Billed as the game of the week, Sunday's divisional-round clash between the Panthers and Seahawks felt comprehensively over by halftime.
And what a half it was.
Taking a 31-0 lead into the locker room, the Panthers pieced together 30 minutes of punishing, smothering defense and a runaway ground game that left Pete Carroll's Seahawks grasping for answers. Carolina needed every one of those first half points; the Panthers had to stave off a Seahawks comeback to pull out a 31-24 victory.
- It starts up front, where both Carolina lines have choked the life out of Seattle. The loss of Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung didn't help, but even with the veteran blocker in the game, Seattle's front five looked lost, allowing Kawann Short and the rest of the Panthers front seven to wreak havoc on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
- Seahawks defensive heavies Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett shut down Adrian Peterson in the wild-card round, but what a difference a week makes. Seattle had no answer for Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers running back who ripped off a 59-yard gain on Carolina's first play and never looked back, rumbling for 84 yards and two touchdowns off 11 carries over just two quarters. Coming into the game, Seattle was the only team league-wide this season to not allow an individual 100-yard rusher.
- Wilson hasn't been himself, either. The typically sound Seahawks passer threw a killer interception on Seattle's opening possession, a wayward lob that Luke Kuechly took to the house to build a 14-0 lead. It was just the second pick-six of Wilson's career after throwing his first against these Panthers back in Week 5 of the 2012 season. Seattle went into the half with just 80 passing yards after Wilson and Cam Newton combined for 49 touchdowns and just one interception over its last seven regular-season games.