas nearly picked it off). But this is what will happen against arguably the best secondary in NFL history. Shula knew it, but he didn't back down.
  1. Adding to our last point, this loss should not be an indictment of Newton's "clutch" ability. Yes, his final pick -- an awful, season-killing mistake that he should have anticipated -- was ill-advised. But he is piloting an offense with barely any skill position players and he was moving the ball well into the fourth quarter. Despite Carolina's absence of a quick-strike game, he was still firing deep balls down the seam to Greg Olsen and putting Carolina into scoring position down 14.

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